NFL free agency is on the move, and we’re tracking every major signing, trade, and exit from the 2022 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and expert ratings. The league’s new year begins March 16 at 4 p.m. ET, which means free agent signings can be made official afterward. The first round of the 2022 NFL Draft begins April 28 on ESPN.
The New York Jets enter free agency with needs in almost every position — they didn’t finish 4-13 by accident. Among the leaders in the cap room, they promise to be aggressive, but not reckless, which means they shouldn’t be expected to hand out record deals. Safety, tight end, wide receiver and guard are the priority positions in free agency. They can double down in those areas and meet other needs, with their nine picks in the draft. Between free agency and the draft, the Jets should have at least six new starters in 2022. The importance of this offseason cannot be overstated.
Here’s a breakdown of every NFL free agent signing in 2022 by the Jets, and how each will impact the upcoming season:
Tomlinson has agreed to the terms of a three-year deal worth $40 million, including $27 million in guarantees.
What this means: The Jets landed one of the best guards in the free agent market, bringing in a tough player (hasn’t missed a blink in three years) who already knows the scheme. He played under offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, so it should be a seamless transition from that perspective. The Jets plan to use Tomlinson at right guard, replacing Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (free agent). Therein lies the question: Tomlinson has played on the left his entire career. This kind of switch, line veterans will tell you, is no pushover. Once Tomlinson has settled in, he will provide an upgrade to their indoor racing game, which stunk last year.
What is the risk? A big contract always involves risk. In this case, he is understated by his incredible durability and familiarity with the scheme. It’s what teams covet in the sometimes wild world of free agency. Tomlinson is rock solid, the 13th ranked guard out of 82 in 2021, per Pro Football Focus. This could impact their draft plans with the fourth pick. The idea of drafting a tackle, Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu, and moving him to guard is no longer on the table. If the Jets choose one, it could mean the end of Mekhi Becton.
For now, there is a chance that Becton will switch to right tackle, with George Fant remaining at left tackle. Tomlinson and Alijah Vera-Tucker are cautioned. The line could be pretty good if Becton is healthy and fit.
Berrios has agreed to the terms of a two-year deal worth $12 million, with $7 million fully guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
What this means: The Jets have retained a valuable jack-of-all-trades player who fits well into the culture they’re trying to build. And — oh, yeah — it’s an All-Pro kick returner. They weren’t sure if they’d be able to keep him, but Berrios’ market didn’t materialize as he had hoped, likely because the draft is filled with slot machine receivers. Berrios is expected to play the same role as last year – slot receiver/gadget player and kickoff/punt returner. He’s not a front-row receiver, but provides depth and allows coordinator Mike LaFleur to run his “jet sweep” package. He has a good relationship with quarterback Zach Wilson, and that’s important.
What is the risk: Not much at all. The $7 million guarantee isn’t something to sneeze at, considering it’s basically a replacement/specialist, but it’s money well spent. Berrios is durable and is only 26 years old, so he has just entered his prime.
Coleman signed a one-year contract for $1.5 million, including a $650,000 guarantee.
What this means: The Jets are thin in the backfield, so bringing Coleman back on a modest contract made sense. After Michael Carter, who established himself as the RB1, they ask themselves a lot of questions. Coleman, who turns 29 on April 16, can be a solid rotation player if he can stay healthy. He missed six games last season and hasn’t played a full year since 2018. He still has a lot of dizziness; he hit 21 mph last season on a kickoff return, the fastest speed of any Jets offensive/special team player. He averaged 4.2 yards per carry, finishing with 356 yards.
What is the risk: Coleman’s injury history raises concerns about his reliability, but there really isn’t a financial gamble. There’s not a lot of money guaranteed in the contract and he’s certainly not guaranteed a spot on the roster.
Uzomah has agreed to terms on a three-year, $24 million deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
What this means: The Jets see Uzomah as the pass-catching threat that was missing on the tight end, the kind of receiver who can help sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson. He’s a huge target at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds. His career production is pedestrian, but he posted career numbers last season — 49 catches, 493 yards and five touchdowns for the AFC champion Bengals. Talk about the moment; he hit free agency at the right time. In the Jets, he found a desperate team. Since 2012, they have recorded a record 489 tight end receptions. That didn’t stop the Jets from writing a tight end. This raises questions about Ryan Griffin, who could be a victim of the cap. Obviously, Uzomah is the new TE1.
What is the risk? It makes the Jets look a bit overpaid; we will have a better idea when we confirm the amount of his guaranteed money. The tight market was diluted with franchise tags in Dalton Schultz, Mike Gesicki and David Njoku, creating a seller’s market. Uzomah is an upgrade, but he’d have to surpass last season’s career numbers to seal the deal. There is also a history of injuries, as he suffered an Achilles tendon tear in 2020.
Reed has agreed to terms on a three-year, $33 million contract, according to a league source. The amount of the guarantee is not disclosed.
What this means: The Jets needed to come out of free agency with a starting corner, and they didn’t want to break the bank for JC Jackson or Carlton Davis. They targeted Reed among the second-tier players, landing a 25-year-old with an upside. He already knows Robert Saleh’s system, having played under him with the San Francisco 49ers in 2018 and 2019. He was a fifth-round pick by the 49ers and was waived after just two seasons. Reed came into his own last season with the Seattle Seahawks, hitting career highs in starts (14) and passes defended (10). Reed will start on the outside, with last year’s starters – Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols – battling it out for the other spot. Let’s be clear: Reed is not a CB1 and that doesn’t stop the Jets from using a high pick at the position. But it’s a legit starter and improves overall unity.
What is the risk? Reed is just 5-foot-9 and not a great point guard, an area where the Jets hope to improve. The team only had seven interceptions last season, a ridiculously low number. Reed only has four picks in four years, so he’s not exactly a bullet magnet. But let’s say this: he’s well versed in zone concepts and he can be effective in limited man-to-man situations. He is extremely competitive and will play bigger than his size.
Whitehead has agreed to terms on a two-year contract. The deal size is $14.5 million, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
What this means: Whitehead is a four-year-old starter with a championship pedigree. For a team like the Jets, you need those kinds of guys to help the rebuilding process. Let’s face it, they were desperate for safety, especially with Marcus Maye coming out of Achilles surgery and heading into free agency. For now, Whitehead and Lamarcus Joyner are the starters, but Joyner isn’t locked into that role. Whitehead was their number one safety target, a source said, although they showed interest in Marcus Williams, who ended up signing with the Baltimore Ravens. Whitehead, 25, is a downhill defender who might struggle in space, but it looks like a good investment. He’s a tough physical defender who plays with a chip on his shoulder. He was primarily a safe for the Bucs, but he had 150 snaps last season in free safety and in the slot.
What is the risk? The Jets need ball-peddling safety, and Whitehead isn’t that — just five interceptions in four seasons. They can get away with it if paired with a free, long safety that can run through the deep middle. No, it’s not as good as Williams ($14 million a year), but it’s half the price. Whitehead will improve the run defense, which struggled because they had too many safeties against bad tackles. He’s a badass; he played Super Bowl LV with a torn shoulder labrum. He is a cousin of former Jets star Darrelle Revis.