Jets general manager Joe Douglas may soon feel like he is trapped in a corner … or more like trapped without one.
Douglas addressed two major areas of need in free agency with the deals for edge rusher Carl Lawson and wide receiver Corey Davis, but cornerback remains a glaring need, and one that does not have many easy answers.
The new Jets coaching staff likes current cornerbacks Bless Austin and Bryce Hall, but they are both still very unproven. Austin has played parts of two years, and Hall played in the second half of his rookie season in 2020. They both have shown promise, but the Jets would benefit from adding some experience to the position.
The problem is this free-agent market is not filled with great options. Douglas did not go after William Jackson or Shaquill Griffin, the top of the market players. Jackson signed with Washington for $13.5 million per year, and Griffin landed with the Jaguars for $13.33 million per year.
Douglas could wait until the draft to address the hole at corner and possibly find an upgrade, but the Jets need some experience at the position. You can’t find that in the draft.
New coach Robert Saleh may have his eye on a reunion with Richard Sherman, who spent the past three seasons with him in San Francisco and is now a free agent. Sherman has reportedly drawn interest from the Saints. He said on his podcast with Cris Collinsworth that things are moving slowly.
“Well, it’s been slow motion, so far,” Sherman said, via NBCSportsBayArea.com. “I’ve gotten a couple of feeler calls where they’re like, ‘Hey, what are you willing to take?’ Or, ‘What are you willing to do? What are you trying to do?’ And what’s my bottom number? What’s my top number?’ Etcetera, etcetera. But nothing crazy. No firm offers or anything. I think they’re waiting for all the young guys to figure out where they’re going. Shaq Griffin, he just signed with Jacksonville, so I think it’s all about to fall out once he and William Jackson get off the floor.”
Jackson reached a deal with Washington on Wednesday, so the top of the market is now set. Sherman, who turns 33 later this month, does not fit the profile of what the Jets have been looking for in free agency so far. Both Davis and Lawson will be 26 when the season starts. Sherman is a unique case, though. He could help teach Saleh’s defense, help Saleh in the locker room as he tries to win over his new team and be a mentor for the young cornerbacks. The Jets not only played Austin and Hall a lot last year, but also gave time to rookies Lamar Jackson and Javelin Guidry. It is an extremely young room.
The other top options in free agency, outside of Sherman, are Desmond King, Adoree Jackson, Troy Hill and Xavier Rhodes. There was a report from the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday that the Bears might release Kyle Fuller to create cap space, but it did not happen. Douglas was with Fuller for a year in Chicago.
The Jets also need to address the slot cornerback position. Brian Poole is a free agent. The Jets could opt to re-sign him or go after K’Waun Williams, who played for Saleh with the 49ers.
If Douglas waits for the draft, it makes sense to consider taking a cornerback either with the No. 23 pick or the No. 34. South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn and Kentucky’s Kelvin Joseph could be available at that spot.
The Jets re-signed RB Josh Adams, who was scheduled to become a restricted free agent. They did not tender LBs Harvey Langi or Frankie Luvu, making them both unrestricted free agents. A source said the team plans on re-signing WR Jeff Smith, who is an exclusive-rights free agent.