Jets 2024 free agency tracker: Offseason moves, signings

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2024 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, which means free agent signings could be made official after that, and the first round of the 2024 NFL draft begins April 25 on ESPN.

Ahead of the legal negotiation period, which began Monday, the New York Jets agreed to bring back safety Chuck Clark and kicker Greg Zuerlein, and they signed former San Francisco 49ers cornerback Isaiah Oliver before getting free agency week going.

Here's a breakdown of every 2024 NFL free agent signing by the Jets and how each will impact the upcoming season:

Tyron Smith, LT

The Jets agreed to a one-year contract with eight-time Pro Bowl selection Tyron Smith.

What it means: The offensive line overhaul is complete and Aaron Rodgers has a new blindside protector at left tackle. Smith is an elite pass protector who ranked fifth among offensive tackles in QB pressure percentage last season, per NFL Next Gen Stats. In the span of a few days, general manager Joe Douglas added three starters -- Smith, left guard John Simpson and right tackle Morgan Moses. The Jets still could draft a tackle with the 10th pick, but this lessens the urgency.

What's the risk: This looks like an all-or-nothing move for the win-now Jets. Smith is 33 years old and has missed 37 games over the past four seasons. The Cowboys managed him last season by keeping him out of live practice drills during the week, and that seemed to preserve his health (he still missed four games). This is a gamble, but with the Rodgers window probably closing in a year or two, Douglas was prepared to roll the dice.

Mike Williams, WR

Williams signed a one-year deal worth up to a reported $15 million.

What it means: The Jets finally have a WR2 to play opposite Garrett Wilson, which should relieve some pressure on him. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers now has a big target (6-foot-4) who can win 50-50 balls. In 2022, Williams had a 57% catch rate on contested balls, 11th among wide receivers, per Pro Football Focus. Allen Lazard, last year's big-money addition, was supposed to be that guy, but he wound up on the bench. Williams will bring an element of toughness to the position; he's fearless and plays hurt.

What's the risk: Williams tore his ACL in Week 3, and he turns 30 in October, so there's the injury/age risk -- common in some of the Jets' newcomers. Presumably, he will miss the offseason program and perhaps some of training camp. Wisely, the Jets protected themselves with an incentive-laden deal. It's unrealistic to expect Williams to be the player he was in 2021, when he set career highs in catches (76) and receiving yards (1,146). He's not as effective in the red zone as you'd expect for someone his size -- only 16 touchdowns from 2018 to 2022, 21st among wideouts. This move has a little desperation to it; the upside is that it's not a major financial investment.

Javon Kinlaw, DT

The Jets agreed to terms with Kinlaw on a one-year deal for $7.25 million, including $6.9 million guaranteed.

What it means: Coach Robert Saleh reached into his San Francisco past to address the biggest need on defense: the interior line. They went into free agency with only one proven defensive tackle under contract: Quinnen Williams. Kinlaw projects as a rotational piece. No doubt they will add more bodies at the position.

What's the risk: Kinlaw, a 2020 first-round pick, was a disappointment in San Francisco. He battled injuries for three years and didn't have his fifth-year option exercised, finally flashing his potential last season. As a backup, he played every game and made 25 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 12 pressures. He also had four tackles in the Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs. The talent is there; he just needs to stay on the field. This is a low-risk reclamation project.

Tyrod Taylor, QB

Taylor signed a two-year, $12 million contract, including an $8.5 million guarantee.

What it means: To quote Jets owner Woody Johnson, "We need a backup quarterback. We didn't have one last year." Actually, they did, but Zach Wilson flamed out and now they have his replacement. The well-traveled Taylor, 34, joining his seventh team, is a definite upgrade over Wilson, whose days are numbered. Taylor can run an offense, make plays with his feet and won't make waves in the locker room. He knows the deal with this gig; his job is to be Aaron Rodgers' understudy. The Jets hope he never sees the field.

What's the risk: Staying healthy has been an issue for Taylor, who missed time last season, when he took over for the New York Giants, with fractured ribs (hence, the Tommy DeVito phenomenon was born). Rodgers is coming off a major injury, and the last thing the Jets need is an unreliable backup. Taylor tends to hold the ball and he takes some big hits. He's not the player he was in his younger days, but he can get the Jets through a few games if Rodgers is out. If it turns into a long-term assignment, it'll be a problem.

Solomon Thomas, DT

The Jets are bringing back Thomas on a one-year deal.

What it means: For the third straight year, Thomas signed a one-year contract to play for the Jets. He's a solid backup who played 43% of the defensive snaps last season and recorded a career-high five sacks. He will join Quinnen Williams and newcomers Kinlaw and Leki Fotu as the four top interior linemen. Thomas, 28, is a good locker-room guy with position flexibility. You need guys like him on your team.

What's the risk: Not much at all. Thomas shows up every Sunday and understands his role. The former No. 3 overall pick, who never reached expectations with the 49ers, has reinvented himself as a useful reserve.

Thomas Morstead, P

The Jets agreed to a two-year deal with their punter for a maximum value of more than $5 million.

What it means: A quality punter is a must, especially for a team like the Jets, who do a lot of punting. Morstead was one of their best players last season, setting career highs for punts inside the 20 (36) and inside the 10 (17). Of course, he had a lot of opportunities -- a league-high 99 punts, which brings us back to our original point. Morstead, who made only $1.2 million last season, earned the raise. He was one of their most consistent players.

What's the risk: Morstead is 38 years old. There's always a chance he could start to decline, but there were no signs of slippage in 2023.

John Simpson, G

Simpson's deal is for two years and has a maximum value of $18 million.

What it means: The Jets have an apparent replacement for left guard Laken Tomlinson -- the first step in their offensive-line rebuild. This is a classic acquisition for general manager Joe Douglas -- a moderately priced player without a glittering résumé. Simpson, 26, started every game last season for the Ravens, including both playoff games. Prior to that, it was a struggle for Simpson, a former fourth-round pick of the Raiders who was benched and cut late in the 2022 season. The Ravens picked him up as a reclamation project.

What's the risk: The Jets took the inexpensive route, opting for the unheralded Simpson over more accomplished guards such as Robert Hunt and Jonah Jackson -- both of whom landed big-money deals. Sometimes you get what you pay for. Simpson (6-foot-4, 330 pounds) brings some pop in the run game, but he's had some issues in pass protection (eight sacks last season, per ESPN Stats & Information, and he was flagged for 11 penalties). Douglas sees him as a late bloomer. He'd better be right.

Leki Fotu, DT

Fotu and the Jets agreed to a $2.5 million deal that can reach $4 million, per source.

What it means: Fotu is a younger version of Al Woods, which is to say he's a massive body (6-5, 334) who will be used primarily as a first- and second-down run defender. Fotu, 25, joins Kinlaw as the newest tackles in the "Guys Not Named Quinnen Williams Club." Last year's club -- Woods (36), Quinton Jefferson and Solomon Thomas -- hit the open market. Woods is recovering from a torn Achilles.

What's the risk: Fotu, who the Arizona Cardinals drafted in the fourth round in 2020, doesn't bring a lot of explosiveness and pass-rushing ability (only 3.5 sacks in four seasons) -- two traits the Jets covet in their defensive linemen. He has battled some injuries and he saw a decrease in playing time last season (298 snaps), so he didn't generate much interest. But the Jets saw him as a solid value for a specific role.

Greg Zuerlein, K

Zuerlein agreed to a two-year, $8.4 million contract, which includes a $4.2 million guarantee.

What it means: Zuerlein was one of the Jets' most valuable players last season -- and that's not hyperbole. Offensively challenged, the Jets relied on him more often than not on the plus side of the field. In fact, he scored 120 of their 270 points. He made 35 of 38 field goals, including a few clutch kicks, and 15 of 16 extra points. This was an important move for the Jets. Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer can rest easy.

What's the risk: The money isn't insignificant. The $4.2 million average per year ranks 11th among kickers, according to the ESPN Roster Management System. It's a nice raise after making $2.6 million on a one-year deal. That said, Zuerlein, 36, is no spring chicken and he's prone to an occasional down year (2019 and 2021).

Chuck Clark, S

Chuck Clark signed a one-year deal worth $2 million, with $705,000 guaranteed.

What it means: The Jets no longer have a gaping hole at safety. Right now, Clark projects as a starter alongside incumbent free safety Tony Adams. The plan was to start Clark last season after acquiring him from the Baltimore Ravens for a 2024 seventh-round pick, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in one of the final OTA practices. This likely means the Jets will move on from free agent Jordan Whitehead. Whitehead is better against the pass than Clark, who has only five career interceptions, but Clark is a superior tackler. The Jets also believe his ability to call signals and direct traffic will result in fewer blown coverages in the secondary. The Jets could bring in competition for Clark, perhaps re-signing Ashtyn Davis -- who made some big plays in a limited role.

What's the risk: This is a low-risk move by the Jets, who retain a well-respected veteran at a modest price. The financials weren't immediately available, but the amount of the deal figures to be around his 2023 salary ($4.1 million). Clark, who turns 29 on April 19, should have plenty in the tank. His skill set should fit nicely with Adams. The only question: The safety market is saturated with starting-caliber players. Could they have found a better option than Clark on the open market? In this case, the Jets opted for a player they feel comfortable with -- and one who didn't break their budget.

Isaiah Oliver, CB

Oliver signed a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, including $2.2 million guaranteed

What it means: Oliver, who was released Feb. 23 by the 49ers, is an experienced and versatile corner who already knows the system, having played under defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in Atlanta. The 27-year-old played primarily in the slot for the 49ers, but he has extensive starting experience on the outside. He projects as a backup to Michael Carter II in the slot and a replacement for Bryce Hall (free agent) as the CB4/5.

What's the risk: Not much. The Jets are loaded at corner, with Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed and Carter, but you can never have too much depth. That said, it certainly raises an eyebrow that the 49ers benched Oliver last month in the Super Bowl (he played exclusively on special teams) and cut him after one year on a two-year, $6.8 million contract. He has only three interceptions in 44 career starts.