If you had an Upper BJ in that bad of shape, the lower is almost certainly bad.
I wouldn't piecemeal it either. One bad BJ, I'd replace them all, then get it aligned.
A loose tie rod is going to be pretty evident when turning the wheel. Idle it (for PS), and have son rock the steering wheel slightly and check them for play. No need to jack it up for that. I think ball joints are your issue. My bad lowers make the shocks' response on bumps seem worse than they really are. Quite a resounding jolt over the slightest bump. It resonates through the chassis (noise and jolt).
Basically, what you are feeling is undampened response (the shock can't mask the BJ play) to a metal to metal impact. When I drive across the field out back, it's constant and annoying, like an elf with a hammer is having his way under there.
I'm not sure where you are located, but many tire/alignment stores will inspect your front end for play/wear for a reasonable price.
Those lowers look intimidating, but when you buy the part, make sure that store "rents" the BJ press tool. They run your CC and credit the charge back when you return the tool (free rental). Autozone and Advance both do this. I recently did a 4wd Dakota and an F-150 4wd. Neither was difficult, but you will get weary of holding the tool in place, should you work alone. Tool comes with excellent instructions, with pictures. If you managed the UCA, you can do the lowers. Just keep in mind, if you are applying tremendous force and the BJ isn't moving out, you have the tool's spacer positioned wrong.
2000 2.5 MO5D 4.10 one-wheel drive DD - gave to my older son
1990 STX 87 2.9 going in.....Junked it
2000 3.0 4WD M05D 4.10 S-cab Off-Road package with 235-75-15" tires, hotrod DD, lol