The Jets, Bengals, Texans, and Washington are all options
After an impressive start to his career, Tampa Bay Buccaneers S Jordan Whitehead is set to be a free agent this offseason, but where are his potential destinations on the open market? Let’s take a look at the role Whitehead has played with the Buccaneers, his value, and his possible landing spots.
Jordan Whitehead landing spots
Whitehead’s career has been interesting to watch play out. He started 11 games as a rookie and racked up 76 combined tackles across 15 games. His tackling prowess has been a consistent element of his career. He has had at least 69 tackles in each of his four seasons and has sat between 69-76 in all three seasons.
However, it is his ability in coverage that is impressive and something he has clearly developed in the four years. As a rookie, he allowed a passer rating against of 100.7. Opposing passers completed 69% of their passes against him. Yet, he has gradually improved, and 2021 was a highlight year. Whitehead gave up a 63.2% completion rate at just 8.6 yards per completion with zero touchdowns allowed. That all adds up to a passer rating of 62.6 allowed in 2021.
The versatility that Whitehead has shown is crucial to his value. He has lined up at safety, in the box, as both a slot and wide coverage corner, and even on the line as a pass rusher at times this season. To some extent that makes finding a fit for Whitehead difficult. Every defensive coordinator and the defensive scheme will look at different ways to use him. However, his ability to fulfill these multiple roles should make him an in-demand player this offseason.
Where Whitehead fits in terms of the potential contract value is tough to judge. It would be a surprise to see him challenge the value of the likes of Jamal Adams at $17.5 million. A contract close to the value of the Jordan Poyer-Micah Hyde pairing in Buffalo ($9.7 million per year) feels about the right value. Of course, that will be very market-dependent. If there is a high demand for him, then he could make much more.
The New York Jets will likely be in the market for a safety
The Jets feel like the perfect fit for Whitehead heading into the offseason. They lost Marcus Maye to injury, who had been playing a similar role to the one Whitehead would fill. Maye is also due to be a free agent this offseason. The question will be who carries the greater value into the offseason. Heading into 2021, the answer would have been Maye, but he suffered an injury, while Whitehead impressed.
The Jets were making the right noises about wanting to bring Maye back, and we will see now what their approach is. With Whitehead potentially available, the Jets could feign interest in his to try and drive Maye’s price down. It feels like one of those two is very much likely to end up in Jet-green this offseason.
Whitehead could be a replacement for Landon Collins with the Washington Football Team
Washington has the potential opportunity to get out from under the contract of Landon Collins this offseason. Doing so would save them $6.6 million in cap space and allow them to reset at the position. Washington is projected to have $50 million in cap space, and sorting out their secondary has to be one of the priorities.
Collins allowed 8 touchdowns in pass coverage this year. That was tied for the most by any single defender this year, according to Pro Football Reference. His 121.4 passer rating allowed was the 17th-worst in the league. That is why making the switch from Collins to Whitehead would make sense for Washington. Whitehead’s tackling numbers are a slight downgrade, but his coverage abilities appear to be significantly better.
Could the Bengals be looking to go away from Jessie Bates III this offseason?
The reasons why the Bengals might be interested in Whitehead over Jessie Bates III is essentially a combination of the two elements above. Firstly, Bates is set to be a free agent this offseason, and the role he plays is similar to that of Whitehead. Bates does tend to play a little further back than Whitehead, who has seen more snaps inside the box than the Bengals safety.
However, the key element would be the struggles for Bates in coverage. Bates actually allowed a higher passer rating than Collins in 2021-2022. He only gave up 2 touchdowns, but teams were able to move the ball with consistency when targeting him. Bates allowed 36 completions on 45 targets for 12.0 yards per target and 14.9 yards per completion. For his career, Bates has been inconsistent in coverage, and that could push the Bengals to look towards Whitehead, who has improved in coverage year over year.
Could Whitehead be part of the franchise rebuild for the Houston Texans?
Another potential free agent at safety who plays a similar role to Whitehead is Justin Reid in Houston. Now, the situation in Houston is very much up in the air because they are looking for a head coach. However, the early feeling was that the former-Patriots personnel in the front office might be looking to their former franchise for their next head coach.
If that is the case, then Whitehead fits that role that Patrick Chung played for the Patriots when that defense was at its best. Whitehead could be that utility option that the Texans can build their defense around. Houston does have some cap space concerns in 2022, but if they were to trade Deshaun Watson this offseason, it would open space up in 2023 and beyond.
Would the Buccaneers be looking to bring back Whitehead this offseason?
The Buccaneers have two young safeties on rookie contracts in Antoine Winfield Jr. and Mike Edwards. Winfield tends to play the deeper role, while Edwards has been used more in the slot in 2021. The key as to whether the Buccaneers would be interested in bringing Whitehead back would largely depend on whether they feel Edwards can shift into that versatile role Whitehead has played.
Of course, cap space comes into it with the Buccaneers having a number of free agents this offseason. Whitehead might simply be a luxury too far for Tampa Bay. As they did last offseason, they will likely investigate bringing their starters back. But Whitehead might decide it is time to go and sign a long-term contract — especially if the Buccaneers win a second-straight Super Bowl this year.