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Jets’ overhaul begins in wild first night of NFL free agency

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After a quiet first day of free agency, the Jets had an active first night.

The Jets agreed to contracts with former Titans wide receiver Corey Davis and former Bengals edge rusher Carl Lawson on Monday night, according to sources. The moves by Joe Douglas potentially fill two big holes on the Jets roster. Douglas viewed the positions as areas of strength in free agency and moved on it hours after the negotiating window opened for teams and player agents.

The Jets also agreed to a deal with middle linebacker Jarrad Davis, according to a source.

This is the beginning of the Douglas/Robert Saleh overhaul of the roster of a team that went 2-14 in 2020. Lawson is a pass rusher oozing with potential and won’t turn 26 until June. He only has 20 sacks in four seasons with the Bengals but is seen as having enormous upside. The Jets are betting on that upside with a three-year, $45 million contract that includes $30 million guaranteed.

Davis gives the Jets another weapon at wide receiver to go along with Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder as the team tries to rebuild an offense that was the worst in football last season. Davis and the Jets agreed to a three-year, $37.5 million contract with $27 million guaranteed.

Jets general manager Joe Douglas
Jets general manager Joe Douglas
AP

The moves came late Monday after a quiet first few hours of free agency that made Jets fans antsy. Davis was the first splash signing for Douglas, who targeted wide receiver entering free agency. Davis is 26 years old and is coming off his best season as a pro playing opposite A.J. Brown. He had 65 catches for 984 yards and five touchdowns, all career highs, in 2020 for Tennessee. The Titans drafted Davis No. 5 overall in 2017 after a highly productive career at Western Michigan. He never lived up to that draft status and the Titans declined to pick up his fifth-year option for 2021.

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The Jets had the worst offense in the NFL last season and wide receiver was part of the problem after the team let Robby Anderson walk in free agency a year ago. Crowder led the team with 59 receptions for 699 yards and six touchdowns. Whether Sam Darnold is under center or the Jets draft a new quarterback, they will need better targets. The Jets have not had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2015 when Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker both hit the mark.

The 6-foot-3, 209-pound Davis had 207 catches for 2,851 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons with the Titans. Davis is known as a strong blocker and is good in the play-action game, both key attributes for a receiver in new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system.

Lawson is a potential solution for the Jets’ pass-rushing problem. The team has not had a star edge rusher since John Abraham, who was traded 15 years ago. Lawson’s production is not eye-popping but he has a lot to like. PFF ranked him 14th out of 109 edge rushers in 2020. He was fourth in pressures (64) and second in QB hits (24) among edge rushers, according to PFF. ESPN reported he has the third-fastest get-off rate (0.73) behind just T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, according to Next Gen Stats.

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The Jets entered free agency focused on improving their pass rush. Saleh’s defense in San Francisco always had good edge rushers. The Jets also feel a strong edge rush will open up Quinnen Williams inside more, preventing him from being double-teamed. It would not be surprising if the Jets add another pass rusher in free agency or the draft. They were showing interest in Saints free agent Trey Hendrickson on Monday, too.

Carl Lawson
Carl Lawson
Getty Images

The 6-foot-2, 265-pound Lawson was a fourth-round pick of the Bengals in 2017 out of Auburn. He had 8 ½ sacks as a rookie before tearing an ACL in 2018. He had 5 ½ sacks last year.

The only other deal the Jets made on Monday was a one-year deal worth up to $7 million with former Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis, according to a source.

Bringing in Davis presents questions about C.J. Mosley’s future with the team. Both of them would play middle linebacker in Saleh’s scheme unless the Jets move Davis to outside. The NFL Network reported the Jets have fielded trade calls on Mosley and a source confirmed the Jets are open to trading him. It may be tough to move Mosley, though, with $14 million of guaranteed money remaining on his contract over the next two seasons.

The Jets missed out on one of their targets Monday. Former Patriots guard Joe Thuney signed a monster five-year, $80 million deal with the Chiefs. The Jets could use an upgrade in the middle of their offensive line.

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