INDIANAPOLIS — It has been nearly 14 years since the Jets traded John Abraham to the Falcons.
Since that three-team deal (which included the Broncos) on March 22, 2006, the Jets have been through four general managers and four head coaches. Through all that time and all that change, they have been unable to find an edge rusher to lead their defense.
Abraham had three double-digit sack seasons in his six years with the Jets. In the 14 seasons since he was traded, the Jets have had just three players notch double-digit sacks in a season. The last Jet to accomplish the feat was Muhammad Wilkerson in 2015, when he had 12.
So, is this the year they finally find an edge rusher to give their defense the element that has been missing since Herm Edwards was still roaming their sidelines?
It is a glaring need, but it is one of many glaring needs they have. It is hard to rank their needs at edge rusher, offensive line, cornerback and wide receiver. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams surely is lobbying for someone in either free agency or the draft who can terrorize opposing quarterbacks.
Last season, Jordan Jenkins led the Jets with eight sacks. Jenkins, who is an impending free agent, has led the team in sacks the past two seasons. He is a solid player, but not someone who going to make offensive coordinators shake with fear.
Jamal Adams had the second-most sacks on the team last year with 6.5. Living on safety blitzes is not a recipe for long-term success. The Jets ranked 23rd in the NFL with 35 sacks.
General manager Joe Douglas acknowledged this week the Jets have to do find ways to better affect opposing quarterbacks.
“I can’t speak enough to how great a job Gregg and his staff did and our players and how they battled all year,” Douglas said. “Obviously, like I said earlier about the wide receivers, the pass game is important, and so you need guys who can affect the pass game on defense. And you’re talking about corners and pass rushers. So it’s going to be important for us to look at those two positions very closely.”
The question will be how much of their resources they want to commit to the position. Do they want to spend big bucks in free agency on a rusher? Would they use the No. 11-overall pick on an edge rusher over some of their other glaring needs?
There are some big names scheduled to become free agents, but many of them could have the franchise tag applied to them before free agency begins. Jadeveon Clowney, Arik Armstead, Yannick Ngakoue, Shaquil Barrett, Dante Fowler, Kyle Van Noy, Bud Dupree, Matthew Judon and Robert Quinn are some of the edge rushers who could be available. They could command monster contracts, though. Does Douglas want to sign a big-ticket free agent like that?
If he waits until the draft, things get more interesting. Many people believe the Jets will draft an offensive tackle with their first-round pick. But what if three tackles are taken before they pick at 11? Do they take the fourth-best tackle or the second-best edge rusher?
It is clear Ohio State star Chase Young will be off the board before the Jets pick, but LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson and Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa should be available. The Jets may be able to find their pass rusher after the first round, but the chances of hitting on those picks decreases as the draft goes on.
No one would have expected the Jets to still be searching for a replacement for Abraham 14 years later, but they are. This could finally be the year they find a dominant edge rusher … or we could be talking about this again for a 15th straight year.