The New York Jets have been searching for elite pass rushing help for years, and they have the salary cap space to entice one, if not both, of the top defensive ends currently on the market -- free agent Jadeveon Clowney and trade candidate Yannick Ngakoue. Two weeks into 2020 NFL free agency, it turns out the team has inquired about both names, and yet all signs point to New York entering April's draft -- and the season -- with neither of them.
According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, the Jets have checked in with the agents for both Clowney and Ngakoue this offseason, but they are "taking a thrifty approach" to filling a longtime need. General manager Joe Douglas has emphasized "financial discipline" in free agency, Cimini noted, and this week the GM skirted around questions of whether the Jets have seriously pursued Clowney. Per Cimini:
(Douglas) said the Jets can splurge if an intriguing opportunity arises, but they won't be doling out $17 million for Clowney, who reportedly has lowered his asking price. If he's willing to drop it by another few million, then it would behoove the Jets to get involved. But I don't see that happening ... (The) more likely scenario is the Jets attacking the problem the old-fashioned way, by developing what they have and hunting for a contributor in the draft.
With an estimated $34 million in 2020 cap space still available, ranking them among the top teams in the NFL, the Jets could afford to pay up for Clowney, who was. But they also have questions about his health, which can't be thoroughly examined while teams are under pandemic-induced travel restrictions.
The 25-year-old Ngakoue, meanwhile, is also expected to command top dollar if/when he's traded by the Jacksonville Jaguars. But therein lies the hurdle with him: Jacksonville has reportedly only just begun to field interest in the pass rusher, and they're apparently in return for the franchise-tagged veteran.