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New York Jets face edgy situation; need a defensive end, but who’s available?

A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:

1. Scouring the DE market: The double hit at defensive end — first Carl Lawson, then Vinny Curry — puts the Jets in a most unenviable situation. They’re desperate for help at a position where there’s not much league-wide inventory, and you know what that means: The cost to make a trade will be through the roof.

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Still, Jets general manager Joe Douglas has to do something before the 2021 NFL regular season starts. Coach Robert Saleh can’t be expected to run his defensive system, predicated on front-four pressure, when the top defensive ends are John Franklin-Myers, Bryce Huff and Ronnie Blair. Combined career sacks: 20.5.

“It’s always easy to play the fictional game of, ‘Let’s go get somebody,’ but the reality is [it’s] few and far between in terms of what’s available,” Saleh said. “Now, obviously, Joe and his staff are working relentlessly, always trying to look at the roster and always communicating.”

That was the answer you’d expect from a coach, as Saleh wasn’t about to raise a “Help Wanted” sign. That would hurt their negotiating leverage. Douglas, who has made 11 player trades in 26 months on the job, is looking to deal. The question is, can he find a match? Let’s study avenues they might pursue:

The familiarity route: Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich came from the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons, respectively, so those are good places to start. The 49ers have excellent depth on the edge, but the only backups Saleh coached are Dee Ford and Alex Barrett. Ford is a big name and affordable ($4 million base in 2021). He has battled injuries and hasn’t been a good player since 2019, but he had a strong camp.

The name in Atlanta is Dante Fowler Jr. ($6 million), who took a pay cut after a huge deal in 2020. Saleh, too, is familiar with Fowler from their time together with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s the Falcons’ best pass-rusher by far, which makes a trade seem unlikely. If they’re willing to listen, the asking price would be high, perhaps a second-round draft pick. The one Douglas connection that jumps out is the Philadelphia EaglesDerek Barnett ($990,000), a moderately productive player who will be a free agent.

Underachieving high picks: Desperate teams often look this way, thinking they can revitalize a player with a change of scenery. Players who fall into this category are the Las Vegas RaidersClelin Ferrell (two years, $8.1 million), the Green Bay PackersRashan Gary (two years, $4.6 million), the Houston TexansShaq Lawson (two years, $9.8 million) and the Baltimore RavensJaylon Ferguson (two years, $2.8 million).

A sleeper: If they make a trade, there’s a good chance it will come from here — a young and affordable player, someone they believe has upside. It won’t be a household name, which will disappoint the fan base but will satisfy the organization’s desire to build long term. We’re talking about someone such as Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Cam Gill, who dressed for all four postseason games last year and recorded a half-sack in Super Bowl LV but was leapfrogged on the depth chart by 2021 first-round draft pick Joe Tryon.

A disgruntled star: There’s a lot of media speculation about the Arizona CardinalsChandler Jones, who wants an extension. Jones has 97 career sacks, but there’s no way Douglas will trade a premium asset for a 31-year-old making $15.5 million in the final year of his deal.

2. Jets great on Lawson: Mark Gastineau, the best edge rusher in Jets franchise history, told ESPN he was “heartbroken” by Lawson’s season-ending Achilles rupture. Gastineau attended the first preseason game and, although Lawson played a few snaps, he saw enough to make him believe Lawson was poised for a big season.

“He could’ve come close to my sack record,” said Gastineau, who once held the NFL record with 22 sacks in a season (1984). “Who knows? He might have gotten it. I want him to beat it. Records are made to be broken.

“His first two steps remind me so much of me. His take-off is, like, unbelievable.”

Gastineau shared an eye-contact moment with Lawson before the game. When Lawson spotted Gastineau in the stands behind the Jets’ bench, he clasped his hands and bowed his head. He knows Gastineau’s place in history; he recently mentioned him by name in a news conference.

“That was really nice,” Gastineau said of the pregame moment.

3. Gang (very) Green: Saleh said he expects to field a “ridiculously young team.” Based on my 53-man roster projection for the Jets’ opening day, they will have 19 rookies and second-year players.

4. No risk-it, no biscuit: Most young quarterbacks spit back the programmed answer when asked how they determine where to throw the ball: Take what the defense gives you. Rookie Zach Wilson offered a different take.

“There’s always going to be risk, it’s just understanding when to take the risk,” Wilson said. “Turning the ball over is never a good thing, but if you have zero turnovers but you also have zero explosive plays, you’re not winning games, either.”

Is that a winning approach? I did some research, checking the stats of quarterbacks who attempted throws of 20-plus yards into tight windows (less than one yard separation). Those are risky passes, right? According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the players with the most attempts last season in that category were Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady (30) and Los Angeles ChargersJustin Herbert (27) — an all-time great and a young star. Obviously, it worked for them.

Folks who embrace Wilson because of his aggressive approach need to remember that point when he throws an interception when trying to squeeze one in — and there will be interceptions. In fact, Brady was picked off twice in his 30 throws, but he also averaged 37 yards per completion.

5. Upstairs, downstairs: It will be interesting to see where offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is deployed in the regular season. He spent all three games calling plays from the sideline, which wasn’t the original plan. Wilson likes when LaFleur is on the sideline because they can huddle between series, but he said he doesn’t mind if LaFleur prefers to be upstairs for the better view of the field.

The addition of senior offensive assistant Matt Cavanaugh, who replaces the late Greg Knapp, gives LaFleur the freedom to call games from the box. Cavanaugh can be the wise head on the field, something every rookie quarterback should have. Quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese has a role, too, but he’s far less experienced than Cavanaugh, who played in the league and has coached for three decades.

Game location is a personal choice for playcallers. I recently spoke to former NFL coach Todd Haley, and he told me he always liked to be on the sideline, amid the chaos, so he could have interaction with players. He said one of his mentors, Dan Henning, preferred the quiet, sterile atmosphere of the box.

6. From video game to real life: It’s always interesting when young players mention the Madden video game as their connection to the NFL in their younger years. It came up the other day when rookie linebacker Jamien Sherwood mentioned how it was through Madden that he got acquainted with (now teammate) C.J. Mosley.

“I used to play with him on Madden when he was on the Ravens,” Sherwood said. “So when I finally got to meet him, you know, I just thought it was crazy because he was really fast in the game — and it showed out there. He has true instincts.”

Now Sherwood, who has replaced the injured Jarrad Davis at outside linebacker, is lining up alongside Mosley in the 4-3 base front.

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