The Jets have gone so long without a dominant edge pass rusher that sometimes it feels like Mark Gastineau was the last one they had.
In reality, it has not been that long, but it has not been that short of a time either. John Abraham, who last played for the Jets in 2005, is the last dominant Jets player to come off the edge and terrorize quarterbacks.
It has been a need they have been trying to fill ever since, and they have failed to do so. This year, it is the top priority.
The Jets found a quarterback they feel can be their signal caller for the next decade in Sam Darnold. Now, they have to find someone to chase the other team’s quarterback.
When you look down the list of potential free agents for this offseason, there are a lot of big names in the edge-rusher category. The Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence, Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney, Chiefs’ Dee Ford and Seahawks’ Frank Clark all have expiring contracts.
Here is the problem, though: There is a good chance none of those guys actually becomes a free agent on March 13 when the new league year begins. They are all expected to either get contract extensions or receive the franchise tag from their respective teams.
This is why it is so difficult to find pass rushers in free agency. If you are a team with a good one, much like a quarterback, you don’t let him hit the market. It was what made the Raiders trading Khalil Mack to the Bears so shocking last season. Teams hold onto pass rushers as tightly as they can.
If you look at the top pass rushers in the league right now, Mack is a rare exception in that his team did not acquire him through the draft. Almost all of the top pass rushers were drafted by their respective teams. Mack, Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell are notable exceptions.
That means the solution to the Jets’ pass-rushing problem will likely come in the draft and with their first-round pick — whether they stay at No. 3 or trade down. The good news is this draft is loaded with defensive linemen and pass rushers.
If the Jets do decide they don’t want to wait for the draft and want to sign a rusher in free agency, there are some interesting names that should hit the market. None has the star power of Lawrence (10.5 sacks in 2018), Clowney (9), Ford (13) or Clark (13), but there are some who could be an answer.
The Patriots may try to bring back Trey Flowers. If they don’t, the Jets could pounce on him. Flowers had 7.5 sacks last year. He is a versatile lineman who could move up and down the line for new Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Flowers is just 25 years old.
The Ravens have said they are worried the market for Za’Darius Smith will be out of control and drive up the price past what they want to pay. Smith had 8.5 sacks last year and is 26 years old.
Jets need to keep themselves out of the Antonio Brown circus
The reflex, as always, is this: Go get him! The…
Preston Smith had a down year for the Redskins, posting just four sacks after an eight-sack season the year before. Washington has expressed interest in bringing him back, but he might be another player whose price skyrockets in free agency.
The Lions took Ezekiel Ansah with the fifth pick in the draft, and he never quite lived up to his draft status. Injuries limited him to seven games last year and he had just four sacks. He did have 12 two years ago. He is going to be 30 in May, so teams may fear he is on the downside of his career.
Other pass rushers who should hit the market are the Eagles’ Brandon Graham, Rams’ Dante Fowler and Broncos’ Shane Ray.
The Jets will have some options if they want to spend on a free-agent pass rusher, but not some of the names that have fans dreaming right now.