The Jets are doing the heavy lifting in their rookie deals first. After agreeing to terms with No. 4 overall pick Sauce Gardner, the Jets have signed the third of their first-rounders — Jermaine Johnson— to his four-year rookie contract.
Johnson, who can be controlled through 2026 via the fifth-year option, will be tied to a fully guaranteed deal. Projected to go off the board earlier than he did, at No. 26, the Florida State product will be tasked with boosting a Jets edge rush that has been one of the NFL’s least effective position groups over the past decade and change.
Famously lacking an impact edge presence since the 2006 John Abraham trade, the Jets are now positioned to have Johnson and Carl Lawson. The latter is coming off a season-nullifying Achilles tear. He will now team with one of this draft’s best defensive end prospects.
Transferring from Georgia to Florida State last year, Johnson registered a career-high 11.5 sacks to go along with 17.5 tackles for loss last season. ESPN ranked Johnson as the No. 14 overall prospect, but he slid to the mid-20s, opening the door for the Jets to trade back into Round 1 for him. The Jets sent the Titans second-, third- and fifth-round picks to move up for Johnson, who will join Gardner in attempting to help a defense that ranked 32nd in both points and yardage in 2021.
In the research that led to the Bills’ new stadium deal in Buffalo, the team acknowledged that they looked at many cities that are “oft-mentioned in NFL circles,” according to Tim O’Shei of The Buffalo News.
The Bills organization didn’t specify which cities they researched, but O’Shei’s report lists those often-discussed cities as Orlando, San Diego, San Antonio, Austin, St. Louis, Portland, Salt Lake City, Birmingham, and Louisville. International markets, such as Toronto or London, have also recently entered discussions.
Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC East, starting with a couple notes from Jersey:
In a post-Draft analysis of the Jets, ESPN’s Rich Cimini discussed the situation surrounding Jets tackle Mekhi Becton. Rumors before the draft were hinting that New York would use one of their two top-ten draft picks to add a tackle to assist them in moving on from Becton, but the Jets instead addressed the cornerback and receiver rooms. Head coach Robert Saleh initially claimed Becton would compete with George Fant for the blindside job, but hinted more recently that Becton may move to the right side of the line. Unfortunately for the Jets, they won’t have an opportunity to see how he fits over there until he reports, as Becton has decided to skip the team’s voluntary workouts. Cimini makes a great point that, since their insurance policy of Morgan Moses departed to Baltimore in free agency, it is crucial that Becton sees success at right tackle.
Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated also wrote an analysis of the NFL Draft with a section focusing on the Jets’ historic first round. Breer mentions how, after the Jets were able to land Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner and Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson in the top-ten, Saleh encouraged general manager Joe Douglas to go after Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II should he start to slide down the board. New York turned up the heat after the Eagles moved ahead of the Ravens and Johnson continued to fall, making phone calls to the Texans (at 15), the Commanders (at 16), and the Chargers (at 17). After talking to the Titans, who had moved up to 18 with the A.J. Brown-trade, Douglas knew Tennessee was going to select a wide receiver to fill their new A.J. Brown-shaped hole, but a discussion was made about a potential swap for the Titans’ other first-round pick at 26. Douglas had only one line in the sand: the Jets owned two early second-round picks, and he wanted to keep at least one of them, to eventually draft Iowa State running back Breece Hall. Johnson fell right into their laps at 26, and the Jets had their three Day 1-selections.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, Becton won’t be the only AFC East player missing voluntary workouts this month as veteran running back James Whiteis still recovering from the hip injury that ended his 2022 season in a Week 3 loss to the Saints, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN. White was quoted at the team’s draft party, saying, “I still have a little while to go (after) a pretty rough injury.” Reiss points out that this is a golden opportunity for running back J.J. Taylor to show he has what it takes to take over White’s role.
One of the main storylines from last night’s first round was the fact that only one quarterback came off the board. The Steelers have their preferred choice in Kenny Pickett, but the other top options likely won’t have to wait long to hear their names called.
Jeff Howe of the Athletic reports (via Twitter) that “several teams” are trying to move up in the second round. As a result, there is “anticipation that a QB run could be on the way”. A number of teams could be interested in adding the likes of Malik Willis, Sam Howell, Desmond Ridderand Matt Corral as intriguing developmental options.
On that point, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer names the Titans, Falcons, Seahawks and Commanders as teams to watch for. He reports that “Ridder’s name has been consistently connected to Tennessee”, who now holds the 35th overall pick. The other teams have done significant work on signal-callers as well. Perhaps eyeing a passer, the Seahawks have made “exploratory calls” about moving up tonight, per CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson (Twitter link).
Here are some other notes looking back on last night:
Not long after the top-10 was complete, the Vikings ceded the 12th overall pick to the Lions. With their second first-rounder, Detroit selected Jameson Williams, who may have been the pick at that spot had Minnesota kept it. Breer reports that the Alabama receiver “was very much in play ” for the Vikings, who added Lewis Cineand two Day 2 picks as a result of the deal.
One of the most surprising fallers on Thursday night was pass rusher Jermaine Johnson II. Part of the reason he was still on the board for the Jets at No. 25, Breer notes, was poor interviews with teams in the pre-draft process. Thought by some as a top-10 pick, he ended up with the Jets anyway, and figures to serve as a notable boost to their pass rush.
The Jets are adding a third first-round selection to their squad. The Jets have acquired pick No. 26 from the Titans and will select FSU edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II.
Ultimately, New York acquired picks No. 26 and No. 101 from Tennessee. In exchange, the Jets will send the Titans picks No. 35, No. 69, and No. 163.
Johnson had an unexpected slide down the draft boards this evening. At one point, some pundits expected the FSU product to be a top-1o pick. Instead, the pass rusher reverted back to his original late-first-round draft stock, and the Jets took advantage of the opportunity.
Johnson II took a risk to play one year in Tallahassee, and he achieved the desired result. The red-shirt senior transferred from Georgia, where he enrolled as a JUCO prospect out of Independence Community College.In his lone season at Florida State, Johnson II led the ACC in tackles for loss (17.5) and sacks (11.5), surpassing both of his career Georgia totals (eight tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks) in half the time. He spent a lot of time harassing ACC quarterbacks as he racked up 12 quarterback hurries and forced 2 fumbles.
The Jets had two selections earlier this evening, selecting Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner at No. 4 and Ohio State wideout Garrett Wilson at No. 10.
Speaking of Thibodeaux, there’s a chance the edge jumps all the way to No. 2. While King has the Lions selecting Michigan edge Aidan Hutchinson with the second-overall pick, the reporter cautions that Detroit is “smitten” with the Oregon defender and could shake up the draft board by selecting him earlier than expected. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Todd McShay doesn’t see Thibodeaux falling pass the Falcons at No. 8.
Wrapping up King’s notes, the reporter writes that the Falcons like Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral. King has Atlanta trading up to select the signal-caller at No. 32, but there’s a chance Corral ends up falling to them anyway at their current selection at No. 43. Meanwhile, there hasn’t been much buzz connecting the Falcons to a quarterback at No. 8, according to NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe.
The Vikings are eyeing cornerbacks at No. 12, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. The reporter hints that a team outside of the top-12 could look to jump the Vikings in pursuit of one of the draft’s top cornerbacks.
McShay had a handful of notable tidbits about some NFC squads. The Seahawks are taking a “hard look” at Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis at No. 9, and the front office is also intrigued by LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.. Meanwhile, the Eagles “preference” at No. 15 could be Alabama wideout Jameson Williams, and there’s little chance the receiver falls past the Saints at No. 16. Albert Breer of SI.com shares a similar sentiment about the Eagles, with sources telling him that the Eagles are seeking a pass rusher.
Continuing in Philly, the Eagles may not end up even selecting at No. 15. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggests (on Twitter) that the Eagles could be a candidate to move up in the first round. The reporter suggests that the front office could be targeting a cornerback or edge rusher.
Johnson is tracking toward being a top-10 lock, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com tweets, noting some view the 254-pound defender as this class’ top pass rusher. Johnson seems to have the Jets’ attention, and they could make the move with the first of their two top-10 picks.
Walker’s ex-teammate at Georgia, Johnson transferred to Florida State in 2021 and had his best season. Johnson registered 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss with the Seminoles. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah ranks Johnson ninth in this class; ESPN slots him 10th. Thibodeaux comes in ahead on both hierarchies, but attitude and effort concerns have dinged the former No. 1 overall prospect throughout the draft buildup.
If defensive end is not the direction Gang Green goes at No. 4,Ikem Ekwonu and Ahmad Gardner come into play. “Persistent buzz” points the Jets toward the North Carolina State offensive lineman, SI.com’s Albert Breer said during an appearance on The Score 1260 (Twitter link). The Jets think “extremely highly” of Ekwonu, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes (video link). Ekwonu could slot at tackle or guard. For what it’s worth, no team has chosen a guard in the top four since the Cardinals took guard/tackle Leonard Davis second overall in 2001. Ekwonu would also serve as rather expensive, draft capital-wise, Mekhi Becton insurance.
Gardner-to-New York talk persists as well, ESPN.com’s Matt Miller tweets. Gardner was linked to the Jets weeks ago, but the Texans are a candidate to nab the Cincinnati prospect at 3. Houston doing that would seemingly put New York to an O-line-or-D-line decision. The Jets’ needs on the edge and at cornerback may outflank those on their O-line. They have drafted offensive linemen in the first round in each of the past two years, and the Jets’ defense ranked last in 2021. But the team using both of their top-1o picks on players who can help Zach Wilson, being linked closely to receivers at No. 10, would make sense as well.
Jermaine Johnson II took a risk to play one year in Tallahassee, and he achieved the desired result as he announced his intention to enter the 2022 NFL Draft class last Thursday (Twitter). The red-shirt senior transferred from Georgia, where he enrolled as a JUCO prospect out of Independence Community College.
In two seasons as a Bulldog, Johnson II produced admirably, tallying 8.0 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. But he felt the best move for his career was just south of the Florida-Georgia line.
In his lone season at Florida State, Johnson II led the ACC in tackles for loss (17.5) and sacks (11.5), surpassing both of his career Georgia totals in half the time. He spent a lot of time harassing ACC quarterbacks as he racked up 12 quarterback hurries and forced 2 fumbles.
He currently figures as a late first-round pick, but as someone who’s seen their stock rise significantly over the past year, Johnson II doesn’t come off as someone who will be comfortable settling for day one. Johnson II will have the opportunity to try to put his name in the conversation with top draft prospects Kayvon Thibodeaux, Aidan Hutchinson, and George Karlaftis as the calendar turns to March at the 2022 NFL Combine.