If there is an underrated takeaway from the first few days of New York Jets training camp, it’s that the defense (while dominant) may still need an additional piece before the season begins.
New York’s pass rush and cornerbacks have stood out in impressive ways through the first few days of camp, but it’s the safety group that holds the most intrigue.
Newcomer Adrian Amos has had spurts of solid play while Tony Adams has been an early-season surprise at the free safety spot. But Amos’ skillset and that of fellow starter Jordan Whitehead are more related to the strong safety position. They both like to play in the box and have their issues in open spaces.
Adams is certainly on track to earning more playing time going into his second season, but if the Jets want to solidify the backend of their already elite secondary, acquiring a true free safety might be the best way to go.
Luckily for them, arguably the best one in football might be available.
In three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Budda Baker has become a dynamic force at the safety position. He’s been sent to the Pro Bowl five times with two First-Team All-Pro nominations. Over the last three seasons, he has totaled seven interceptions while recording over 100 tackles in two of them (the one year he didn’t he still recorded 98).
During the offseason, Baker requested a trade from Arizona with the Cardinals expected to be in the early stages of a rebuild.
Baker’s dominance, coupled with Arizona’s team emphasis at the moment shows that a top contending team in need of a safety could be an ideal landing spot for the former Washington product. The Jets just so happen to be one of those teams.
New York will not be the only team potentially looking into Baker’s services. Other contending teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, and Cincinnati Bengals are all in consideration for an upgrade at safety. Few teams have as much cap space as the Jets do at this moment though. Gang Green has the fifth-most cap space in the NFL currently with $20 million according to Spotrac. Baker carries a cap hit of over $13 million. Doing the math, the Jets are well within the range to carry on the salary of a Pro-Bowl player like the Cardinals’ safety.
Imagining a Jets defense with Baker at safety protecting the likes of Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed would be as close to a modern-day “Legion of Boom” as any other team in the NFL.
Of course, Gang Green doesn’t have to acquire a safety at all. Adams is an undrafted free agent that is turning heads in his second year, and the team could continue to work the Whitehead-Amos combination until one of the veterans earns the back-end slot.
But if the Jets want to live up to their championship aspirations, acquiring the best available players within their cap capabilities should be their primary goal. So long as Aaron Rodgers is leading the organization, New York should try to maximize their championship window.
Acquiring Budda Baker would certainly do the trick there.