The Evil Empire’s rule over the NFL landscape has been a perpetual pain in the posterior for the Jets.
So, if you can’t beat them OR join them, there’s only one thing left to do: Steal from them.
Surely, the Patriots can appreciate such a strategy given their past thievery (see: SpyGate). Although the Jets technically won’t be committing larceny, they are well-positioned this offseason to weaken The Dark Side by pilfering two key pieces to their championship puzzle.
Gang Green has the financial resources ($100 million in salary cap space) to bolster two pivotal areas of need by signing free agent defensive end Trey Flowers and offensive tackle Trent Brown next month.
It would be the ultimate win-win for Mike Maccagnan and Adam Gase: Pluck a pair of key starters from your biggest divisional threat.
The Jets desperately need an upgrade on the edge. The 25-year-old Flowers would provide new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with an invaluable versatile player, who has proven to be effective getting to the quarterback and stopping the run. Bill Belichick and Brian Flores moved Flowers around like a chess piece en route to winning their second Super Bowl in three seasons.
Flowers’ sack totals don’t jump off the page (6, 7 and 7 1/2 in the past three seasons), but he affects games in myriad ways. He racked up 45 quarterback hits and more than 60 pressures the past two seasons. He lined up all over the formation to create havoc against the pass and run.
Flowers’ 10.5 percent run-stop percentage ranked fourth among defensive ends this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He finished with 57 tackles, including nine for loss and three forced fumbles.
Belichick knew exactly how to maximize Flowers’ versatility. The thinking is that Williams, who doesn’t lack for self-confidence, would be able to do the same for a such a versatile player entering his prime.
Brown, a mountain of a man, is expected to be one of the most coveted tackles in free agency, but comes with more risk than Flowers. The 6-8, 365-pound lineman was a pleasant surprise in his first year with the Patriots, who pulled off a draft-day trade with the 49ers last year.
Brown, who will turn 26 in a couple months, had a solid regular season replacing Nate Solder before taking his game to a higher level in the playoffs. His success transitioning from right tackle in San Francisco to Tom Brady’s blind-side protector will land him a big payday this year, but he had his fair share of hiccups with 35 pressures allowed. Only one tackle allowed more quarterback hits (12).
The 49ers also expressed concerns about Brown's weight, which had to remain under 365 pounds in Foxborough (even though he was listed at 380).
The Jets, who already cut starter Spencer Long, will be re-tooling their offensive line this offseason. Veteran left tackle Kelvin Beachum has an $8 million non-guaranteed base salary in the final year of his contract. Right tackle Brandon Shell is coming off knee surgery that landed him on season-ending injured reserve in December.
The Patriots aren’t expected to place the $14 million franchise tag on Brown given that 2018 first-rounder Isaiah Wynn is in line to take over after missing last year with a torn Achilles suffered in the preseason. (They also likely don’t think that Brown warrants that kind of loot).
Brown might be an upgrade for the Jets, but it’s fair to wonder how he’ll do outside the gates of The Empire.
“Trent’s very athletic,” Belichick said in November. “A lot of times on the left side of the line you face some very athletic players. Some have size, but a lot of them are maybe a little undersized relative to the guys on the right side, but their speed and athleticism can be a little bit greater. He’s able to match up with those guys with his length and his athleticism, and then he has some advantages over there with his size and his power.”
“He’s a very unique player with his skill set. The size is rare. His athleticism is good, but when you combine it with his size, that’s rare too. You don’t see guys that big playing over there and he’s very gifted.”
The smart take from the strong. The Jets have a chance to get better and weaken their most hated rival by adding Flower and Brown.