Four concerns for the Jets entering annual NFL owners meetings
PHOENIX — This week, the Jets and 31 other teams will gather in Arizona for the annual NFL owners meetings.
Jets coach Robert Saleh and other AFC coaches will speak on Monday morning. The NFC coaches will talk to reporters on Tuesday morning.
A lot has changed since the last time Saleh spoke to reporters during the NFL Combine. Gang Green was coming off multiple visits with then-free-agent quarterback Derek Carr.
But not long after he visited the Jets at the combine, Carr signed a four-year, $150 million contract with the Saints. Now the Jets have fully turned their attention to Aaron Rodgers after the 39-year-old said he intends to play for the Jets in 2023 as the Packers appear to be ready for Jordan Love to be their starting quarterback.
However, the Jets and Packers have yet to work out a trade as reportedly the two sides are at a stalemate as Green Bay is looking for a first-round pick, something the Jets haven’t been willing to offer at this point. Saleh won’t be able to talk about Rodgers publicly, but there are other significant questions reporters will ask during the 30-minute media session on Monday.
Here are four concerns that Saleh needs to address during the NFL owners meetings.
What makes them confident in the quarterback situation in 2023?
Although Saleh can’t directly answer anything about acquiring Rodgers as he is still contractually obligated to the Packers, he can dance around the question a bit.
The Jets had a chance to sign Carr, but Rodgers was clearly their No. 1 option from the beginning. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have let Carr continue to twist in the wind as, reportedly, the Jets were his top choice in free agency.
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But when it became clear the Jets wanted to see if they could acquire Rodgers, Carr decided to sign with the Saints, who was their top choice. The Rodgers trade to the Jets is going to happen, it’s just a matter of when not if.
What makes the Jets brass so confident Rodgers can end their 12-season playoff drought in 2023? Yes, he is a future Hall of Famer and one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game, but a lot is riding on the Jets this season as they’ve gone all in within a loaded AFC East, which has gotten better this offseason.
Rodgers is also coming off one of his worst seasons in recent memory as he passed for 3,695 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and the Packers finished 8-9, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2018. In the 2020-21 seasons, Rodgers won back-to-back MVP awards as he combined for 85 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions during that span.
The Jets most significant needs aren’t just on the offensive side of the ball. Gang Green has a gaping hole at the defensive tackle spot opposite Quinnen Williams, who also is entering the final year of his rookie deal and has threatened to sit out organized team activities if he doesn’t get a new contract.
Last year’s starter Sheldon Rankins signed a one-year, $10.5 million contract with the Texans. Also, backup defensive tackle Nathan Shephard signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Saints.
Calais Campbell will reportedly meet with the Jets next week along with the Bills after being released by the Ravens on March 13. Campbell has already visited the Falcons and Jaguars after he recorded 36 tackles for 5.5 sacks in Baltimore last season.
Campbell can play as a defensive tackle and a defensive end at 6-8, 300 pounds. He certainly would provide a solid veteran presence alongside Williams if the Jets could sign him.
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Speaking of needs, the Jets still need to sign a starting center as Connor McGovern is a free agent. Gang Green has been linked to veteran center Ben Jones after he was released by the Titans earlier this month.
Jones’ former offensive line coach Keith Carter now holds the same position with the Jets. Also, the Titans former offensive coordinator Todd Downing is the Jets passing-game coordinator.
The Jets also still have questions at both tackle positions as Duane Brown had offseason shoulder surgery and will be 38 years old heading into next season. Also, the Jets could use a right tackle as George Fant is a free agent.
Max Mitchell and Mekhi Becton could compete for the right tackle starting spot. Mitchell started five games at right tackle before a blood clot issue in his lungs and right calf ended his season. Becton has lost a lot of weight recently, but he has only played one game in two seasons.
According to a report by ESPN, former Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has narrowed his list of suitors down to three teams, the Jets, the Bengals and the Eagles.
Gang Green could use another running back despite having Breece Hall, Michael Carter, Ty Johnson and Zonovan “Bam” Knight on its roster. Hall is coming off a season-ending ACL injury last October so it could take him some time to regain his previous form. The trio of Carter, Johnson and Knight struggled without Hall as the Jets only rushed for over 100 yards in three of their final nine games.
Elliott isn’t the Jets only option at running back as they’ve scheduled a pre-draft top-30 visit with UAB’s DeWayne McBride.