Free agency and the Draft in 2022 was a great time to be a Jets fan. Joe Douglas brought in players across the board that excited the fanbase and changed the narrative around the Jets in the media. But one free agent has had an instant impact on the team’s performance, and it’s probably not the one most fans expected.
No team has a perfect free agency, but 2022 for the Jets was a close to one as we’ve seen in a while. We missed out on Marcus Williams, and Tyreek Hill decided to sign somewhere with summer climes and no state tax. But what we did get was a complete offensive line, a TE room that doesn’t contain Ryan Griffin, and enough weapons to make Zach Wilson a dangerous man with time in the pocket.
One area a lot of fans didn’t think need any tuning up was the corners; Bryce Hall had a good 2nd year in the NFL, and rookie Brandin Echols played much better than expected. Joe Douglas didn’t agree, and went out and spent $33 million on a free agent, DJ Reed, and the 4th overall pick on Sauce Gardner. The difference has already been showing up on the field and the most impressive side of it has come from Reed.
Quick Hit Background and Numbers
- Drafted 142nd overall in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL Draft by San Fransisco
- Started only 2 games out of a possible 31 for the 49ers
- Released in 2020 and claimed off waivers by Seattle
- 2 years with Seattle where he recorded 4 INTs, 108 tackles, 17 passes defended, and 3 fumble recoveries
A Player on the Rise
Douglas made the smart decision to take a player on the rise rather than one who’d already hit his peak. After a rocky start to his NFL career in SF, where he spent some time with Robert Saleh, Reed had a revival with Seattle and had two solid years with the Seahawks. Then Seattle did what teams often do and failed to keep a talented player on their roster, which obviously worked in the Jets favour. According to Reed the Seahawks did make him an offer:
They made me an offer, but the offer, in my opinion and my agent’s opinion, was disrespectful for my level of play and the player I am.
Reed currently sits in the top five Corner Backs in the NFL according to PFF with an overall grade of 77.4, but what really stands out is his coverage grade of 86.3, which would put him 2nd overall out of all corners. Now, this is only out of two games but when you couple it with how he closed out the year for Seattle in 2021 I’d say it’s alright to be getting a little excited about what the Jets have in Reed.
There was some legitimate concern that DJ Reed wasn’t going to start week one. He missed a lot of the end of the off-season with a knee injury and was a late decision to go or not against the Baltimore Ravens. This meant there was very little hype about him going into the season but there should have been plenty since. Reed’s performance against Baltimore earned him a 90 coverage grade from PFF after allowing no completions on six targets, and picking off Lamar Jackson in the dying minutes of the game.
The impact of a veteran player in the locker room should never be underplayed, and Reed’s professionalism and personal strength has been on full display when you consider his discovery of his father’s death minutes before the game week one. The ability to play through that and at such a high level should be an inspiration to the locker room. Saleh praised Reed’s toughness after the game:
D.J. is a pro’s pro, a man’s man. … went through a lot and it was an emotional roller coaster this entire week for him.
Week three will be a big test for Reed as well as the entire Jets secondary. Joe Burrow may be playing behind the world’s first self-collapsing offensive line, but Reed and Sauce will need to keep Chase and Higgins locked up for 2-3 seconds on every snap to allow the pass rush to get home.
The Contract & The Future
Reed’s contract structure isn’t that interesting, and is typical of the kind of contract Douglas has handed out since he came to the Jets: year one is light on the cap hit ($4.6 million); year two is where the cap takes the biggest hit ($14 million); and year three gives the team an out from a further big hit with very little dead money ($3 million dead cap.)
If Reed continues to play to the high standard he’s set, and as he’s only 26 there’s nothing to suggest he can’t maintain it, it would be great to see him stick around longer than his current contract. Having him and Sauce on either side of the field for the next five years sounds like a pretty good idea to me.