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By now, every Jets fan can recite what the team needs to add through free agency and the draft this offseason.

We all know general manager Joe Douglas must remake the offensive line, find an edge rusher, a cornerback and a wide receiver or two. But the Jets’ needs extend even beyond that.

When the free-agency negotiating window opens March 16 and signings begin March 18, the Jets will be casting a wide net to reshape their roster. We all know what the top needs are, but what else will they need to add?

Here are four areas of need flying under the radar:

Quarterback
No, the Jets have not given up on Sam Darnold, but they need to find someone to play behind him. Both Trevor Siemian and David Fales are set to become free agents. Mike White is the only other quarterback on the roster, and he spent last year on the practice squad.

Backup quarterback is easy to overlook until you need one. The Jets must find someone who can keep the offense moving if Darnold is out. Last season, they fell apart after Darnold contracted mononucleosis and Siemian broke his ankle. Over Darnold’s first two seasons, he has missed six games. The Jets are 0-6 in those games.

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The veteran-quarterback market should be an active one. Case Keenum, Marcus Mariota, Chase Daniel, Colt McCoy and A.J. McCarron all are experienced players who are not going to have opportunities to start. Matt Moore also could hit the market and has familiarity with Adam Gase from their two years in Miami together.

Running Back
We know Le’Veon Bell will be back in 2020, but the situation behind him is murky. The Jets also could move on from Bell after this season and should be lining up someone who can be with them for a few years.

They need to add speed all over the field, but particularly at running back. If they can find a speed back, that will provide a nice complement to Bell and give Darnold and Gase someone who can turn short plays into long gains.

To me, this is a spot you are more likely to fill on the second day of the draft than in free agency. The model in my mind is what the Bills did last year when they took Devin Singletary in the third round out of Florida Atlantic. He ran for 775 yards and two touchdowns and had another 194 yards receiving and two receiving touchdowns as a rookie.

Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery, last year’s backups, are scheduled to hit free agency. The Jets could bring one of them back as an insurance policy before seeing what they can get in the draft.

Defensive Line
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This was one surprising thing I heard at the scouting combine last week: The Jets were talking to agents about defensive linemen. This may be because Gregg Williams loves to rotate linemen so much that they figure they can’t have enough. Right now, they have Authentic Quinnen Williams Jersey, Authentic Henry Anderson Jersey, Authentic Steve McLendon Jersey, Foley Fatukasi, Authentic Kyle Phillips Jersey , Authentic Nathan Shepherd Jersey and Authentic Jordan Willis Jersey. That is a pretty deep group.

Don’t be surprised, though, if they add another. Douglas knows free agent Timmy Jernigan from his time with both the Eagles and Ravens, so he makes some sense. Jets director of player personnel Chad Alexander came from the Ravens, so keep an eye on another former Raven here in Michael Pierce.

Kicker/Punter
It may be time for a total overhaul of the Jets’ kicking units. Sam Ficken made 70 percent of his field-goal attempts last year, and the Jets are likely to move on. Punter Lachlan Edwards has been inconsistent and is an impending free agent. There are veteran options at both positions (Greg Zuerlein is an intriguing free-agent kicker), but the Jets could try to find someone from the college ranks. They only had two coaches at the Senior Bowl in January — their special teams coordinator and his assistant.

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After starting eight games at center for the Jets last season, Jonotthan Harrison is looking to turn pencil into pen.

“For now, my goal is to enter the season as the starter, take it one step at a time from there,” Harrison said. “I have my other personal goals, but that’s my large one right now. I’m going on Year 6. I’ve had my years starting and I’ve had my years where I didn’t start as much. My goal is to definitely enter this season as a starter and earn my credibility as a lineman.”

In order to cement his spot, the 6’4”, 300-pounder is striving for consistency both on the field and in the classroom to make the sure the line is always on the same page. Even though Harrison has never played in a system like head coach Adam Gase’s attack, he believes the up-tempo style suits him well.

“It’s perfect,” he said with a smile. “When I was first looking at this offense, I was intimidated. I was like, ‘Man, this is so different. I have to get used to this.’ Then after going on the field and putting it together, everything clicked. This could be my bread and butter for sure. I’m really excited to see how this pans out.”

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Gase said the Florida product did a “great” job leading the offensive line in the spring and believes quarterback Sam Darnold trusts Harrison up front. The duo gained playing experience down the stretch in 2018, starting the final four games together.

“He’ll trust me to take care of certain things that he doesn’t need to stress about,” said Harrison about his relationship with the second-year signal-caller. “He’ll tell me, ‘You do this, you do this, you get the line on the right page.’ He trusts me with that and it’s a good sign. It shows the connection that we have and that chemistry can go a long way.”

Not only do Gase and Darnold both like what Harrison brings to the offensive line, but OL coach Frank Pollack also praised Harrison for his work ethic.

“He’s a very smart player, he’s working his butt off,” Pollack said. “This guy is a grinder. I like the way he works. He is a pro in that regard. The biggest compliment I can give anyone in the room is he’s a pro’s pro, the way he prepares himself and carries himself. Talent level really has nothing to do with that. For me, it’s about how they work and how they prepare every day, and he’s right at the top of the list in that.”

 

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The New York Jets want to upgrade their offensive line, and they got an early start Sunday by agreeing in principle to acquire left guard Kelechi Osemele in a trade with the Oakland Raiders, sources told ESPN’s Josina Anderson and Adam Schefter.

Osemele, who made the Pro Bowl for the Raiders in 2016 and 2017, is expected to replace James Carpenter, a four-year starter for the Jets and pending free agent.

By rule, trades aren’t official until Wednesday, the start of the new league year.

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The Jets traded a fifth-round pick for Osemele, receiving a sixth-round choice in return from the Raiders, according to a source.

The terms of the deal were first reported by Bay Area News Group.

It was the second trade in less than 24 hours for the Raiders, who late Saturday agreed to acquire wide receiver Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan made an aggressive bid for Osemele in 2016, when the emerging lineman was an unrestricted free agent after four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He wound up signing a five-year, $58.5 million deal with the Raiders, who received a nice return on their investment in the first two years.

But Osemele’s play slipped last season as he battled knee and toe injuries, missing a total of five games. There were rumors that he’d be shipped out before the trading deadline, but he made it through the season on a poor offensive line. Quarterback Derek Carr was sacked 51 times.

Osemele has two years remaining on his contract, with cap charges of $10.2 million and $11.7 million. None of his remaining salary is guaranteed. The Jets have more than $90 million in cap space.

In recent days, there was speculation that Osemele, who turns 30 on June 24, would be cut. In February, he released video on Twitter that suggested he’s determined to have a bounce-back year. He tweeted that 2019 would be devoted to “health and wellness” and he showed himself tipping the scale at 296 pounds.

He was listed by the Raiders at 330 pounds.

Maccagnan, speaking at the scouting combine, said the offensive line is a “position we’re going to look at very strongly in free agency. … It’s definitely an area we want to improve upon.”

The Jets were expected to show interest in Los Angeles Rams left guard Rodger Saffold, who will be one of the most coveted interior linemen on the free-agent market, but he’ll be more costly than Osemele in terms of guaranteed money.

Osemele was a second-round pick of the Ravens in 2012. For his career, he has played 93 games, all starts.

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Reaching into the New York Jets mailbag to examine hot-button topics surrounding the team:
Vest Guy
@vest_guy
Replying to @RichCimini
Can we flip the 3rd we got for Bridgewater to Pittsburgh if Bell’s holdout continues? #jetsmail

9:14 PM – Sep 7, 2018
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@RichCimini: As ESPN colleague Jeremy Fowler notes in his thorough breakdown of the Le’Veon Bell situation, the chances of him being traded are remote. Here’s why:

By rule, a franchise-tagged player isn’t allowed to sign a multiyear contract until the regular season ends. The deadline was July 15. In other words, any team that wants to trade for the talented running back would be taking a risk because he could be a one-year rental. Would it be worth it for the Jets to trade a third-round pick for a possible one-and-done player?

The New Orleans Saints just did it with Teddy Bridgewater, but they’re a win-now team with a closing window. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be a smart move for the Jets. If they were one or two players away from being a serious playoff contender, I’d say to try to make a deal. But, as you know, that is not the case, especially with a rookie quarterback. Plus, I doubt the Steelers would trade Bell for only a third-rounder.

One caveat: If the Jets are 5-3 or better at the trading deadline, then, yeah, go for it.

There’s another side to the question: If Bell is refusing to play for the Steelers for $14.5 million (the amount of the franchise tag), why on earth would he do it for the Jets? They could try to entice him by sweetening his one-year salary — the Steelers are allowed to do that, too — but then it begs the question: Is it worth paying a running back more than $15 million for one year? Right now, the Jets have $15.5 million in cap room, so it would be a tight squeeze.

From the Jets’ perspective, it makes more sense to wait until Bell becomes a free agent after the season, assuming he’s not tagged a third time. His asking price will be outrageous, and you could argue it wouldn’t be prudent to pay more than $40 million in guarantees for a 27-year-old running back. Then again, general manager Mike Maccagnan was willing to pay top-of-the-market contracts to Khalil Mack and Kirk Cousins, so it couldn’t be ruled out.
Jeff
@jknc09
#jetsmail @RichCimini Jets Starting OL did not play together in preseason, how porous of a group should we expect this season? Is that a reason they kept (TE) Eric Tomlinson for 6th blocker packages?

9:48 PM – Sep 7, 2018
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@RichCimini: You’re absolutely correct; the starting five didn’t play a single snap together in an actual game, which is troublesome. Three reasons: They’re learning a new scheme, they have a new center (Spencer Long) making the protection calls, and a rookie quarterback. They’ve had several practices together, but there’s a big difference between practices and games. There will be a transition period.

The biggest concern is left tackle Kelvin Beachum, who missed the preseason because of a foot issue. When he wasn’t able to practice, he worked with the training staff, which put him through various drills that simulated game-like movements and strength patterns. Pretty scientific stuff, but again, there’s nothing like a game. Opening night could be a rough one for Beachum, who will have to block the Detroit Lions’ Ziggy Ansah.

After a week or two, I think the line will settle down. We’re talking about five veteran players, so it’s not like they’re breaking in a newbie. That said, they’ll need some help from the playcaller and Sam Darnold, who has to throw on time.

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets coach Todd Bowles won’t divulge his quarterback decision until next week but said he has a “good idea” who will start the regular season.

So do his players.

Rookie Sam Darnold, who started the past two preseason games, is the heavy favorite. Two players told ESPN the expectation in the locker room is that Darnold will get the nod over incumbent Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.

“You kind of know where the flow is going,” one player said.

Bowles said Sunday that he will solicit input from his coaches before making the call. He won’t base it on one or two games, but rather a full evaluation from the spring and summer.

“It’s not a state of the union meeting type of thing,” said Bowles, who has final say on lineup decisions. “They have a feel for where I am, from the coaching standpoint.

“As coaches, we’ll meet on it and keep meeting on it. I have my ideas in my head, which I’ll keep to myself at this time, but I have a good idea.”

Asked if he is struggling with the decision, Bowles said, “Not really, no.”
Sam Darnold is likely the Jets’ Week 1 starter at quarterback, according to some of his teammates. Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports
Darnold, drafted third overall, has gained the trust of the coaching staff with his heady play. His preseason passer rating is a pedestrian 83.9, but he has impressed the organization with his poise, accuracy (64 percent completion rate) and mobility.

All three quarterbacks adhered to the company line, declining to speculate on the outcome.

“I mean, I wouldn’t be disappointed and I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Darnold, who has played nine of the 12 possessions for the starting offense. “Throughout my short career playing football, I’ve seen a lot of things. Teddy and Josh are great players, so I wouldn’t be surprised. At the same time, every quarterback wants to play, but that’s not my job [to decide].”

Bridgewater is intriguing because he could be trade bait. He dodged a question about trade speculation on Sunday, saying, “Right now, I’m living in the now.”

Playing mostly with the backups, Bridgewater has completed 74 percent of his passes, compiling a 104.7 passer rating. He has proved that his surgically repaired knee is sound.

Meanwhile, McCown has been the forgotten man, as he saw no action in the past two games. He said he was not bothered that Darnold has received the vast majority of the reps.
“When you pick somebody No. 3 overall and he’s a rookie, obviously he’s going to get a ton of work because he needs that,” McCown said. “It’s been great work for Sam. He has improved every day. It’s been awesome to watch.”

A year ago, McCown wound up being the Week 1 starter after sitting out the second and third preseason games. The hope was that Christian Hackenberg would seize the job, but he played poorly.

This time, the Jets won’t need McCown as the fallback option.

On Sunday, the Jets added a fourth quarterback, rookie John Wolford, who was in their rookie minicamp as a non-roster player. Bowles said Wolford, formerly of Wake Forest, is a practice squad candidate and could get mop-up duty Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

To make room for Wolford, the Jets waived wide receiver Lucky Whitehead with an injury designation.

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This week’s New York Jets mailbag focuses on the No. 1 question surrounding the team. Hint: It involves Sam Darnold.

Rich how much of a chance do you give Darnold to start week 1? #jetsmail

— Joseph Cusumano (@JosephCusumano3) May 11, 2018
@RichCimini: I can make it real simple, Joe: When Darnold is deemed ready by coach Todd Bowles, he will be the starting quarterback. It really doesn’t matter how Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater perform in the preseason. They’re the supporting actors in this new production; Darnold is the star of the show and it makes no sense to hold him back if he can function in the position.

Based on recent NFL history, I’d say there’s a 65 percent chance he will start Week 1. Where did I come up with that number? Of the 17 quarterbacks picked in the top 10 in the 2008 to 2017 drafts, 11 started on opening day. Mitchell Trubisky (fifth game), Blake Bortles (fourth) and Blaine Gabbert (third) were close behind.

Moral of the story: If you’re investing that much in a quarterback, don’t be afraid to play him as a rookie. It might not be pretty — only four of the 17 made the playoffs — but tackling the growing pains is a necessary evil.

I can see the Jets following a Trubisky-like path, and here’s why: Bowles is old-school when it comes to playing unproven players, especially at quarterback, and I think he’ll lean toward McCown to start the season. The schedule also could be a factor.

Three of the first four games are on the road, including the opener (Detroit), a Thursday night/short week in Week 3 (Cleveland) and a showdown against the best defense in the league in Week 4 (Jacksonville). That’s a formidable stretch for any quarterback, let alone a rookie.

After Week 4, the schedule is tailor-made for breaking in a neophyte quarterback: three consecutive home games. That, I believe, is the Darnold window.

Darnold probably will get the majority of the reps in the preseason, just as Christian Hackenberg did last summer, so he will have every opportunity to claim the job that has his name on it. Once he proves he can execute Jeremy Bates’ offense, he should be given the keys to the car. Based on the current personnel, it is more like a used pickup truck.

One online sportsbook puts the over/under on the number of Darnold starts at 5.5. I’m surprised it’s that low. If Darnold starts fewer than six games, that would be disappointing for the Jets.