Safety Jamal Adams after the Jets blew a 16-0 lead to fall to the Titans, 26-22 on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.
Andy Vasquez, Staff Writer, @andy_vasquez
This has been an especially disappointing season for the New York Jets, which means there are going to be plenty of changes this offseason.
The team will surely will be active in free agency — they’re expected to have about $100 million in cap space. And they’ll build through the NFL Draft, where it’s looking like the Jets will have a top-five pick.
But the Jets also have several key decisions to make on their own pending free agents. Here’s a look at the most important Jets players who are set to hit free agency, and what their future might hold:
Josh McCown, QB
It remains to be seen if McCown, who will turn 40 in July, wants to play beyond this season. He could be still be a viable backup for well less than the $10 million he’s making next year, but he hasn’t looked good in his three games filling in for Darnold. The Jets could choose to go a younger route or he could retire. Either way, McCown’s time with the Jets is likely over.
Morris Claiborne, CB
The biggest concern about Claiborne was durability when the Jets signed him before the 2017 season. Claiborne has stayed healthy (appearing in 27 of 28 games) and done a good job in coverage, despite a very bad game against the Titans. The Jets should be leery of a long-term deal for a soon-to-be 29-year-old with a history of injuries. But if they can bring Claiborne, who made $7 million this season, back on a short-term deal, it could work.
Buster Skrine, CB
He’s done a very good job for most of the season. But when he makes mistakes they usually crush the Jets. He’ll be 30 next season and there’s a chance that he’ll come back on a short-term deal at far less than the $8.5 million cap hit he cost the Jets this year. But he was brought in by Todd Bowles and it isn’t likely he’ll be back .
Avery Williamson, MLB
The 26-year-old has been mostly very good this season, aptly filling the role when the Jets decided to not re-sign Demario Davis. He’s made a few critical mistakes that have resulted in touchdowns (missed coverages on Tarik Cohen and Rob Gronkowski), but his accountability is refreshing. He made a reasonable $7.5 million this season, and the Jets should look to bring him back longer-term at the right price.
James Carpenter, LG
He will be 30 next season and was certainly durable after signing with the Jets in 2015. He played 58 consecutive games before being placed on injured reserve last month with a shoulder injury. He’s a captain and highly regarded, but he struggled in 2017 and wasn’t significantly better this year. The Jets will likely look for a younger option in free agency or the draft.
Jermaine Kearse, WR
He had a career year in 2017, but Kearse has struggled to make an impact this season. He’s just not built to be a top receiver, and for most of this season Kearse, 28, was the Jets’ best healthy receiver and offenses were able to shut him down. If the Jets get some big-time offensive weapons they should bring Kearse back for a year — his leadership is valuable. If not, they must let him walk.
Steve McLendon, DT
He’s a capable run stopper and, despite his age — McLendon will be 33 next season — he’s still playing at a high level. If the Jets can get him to sign a one-year contract, it would make sense. But McLendon, who is coming off a three-year, $10.6 million deal, could be seeking multiple years. And if that’s the case, the Jets should look to upgrade in the draft or free agency.
Bilal Powell, RB
He’s an incredibly valuable part of the Jets’ offense, which has been completely inept in the five games since he got hurt. Powell is versatile and explosive. But he’s also not capable of being the lead back and he’s about to turn 30. It’s likely time for the Jets to find a younger weapon and move on.
Brandon Copeland, OLB
He was an afterthought when the Jets signed him as a free agent in March, but Copeland has developed into a solid starter and one of the better stories on the team. At 27 there’s still room for Copeland to improve and he’ll likely be a value after making only $1.2 million this season. The Jets should look to bring him back.
Andre Roberts, WR/KR
In a season full of disappointment, Roberts has been one of the few bright spots. The 30-year-old leads the league in yards per punt return and has broken several big kickoff returns. The Jets will have to pay more than the $720,000 he earned this season, but solving the return game is worth it.