A year ago the New York Jets offseason began the offseason with a lot of changes in the roster, coaching staff and front office. John Idzik took the general manager position and now everything looks pretty different. Stability is the key and Rex Ryan and most of his staff getting the nod for another season is the best example of it.
After an 8-8 record the arrow is pointing up for them as they finished the season with two wins and many of their young players playing considerably better than early in the season, including rookies Geno Smith and Dee Milliner. With the draft being the lifeline for this team as the general manager usually says, the free agency is where they will try to fill their needs and improve the depth of the roster.
Potential Cap Casualties
With $23.7 million in available cap space, the Jets have enough money to be active in the free agency to upgrade their roster but they will even more comfortable when they cut some players whose cap number isn’t affordable any longer.
– Mark Sanchez’s time in New York is about over. The Jets would save $8.3 million by releasing him and after missing last season with a shoulder injury, his future is somewhere else.
– The Jets need a lot of help at wide receiver but Santonio Holmes and his $10.75 million cap hit isn’t exactly what they need. Cutting him would free up $8.25 million, enough to find a good replacement for the veteran receiver.
– Antonio Cromartie completes this trio of veteran players that would save the Jets around a total of $25 million although Cromartie could still find a role in this defense at a cheaper price.
– Another defensive player that could see his salary affected this offseason is David Harris. His $7 million cap hit could be renegotiated to give more flexibility to the team.
If there is a position group in the league that needs to be vastly improved, that’s the Jets wide receivers. Right now, assuming Holmes is gone, they only have Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson as viable options. Stephen Hill isn’t anywhere close to the player they expected he would be and could be on the way out if he doesn’t get better this offseason. So the Jets lack all kinds of talent on offense but they are in position to make a couple of moves in the free agency to try to fix that situation.
Free agent fix: One name rises above the others for many reasons: Golden Tate; a shifty player that can make plays after the catch – 45 missed tackles in the last two seasons; and also a reliable target that rarely drops the ball – seven drops in his whole career. Tate would give the Jets exactly what they need in offense plus also upgrade their punt return unit. Idzik will have money enough to add depth to the group and get some competition for the rookies he will likely target in the draft.
Antonio Allen performed fairly well in the strong safety role especially against the run (+3.7) and while Dawan Landry and Ed Reed provided some experience to the secondary they never made a difference from against the pass. That’s what the Jets should be looking for this offseason as none of their safeties graded positive in pass coverage last season. Allen could become an interesting safety in the future and Landry or Reed could still play a role as veteran backups but considering how important this position is now in the NFL that won’t be enough.
Free agent fix: Two players from the AFC East should be at the top of the list – Jairus Byrd and Chris Clemons. The Jets have the cap space to sign Byrd but one year after trading Darrelle Revis instead of making him the best paid cornerback they may avoid this situation as the Bills’ safety is looking to be the best paid safety. On the other hand, Clemons doesn’t have the recognition of Byrd but offers great value in pass coverage. He ranked ninth in pass coverage (+7.2) this season and first in Yards Per Cover Snap at 0.20.
The Jets offensive line ranked 25th in 2013 – all the way down from 3rd the year before. The problems at left guard, first with Vlad Ducasse (-9.5) then with the rookie Brian Winters (-28.5); hurt the whole unit and their best players, Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, didn’t perform like they used to. The right side of the line is even more concerning as both Willie Colon and Austin Howard are set to be free agents.
Free agent fix: It is been reported that the Jets have already started negotiations to re-sign Austin Howard. In 2013 he allowed just two sacks after giving up 10 in his first season as a starter although his run blocking grade was much worse (-10.2) than in 2012 (+9.6). At guard, Willie Colon could play another season and give the Jets the stability they are looking for but they could upgrade the position with the available cap space they have and go after Jon Asamoah, a young player that would fit in the zone-blocking scheme and improve their pass blocking as he’s been one of the best guards in the league in the last few seasons.
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