As the New York Jets hope to rebound from their 2016 season struggles, Tony Jefferson could address a major need in 2017 NFL free agency
The New York Jets are rebuilding following a dismal 5-11 campaign in 2016. One point of emphasis this offseason needs to be retooling their secondary. What better place to start than to sign free agent safety Tony Jefferson.
The Oklahoma Sooners product paced the Arizona Cardinals last season with 92 tackles (including 13 for loss). He added two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a pair of sacks and five passes defended. Jefferson is just 25 years old and he would significantly upgrade a disappointing Gang Green secondary.
Calvin Pryor, the Jets current starting strong safety, is known as a hard-hitter. But his coverage and ballhawking skills leave a lot to be desired after three seasons with the Jets. A first-round selection (18th overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft, Pryor has been a little bit of a disappointment so far.
Rontez Miles started just four games at free safety for New York last season and will turn 29 this November, so he is not a long-term solution. Neither are Ronald Martin or Doug Middleton behind him on the depth chart.
The Jets ranked just 17th in the NFL against the pass in 2016, allowing 243.6 yards per game. That is not acceptable in a Todd Bowles defense, a defense that was burned by a number of big plays last year. That’s where Jefferson comes in.
Jefferson has displayed the flexibility to move between free safety and strong safety throughout his time in Arizona. Let’s not forget that Jefferson also played for Bowles in Arizona for two seasons (2013-14) when Bowles was the Cardinals defensive coordinator, so he’s familiar with the system.
What he does offer: What Jefferson brings to the table is a position that not every NFL team has embraced just yet: a fast guy who can tackle, rush the passer and play a little coverage on the side. Jefferson’s versatility makes him intriguing, but he’s not a plug-and-play guy in the way some front offices would approach him.
According to spotrac.com, Jefferson’s Calculated Market Value is $5.7 million, which is reasonable in today’s market. The Jets would probably need to ink him to a three or four-year pact, but that is certainly understandable considering Jefferson’s age and skill set.
Would signing Jefferson make the Jets a viable contender to dethrone the New England Patriots as divisional champs? Certainly not. New York has many other holes to fill and upgrades to make as they reshape their roster.
However, in the pass-happy world of the NFL, bringing Jefferson on board would instantly improve the Jets mediocre secondary. Let’s face it, without a solid defensive backfield, where are you in the NFL these days? Near or at the bottom, where the Jets find themselves right now.