Why the New York Jets should sign free agent safety Jordan Whitehead

The Jets have long been expected to be active in the secondary market this free agency period, and we’re just days away from seeing their plans play out on the trade wire.

With a plethora of versatile corners and safeties available, we should see multiple signings at both positions, with one more addition to each in the 2022 NFL Draft. After having a thin and injured backend last season, securing a secondary room depth is essential for New York to move forward.

The Jets have already done a quick job of retaining some of their independent defensive backs, with safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Will Parks go back on one-year offers. Parks was a late addition to the squad last season and made two starts to end the year, while Joyner’s 2021 season was cut short due to a triceps injury in Week 1.

Joyner now fills the depth chart at the free safety position, a role he started in Week 1 just six months ago. There’s a chance they’re not done with free safety yet – especially given Ashtyn Davis’ disappointing experience in Year 2 – but at the very least, it’s a position. who looks strong enough to be put on the pitch next season. I would expect the Jets to go after that last free safety in the draft, allowing them to focus on finding starters in other key positions.

The big question now is who is playing alongside Joyner and Davis, as 2021 starter Marcus Maye is ready to test the free market and settling in a new city for the first time in his career. Failing to agree on a contract extension of more than two years seems to mean a fresh start for the 29-year-old captain and, while you can never say never about a possible reunion, it looks like a new name will suit the strong safety position.

Luckily for New York, there’s a fair amount of solid first-rate security. The top prize is New Orleans’ Marcus Williams, who is expected to become one of football’s highest-paid safeties, although he works best in two-tier safety sets as a mostly free safety. There’s no harm in him starting Joyner again next season if it’s a path they decide to go down but doesn’t make the most sense financially as they would still need to secure a strong security afterwards.

Tyrann Mathieu, former Kansas City chief, is an all-around, versatile safety who would be a amazing culture worthy of the Jets. Given his age and willingness to continue chasing titles in the latter parts of his career, the Jets would need to be millions above his best offer to convince him to step into green and white. . Quandre Diggs, a Seattle free agent, has ties to the defensive scheme but is also better suited as a free safety.

That brings us to what is, in my opinion, the best fit for the New York Jets safely this offseason: 24-year-old Tampa Bay free agent Jordan Whitehead. This fiery, hard-hitting safety fits head coach Robert Saleh’s defense like a glove and is a perfect culture for a defense that needs to give itself an edge.

When Whitehead sits at linebacker, it’s been hard to find a more impactful safety making plays at the line of scrimmage in the past two years. His 78.9 run defense rating last season was 10th best among safeties and was still a top-35 safety in his pass defense rating. Few safeties in this league play with less fear for their safety than Whitehead, who throws his body in to make a play.

That reckless drop may be worrying for a safety who is just 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, but Whitehead has done a great job of being available throughout his career and has only missed six of 65 regular-season games. . He won’t let injuries hold him back from bigger moments either, playing a solid game in Super Bowl 55 with a torn shoulder labrum.

While I’m not saying every player should go out on the pitch and play injured, Whitehead’s commitment to his team and their demeanor is an attitude that needs to be broadcast throughout the dressing room. There have been games in the 2021 season where the Jets have been flat for 60 minutes defensively, and Whitehead can bring the juice to help mature this unit — both physically and mentally.

A move to New York also means Whitehead will be able to spend more time doing what he does best, staying close to the line of scrimmage and getting down to football. The Buccaneers have started to tend to more two-tier safeties, which we saw a lot of defenses do last season to limit deep passing concepts, but the Jets are committed to that Cover-3 base and skill set. Whitehead fit this pattern perfectly.

Safeties like Williams, Mathieu and Diggs are all considering deals with an AAV of $10 million or more. Even if the Jets find themselves in a bidding war for Whitehead’s services, it would be shocking for a safety of his style to approach that number, with a projection of $8 million AAV being the realistic high end of the game. spectrum. Even if you’re suspicious of his longevity, $8 million a year for an impact safety who’s only 24 years old fits the Jets’ timeline like a glove.

If the Jets follow through on rumors of a stronger secondary, Whitehead is the ideal combination of cost, fit and character to juice up the defense.

CONTINUED:

Follow Blake Pace on Twitter (@BlakeAndrewPace). Be sure to bookmark Land of the Jets and check back daily for news, analysis and more.

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