Are the New York Jets Taking Off or Stalling in Free Agency?
By Ha Kung Wong
The New York Jets have been making moves this offseason in an effort to improve their offense, and their latest signings of Mecole Hardman, 1-year deal worth $6.5 million, and Allen Lazard, 4-year deal worth $44 million, could be just what they need to take the next step in their rebuild.
Playmakers.@MecoleHardman4 ✈️ @AllenLazard pic.twitter.com/ZBwK2s6GDQ
— New York Jets (@nyjets) March 24, 2023
The Jets’ offense struggled mightily last season, finishing near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories. But with the addition of Hardman and Lazard to reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson, the team is hoping to add some much-needed playmaking ability to their receiving corps.
Hardman, a former second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, has shown flashes of brilliance during his first two seasons in the NFL. He’s a speedy receiver who can stretch the field and create mismatches against opposing defenses. Last season, he caught 41 passes for 560 yards and four touchdowns, and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
Mecole Hardman and his speed are coming to the Jets ♨️pic.twitter.com/FVwRIonYHW
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) March 22, 2023
Lazard, on the other hand, is a bigger receiver who can be a reliable target in the red zone. He’s coming off a season in which he caught 33 passes for 451 yards and three touchdowns but missed some time due to injury.
thinkin' about Sundays watching @allenlazard make plays 🔥 pic.twitter.com/a33t6MrfuG
— New York Jets (@nyjets) March 19, 2023
While the signings of Hardman and Lazard are certainly exciting for Jets fans, it won’t mean anything without a quarterback, and right now the Jets only have Zach Wilson and Chris Streveler in their quarterback room. It’s pretty clear the Jets are moving on from Wilson and going all-in on trading for Aaron Rodgers, and it’s also clear that Rodgers is all-in on joining the Jets, but it’s not yet a done deal with the Packers likely looking for at least one first round pick in return. That being said, the Packers GM Brian Gutekunst at least publicly has stated that a first round pick isn’t necessary. Rodgers is still an elite quarterback, just a year removed from being named the league’s MVP. Even in a down year last season, where he played with a broken thumb, Rodgers passed for 3.695 yards and 26 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. Comparatively, every Jets quarterback combined last season totaled 4,040 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, so it’s not hyperbole to characterize Rodgers as a huge step up. And with most of the top free agent quarterbacks off the market and the Jets draft position at 13 limiting their ability to draft an impact quarterback (not that this has been a winning strategy in the past for the Jets), Rodgers might also be their last and only option.
|2011*+||GNB||15||68.3||4643||45||6||122.5||83.8||AP MVP-1, AP OPoY-2, AP1, PB|
|2012*||GNB||16||67.2||4295||39||8||108.0||71.2||AP OPoY-3, AP2, PB|
|2014*+||GNB||16||65.6||4381||38||5||112.2||77.8||AP MVP-1, AP OPoY-2, AP1, PB|
|2016*||GNB||16||65.7||4428||40||7||104.2||72.4||AP MVP-5, AP OPoY-2, PB|
|2020*+||GNB||16||70.7||4299||48||5||121.5||79.8||AP MVP-1, AP OPoY-2, AP1, PB|
|2021*+||GNB||16||68.9||4115||37||4||111.9||69.1||AP MVP-1, AP OPoY-4, AP1, PB|
So perhaps Lazard’s most significant impact, along with new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, will be helping to attract Rodgers. Either way, with Hardman’s speed and Lazard’s size, the Jets’ offense should have a more well-rounded receiving corps next season.
But with the signings of Hardman and Lazard, the Jets have taken a step in the right direction. They’re building a roster that can compete in the AFC East, and they’re doing so in a smart and efficient manner. It may not be enough to make the playoffs next season, particularly without Rodgers, but it’s a sign that the team is moving in the right direction.