The New York Jets addressed major defensive needs in their secondary Tuesday, agreeing to a three-year, $33 million contract with cornerback D.J. Reed and to a two-year deal with safety Jordan Whitehead, sources told ESPN.
Whitehead's contract is worth $14.5 million, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
Reed, the Jets' first free-agent signing on defense, projects as a starter on the outside. Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols, last season's starters, will compete for the other outside position. Michael Carter II remains in the slot -- for now. This doesn't preclude the Jets from drafting a cornerback, but Reed gives them a proven starter at one of their youngest position groups.
Jets coach Robert Saleh said he was pleased with the progress of the young corners last season, but it became clear they had to make upgrades. The Jets finished 32nd in total defense, including 30th against the pass. They made only seven interceptions, including just two by the corners -- both by Echols.
The Jets haven't had much luck with free-agent corners in recent years. In 2018, they signed Trumaine Johnson to one of the biggest contracts in franchise history ($34 million guaranteed), but he played only 17 games in two seasons and was released.
The Jets identified safety as a position of major need. They showed interest in free agent Marcus Williams, who wound up agreeing to a deal with the Baltimore Ravens. Whitehead was their No. 1 target from the outset, a source said.
Whitehead projects as one of the starting safeties. The other spot isn't locked up, although Lamarcus Joyner, who signed a one-year contract Tuesday to return, is the favorite at this point. Joyner was an opening-day starter in 2021, but suffered a season-ending triceps injury in Week 1.
The Seattle Seahawks plucked Reed off waivers from the 49ers just before the 2020 season after he suffered what was believed to be a season-ending pectoral injury. Since returning midway through that season, Reed had made 22 starts after playing his way into the starting lineup.
He has largely been Seattle's best cornerback since, becoming a key piece of the Seahawks' defensive turnaround over that stretch.
Reed, 25, had 17 passes defended and all four of his career interceptions with Seattle, playing on both sides of the field and at nickelback. He began the 2021 season at left cornerback and then moved back to the right side.
The emergence of the 5-foot-9, 193-pound Reed marked a departure from the norm for Seattle, which had almost exclusively played taller cornerbacks on the outside.
Whitehead missed just six games in four seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making him the team's most durable defensive back over that span -- an invaluable attribute considering their secondary's struggles with injuries.
Whitehead, who turns 25 on March 18, established himself early on as a "thumper" with a passion for big hits despite his smaller frame, which he continued to pack more and more muscle onto each offseason. But he's also shown he can cover too and provided a much-needed spark when the Bucs lost inside linebacker Lavonte David to a foot sprain for four weeks during the 2021 regular season.
Last season, he notched 2 interceptions, a forced fumble and 8 pass breakups and had 73 tackles, including five for loss.
He's also shown toughness too. After suffering a partially torn labrum in the NFC Championship Game two seasons ago, Whitehead returned two weeks later to start in Super Bowl LV before undergoing surgery.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Pittsburgh in 2018, Whitehead has started 55 of 59 regular-season games.
ESPN's Brady Henderson and Jenna Laine contributed to this report.