Jets NFL Free Agency Preview: Edge rusher could be the biggest splash

The Jets have a desperate need for offensive weapons and plenty of salary cap space to spend a perfect match in a free-agent market loaded with wide receivers. . . But when the Jets start shopping on Monday afternoon, that might not be where their money goes. . . The Jets biggest splash in free agency could turn out to be at edge rusher instead, where some of the biggest names on the market currently reside. . . Free agency is flooded with top-tier talent at that spot, including Shaquil Barrett, Yannick Ngakoue, Matthew Judon, and Carl Lawson. In fact, multiple league sources believe that will be the Jets priority when the legal tampering period begins at noon, along with bolstering their offensive line. . . They certainly could add a receiver, too, but the ranks of the top ones thinned out when Allen Robinson Chicago Bears and Chris Godwin Tampa Bay Buccaneers were given the franchise tag last week. Also, with two first-round picks including No. 2 overall, the Jets are in great position to find offensive weapons in a receiver-rich draft. . . The same draft help isnt available for edge rushers, though, and the Jets do need the help at that spot. They had only one player with more than four sacks last season — defensive end Quinnen Williams with seven and they have been searching for an edge rusher for years. . . The cost could be high perhaps $18-to-20 million per year, depending on the player but the Jets will open free agency with nearly $70 million in cap space, more than any team outside of the Jacksonville Jaguars. And they know that the successful defense that new head coach Robert Saleh ran in San Francisco was led by a strong defensive line. . . So its conceivable they could make a play for the 25-year-old Ngakoue or the 28-year-old Judon, who both were with the Baltimore Ravens last season. They could even add another perhaps a less expensive option like defensive end Kerry Hyder, who had 8 sacks in Salehs defense in San Francisco last year. . . That would still leave them with plenty of money to go after a player like guard Joe Thuney, the former New England Patriot who is expected to be one of the Jets top free-agent targets. Douglas was very interested in him a year ago before the Patriots tagged him. Now that hes free, the Jets are expected to be heavily involved in the bidding, which could surpass $15 million per year. . . Whats unclear at both positions is just how far Douglas is willing to go. He certainly has the cap space to spend what he wants, but those who know him insist his philosophy really is what hes said to mostly build a team through the draft. . . He is expected to be a big spender on the market, but a targeted spender. He wont just throw money around at players he doesnt feel are worth it, and he will likely even have limits for those who are. . . Our philosophy and stance has not changed, Douglas said recently. I think our goal and our plan is to be a team that really builds this through the draft and hitting on draft picks, obviously using free agency to supplement our roster. If the opportunity and the value meet, thats going to be the point where were going to be aggressive and get someone that we feel good about. . . The Jets obviously have plenty of other needs, too. Look for them to add a cornerback and possibly a running back in free agency, though those likely wont come from the top tier. And Saleh is expected to try and lure several of his favorites from the 49ers to New York. Cornerback KWaun Williams, a native of Montvale, New Jersey, is expected to be high on that list. . . And of course they will look at the receiver market, including at the top remaining players like Will Fuller and Corey Davis. But with the two top players off the market already, the price of the next group could get out of hand quickly. That could push Douglas towards the draft instead, or perhaps to a lesser free agent like Curtis Samuel, who could be a bargain after the first wave of free agency is done.

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