The offseason trade for Aaron Rodgers had the Jets thinking playoffs and beyond in 2023.
Rodgers’ Achilles injury four plays into the season crushed those expectations and now Gang Green has stretched its NFL-worst playoff drought to 13 seasons. The Jets will also finish with a losing record for the eighth straight season.
The devastating loss of Rodgers obviously set the team back, especially offensively. However, Gang Green has more problems than just an injured star quarterback and team brass has several significant holes to address before they start talking a playoff push in 2024.
FINALLY ADDRESS THE O-LINE ISSUES
For the second straight year, the Jets will enter the offseason needing to address their offensive line. In 2022, the Jets had 11 different players start games on their line. A year later, Gang Green was snake-bitten by injuries to Alijah Vera-Tucker (Achilles), Duane Brown (hip), Mekhi Becton (ankle) and Wes Schweitzer (calf) at various times during the season.
The situation became so dire that Xavier Newman-Johnson, who is traditionally a guard, had to play at center during the 13-10 overtime win against the Giants in October. This is among the many reasons the offensive line is the Jets’ No. 1 priority this offseason.
Rodgers is a 40-year-old quarterback coming off a serious injury and the Jets need to find a way to protect him. Their plan for doing that in ’23 was bringing back 38-year-old Duane Brown, coming off shoulder surgery, and Becton, who had suffered back-to-back knee injuries. The results were a very predictable disaster.
Both Brown and Becton will be free agents and the Jets will likely need to find two starting tackles. One of the solutions could be found in the 2024 NFL Draft, where the tackle class is expected to be one of the best in recent memory.
Notre Dame’s Joe Alt, Penn State’s Olu Fashanu, and Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga are all potential first-round options for the Jets. Gang Green also could use better veteran depth in case of injury.
FIND A BETTER BACKUP QB
After trading for Rodgers, the Jets hoped that Zach Wilson wouldn’t have to play at all this season. But the Jets’ worst nightmare happened and Wilson once again became the team’s starting quarterback.
Clearly, this season hasn’t gone the way the Jets expected and there’s speculation the team will move on from Wilson during the offseason. The Jets must decide on the 2021 No. 2 overall pick’s fifth-year option by early May, which would be worth $23 million. Picking up the option is unlikely to happen, thus opening the door to trading or releasing Wilson.
Gang Green needs a better solution if Rodgers gets injured again and misses several games. A player like Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill would make a lot of sense.
Tannehill has been a starter with both the Dolphins and Titans and could certainly fill in if needed. He will be a free agent and isn’t likely to get another starting quarterback job after he was benched for rookie Will Levis this season. With the Jets defense, which is one of the best in the NFL, a player like Tannehill would be good enough to keep them afloat should Rodgers miss games again.
ALSO GRAB A QB IN THE DRAFT
Not only do the Jets need to sign a veteran quarterback, but they also need to develop one. Rodgers might play another season or two and having him groom a rookie isn’t the worst idea in the world.
Tulane’s Michael Pratt is a guy the Jets could potentially select in the third or fourth round. He has been the Green Wave’s starting quarterback for three seasons. He passed for 9,611 yards, 96 touchdowns and 26 interceptions in his career.
Other potential draft-eligible prospects include Florida State’s Jordan Travis, Georgia’s Carson Beck and Tennessee’s Joe Milton III.
GET ANOTHER PLAYMAKER OPPOSITE GARRETT
The Jets thought they had addressed their No. 2 receiver issue when they signed Allen Lazard to a four-year, $44 million contract last March. But the signing proved to be one of the more disappointing of any team in the league last offseason.
Lazard suffered from drops, inconsistent play and penalties throughout the year. He was later made inactive for the Jets loss against the Dolphins on Black Friday, and when he did return his snaps decreased.
If the Jets have a top-five pick in the 2024 draft, they must consider selecting either Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. or LSU’s Malik Nabers. Harrison was arguably the best player in college football the last two seasons after registering 144 catches for 2,474 yards and 31 touchdowns during that span.
Nabers is considered the second-best receiver by draft experts. He finished with 86 receptions for 1,546 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Tigers this season.
If the Jets don’t go the rookie receiver route, expect them to pursue a top veteran like Raiders receiver Devante Adams. Gang Green inquired about reuniting Adams with Rodgers before last month’s trade deadline, but the Raiders declined.
If an Adams trade doesn’t happen, Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans could also be an option. He will be a free agent and is still considered one of the best receiving threats in the NFL.
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