The 2022 season for the Jets was an amusement ride on many levels.
After having a 6-3 record at the team’s bye week, the Jets managed to win just one more game the rest of the way as they lost seven of their last eight and six straight to end the year at 7-10.
Now the Jets will head into a critical offseason with many questions as head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas’ seats are warm after the team’s late-season collapse. Gang Green has not made the playoffs since 2010 and following a hot start, including beating the Buffalo Bills, fans and Jets owner Woody Johnson are starving for a postseason trip.
Here are the five areas the Jets will need to address if they are going to end their 12-season playoff drought.
FIND A SOLUTION AT QB
The Jets are on record saying they want to continue developing Zach Wilson despite benching him multiple times due to poor play. While they may decide to do that, there’s no way Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur can run it back with the same quarterback situation they had in 2022.
Mike White and Joe Flacco will both be unrestricted free agents during the offseason. Even if they weren’t, neither player put a stranglehold on the starting quarterback position this year.
It’s time to acquire Jimmy Garoppolo or Derek Carr this offseason. Garoppolo will be a free agent and Carr is expected to be either released or traded as the Raiders have three days after the Super Bowl to decide if they want to pick up his $32.9 million base salary for 2023.
Garoppolo and Carr are both average to above-average players. But with the Jets defense finishing fourth in the league last season, that would have been good enough to get into the playoffs in 2022.
The Garoppolo versus Carr debate will be interesting because Garoppolo has had more postseason experience. However, Carr is more durable as before being inactive for the final two games this season (coach’s decision), he had not missed a game since 2017. But Carr’s inconsistent play and turnovers have been troublesome, as he has 28 interceptions in two years.
Garoppolo would make the most sense from a system standpoint, as the Jets offensive playbook mirrors the 49ers. But he has played at least 15 games twice (2019 and 2021) in his nine-year career.
If Lamar Jackson, who is scheduled to be a free agent, is available, he would likely be the top choice for the Jets. But the Ravens are expected to franchise tag Jackson if a long-term deal can’t be reached.
FORTIFY OFFENSIVE LINE
The Jets believed they solved their offensive line issues before the 2022 season. But now that unit has major concerns as there’s much work still to be done.
The Jets started three left tackles, four right tackles and four guards this year and this doesn’t even include Mekhi Becton, who missed the entire season due to a knee injury. Becton is trimmer these days as he is entering the final year of his contract. But it’s hard to see the Jets entirely depending on him since he only played one game in two seasons.
Beyond that, center Conner McGovern and right tackle George Fant are both free agents. Left tackle Duane Brown, who dealt with a shoulder injury all year, could retire. Getting Alijah Vera-Tucker (torn triceps) and Max Mitchell (blood clot) back will undoubtedly help. But don’t be surprised if the Jets use their first-round pick at No. 13 on a tackle.
MAKE DECISIONS ON KEY CONTRIBUTORS
On Monday, Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams said he would only attend voluntary minicamp if he received a new contract. Williams will be in the final year of his rookie contract in 2023, which will pay him $9.5 million. Williams registered 12 sacks last year, which was a career-high for him, so he will command top defensive tackle money.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, linebackers Kwon Alexander, Quincy Williams and safety Lamarcus Joyner are unrestricted free agents. Rankins is a leader inside the locker room, but the Jets could decide to get younger at the position.
Alexander and Williams may both return, while Joyner struggled with coverage issues and injured his hip late in the year.
SALARY CAP CASUALTIES
The Jets are estimated to have over $15.2 million in salary cap space this offseason. That certainly isn’t enough to sign a veteran quarterback, address all team needs and sign their draft class, so they will need to cut a few veterans.
One player who could be released is wide receiver Corey Davis, who has missed 12 games in the last two seasons. Davis has 66 receptions for 1,028 yards and six touchdowns since joining the Jets. The Jets will save $10.5 million if Davis is released.
Defensive end Carl Lawson ($15 million), safety Jordan Whitehead ($7.5 million) and wide receiver Braxton Berrios ($5 million) could all be salary cap casualties. Lawson recorded 33 tackles and seven sacks in a year after he returned from a ruptured Achilles. But the Jets have depth at defensive end after selecting Jermaine Johnson and Micheal Clemons in last year’s draft.
COACHING STAFF ADDITIONS?
On Monday, Saleh said he should have replaced Greg Knapp’s position of passing game specialist before the 2022 season, but he decided not to. Knapp passed away in a bicycling accident in California on July 22, 2021.
Saleh said this is a position the Jets are “definitely going to replace.” The Jets could have used a veteran coach to bounce ideas off of this year, as LaFleur only has two years of offensive coordinator experience.
Later in the year, the offense felt stale as the Jets went three games without scoring a touchdown in losses to the Jaguars, the Seahawks and the Dolphins.