By Brad Carroll
The New York Jets likely completed their amazing makeover late Thursday night, signing former Chargers safety Marcus Gilchrist to a four-year deal. The Jets have now addressed every single one of their needs this offseason through free agency and trade, with only a true franchise quarterback left on the wish list.
The Jets have now added a starting safety (Gilchrist), three top cornerbacks (Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine), a starting guard (James Carpenter), traded for a No. 1 wide receiver (Brandon Marshall) along with a possible starting quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick), plus brought back their own free agents in linebacker David Harris, running back Bilal Powell and guard Willie Colon.
The moves have quickly turned the Jets from the laughingstock they became the past two seasons under the direction of then-general manager John Idzik, to sudden contenders in the AFC East, a division that just happens to have the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots, plus the improved Bills and Dolphins.
It's a remarkable turnaround for a franchise with a new general manager, Mike Maccagnan, and head coach, Todd Bowles. There's no doubt the Jets have won this offseason so far, especially with how Maccagnan has turned the team's biggest weakness from last year into this year's biggest strength.
The Jets allowed an NFL-high 31 touchdown passes in 2014, as the team had the worst defensive backfield in the league. In three days this offseason, the Jets have turned that completely around, putting together a group that is among the league's best. There is no doubt the Jets have the best four cornerbacks in the league, with Revis, Cromartie, Skrine and Dee Milliner, who is coming back from injury.
At safety, Gilchrist should pair with last year's first round draft pick, Calvin Pryor. Pryor had a terrible first season with the Jets, but he should benefit from having Gilchrist next to him, along with Revis and Cromartie on the outside.
Gilchrist will turn 27 this coming December, so he has plenty of good years ahead of him. He was a second-round draft pick out of Clemson by the San Diego Chargers, playing cornerback before being moved to safety. Gilchrist started all 16 games last year in San Diego, recording 77 tackles with two interceptions, a sack, fumble recovery and five pass deflections.
Gilchrist is known as an outstanding tackler, which the Jets desperately need considering Pryor was barely able to bring anyone down in the secondary during his rookie season.
The newest Jet is versatile as well, playing both free and strong safety, and covering the slot receiver if he needs to at the line of scrimmage. Gilchrist shouldn't have to worry about press coverage, however, as the Jets are suddenly stacked at cornerback, with two known shut-down players on the outside.
Gilchrist could be the final splash the Jets make in free agency, as there aren't many holes to fill that the upcoming NFL Draft can't take care of.
Of course, even with all the tremendous moves made by Maccagnan, one big hole still remains - franchise quarterback. All the focus turns now to the No. 6 overall draft pick and more specifically to Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The quarterback could be the key to the entire offseason and future of the franchise. That answer won't be known for several weeks, but in the meantime, make sure to check out our Jets' full, seven-round mock draft right here, with the top pick being - Marcus Mariota.