Forget about the offense, the New York Jets are suddenly building quite the imposing defense as free agency is set to kick off on Wednesday. Even though it has come with its fair share of drama.
While they kicked off the NFL’s negotiating period — which began on Monday — with a trade for offensive guard Kelechi Osemele and the signing of slot receiver Jamison Crowder, the Jets looked poised to pull off two huge moves in succession for linebackers.
Monday night appeared to have brought about the acquisition of Minnesota Vikings OLB Anthony Barr, who was coming off an inconsistent 2018 in which he recorded 55 combined tackles and three sacks in 13 games. Yet on Tuesday afternoon, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reported that Barr decided to remain with the Vikings.
The 26-year-old was projected to add an outside rushing presence in new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ 3-4 scheme, which would have been a new look for him considering the Vikings deploy a 4-3 defense that keeps Barr more toward the interior.
With 13.5 sacks over his first five seasons, it was not a given that Barr would have helped out a Jets unit that struggled to get to the quarterback last season. However, this was an athletic talent that could have adapted quickly enough in New York.
His decision to remain in Minnesota add some more money back to the Jets’ cap space. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Barr’s initial Jets deal was around the $14 million to $15 million range per season.
It would have been a cheaper deal than the one that actually went down Tuesday morning when the Jets agreed to a five-year, $85 million deal ($17 million AAV) with former Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker CJ Mosley, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Also at 26 years old, Mosley has excelled the moment he made it to Baltimore after being drafted out of Alabama with the 17th pick of the 2014 draft. He’s made the Pro Bowl four times in his first five seasons where he put up a 16-game average of 124 combined tackles.
While Barr would have been looked upon as a pass-rushing option, Mosley is being brought on to help lead the middle of the Jets defense with an ability to provide above-average play against both the run and pass. It’s an aspect they’ve missed since parting ways with David Harris in 2017. Mosley has nine career interceptions and 35 pass breakups to go with a run stop percentage of 10.9, ranked fifth among NFL linebackers by Pro Football Focus.
The first three moves made by general manager Mike Maccagnan has taken a sizable chunk out of the Jets’ cap space this season. Once having almost $100 million in space, New York is now down to approximately $58 million, though it would have been near $43 million if the Barr deal was completed. It’s still more than enough to make a few more big moves, which could happen in the coming days as the Jets have been linked with free-agent star running back Le’Veon Bell and former Denver Broncos center Matt Paradis, who was ranked the No. 2 center in the entire league by PFF.
Regardless, the Jets suddenly have a young, explosive defensive core with the addition of Mosley, who will join safety Jamal Adams (23 years old), defensive end Leonard Williams (24), and inside linebacker Avery Williamson (27). That group alone should do plenty to improve the Jets’ standing from last year when they ranked 24th against the pass, 26th against the run, and 29th in points allowed.
Add in the potential No. 3 pick of the 2019 NFL Draft that could yield Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen or Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and the Jets might be putting together one of the best defenses in franchise history right before our very eyes.