2013 Team Needs: New York Jets
After a very disappointing 2012 season, the New York Jets started their offseason by making changes in the front office and the coaching staff. Now it’s time for the new general manager, John Idzik, to make an impact in free agency.
They are not in the best situation right now in terms of the salary cap, and they’ll have to release a slew of veterans to get underneath it. The Jets roster has so many needs they must get some free agents at affordable prices, especially if they want to improve their 6-10 record.
Let’s take a look at some of those.
The Jets did make a move in free agency last year to try to turn around their problems at the quarterback position. Indeed, they made a couple of them by signing Drew Stanton at first, and then sending him to the Colts after trading for Tim Tebow. You throw in the new contract they gave to Mark Sanchez and that’s how they found themselves stuck with him as starter for one more season. So, while they attempted to get stronger at the spot, in the end they made things so much worse.
This past season was the second in a row that Sanchez (-22.1) was the second-worst graded quarterback in the league. He was also the second-worst in our Accuracy Percentage Signature Stat, with 65.6%. If that wasn’t enough, Sanchez has shown no improvement at all throwing under pressure, something you need if you want to be successful in the NFL as a starting quarterback. In his four years in the league, Sanchez hasn’t been able to complete more than 40% of his passes when pressured in any single season.
Are Tim Tebow or Greg McElroy valid options for the 2013 season? From what we saw in 2012 the answer is simply, no. Tebow wasn’t even considered to play quarterback all year long, being snubbed in favor of the third-stringer. As for that third-stringer, McElroy didn’t show anything for the Jets to consider giving him an option to compete next season.
The Free Agent Fix: Matt Moore
Sanchez’s contract will likely keep him on the roster and make him one of the competitors for the starting role in 2013. The other guy to fight for the position could be Matt Moore. He is an experienced player that knows the role of competing for a job. That is going to make him a hot name for those teams looking for a short-term fix at quarterback for the next one or two seasons.
In 2011, Moore ranked third (66.3%) in Adjusted Accuracy under pressure so he would be an immediate upgrade over Sanchez in that area. His completion percentage isn’t great, but is still better than Sanchez’s in the short game. That alone could make him attractive to play in the system of new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. We keep hearing this team just needs a game manager, and in Moore’s last run in Miami he improved quite a bit in that area.
For the past five seasons, the Jets have played the same players as starting outside linebackers and that run might have come to an end this season. Bryan Thomas has been suffering from different injuries and managed to play just 379 snaps, 35% of the total of the season. His production wasn’t that bad in the field, but the Jets have to move on and get some more explosive plays from the position.
The hope was Calvin Pace would deliver for them, but he’s coming off a terrible year. He ranked 32nd in Run Stop Percentage and 21st in Pass Rushing Productivity of all 3-4 outside linebackers, ensuring that only three outside linebackers finished lower than him. Pace’s status for 2013 is tenuous to say the least.
The entire outside linebacker corps (Pace, Thomas, Garrett McIntyre, Aaron Maybin and Ricky Sapp) combined for only 62 QB disruptions. To put that in context, two of their interior linemen, Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, posted 66 disruptions together. Embarrassing.
The Free Agent Fix: Victor Butler
It’s obvious the Jets need an edge defender, but not just a pass rush specialist — they need starting caliber. Their financial situation will likely make them look for a solid prospect in the draft but that won’t be enough, they have to find a replacement for Thomas and Pace.
That guy could be Victor Butler, who has always looked like being able to handle a bigger role but for more experienced and talented players in front of him. Now he’s likely to climb out from under the depth chart he will want to find a team that will give him a shot at starting, so why not the Jets? Butler saw 300 snaps this year and responded with some good work in the run game and rushing the passer, earning our seventh-highest grade among 3-4 outside linebackers. He’s a project for sure, but the Jets have to take some low-risk gambles if they’re to get back to being competitive.
With a depleted offensive roster the Jets could stand to improve almost every position, but let’s focus on the backfield. Shonn Greene is set to test free agency after four seasons with the Jets. Greene ran for over 1,000 yards for the second straight year, but he was still very limited when creating yards on his own. His Breakaway Percentage (13.4%) ranked in the bottom five, and he broke only seven runs for more than 15 yards. So, how do you get more yards when you can’t break a tackle in the open field? Greene’s Elusive Rating was the worst between running backs with at least 50% of a team’s attempts.
Greene shared the load this last season with Bilal Powell, but Powell seems better fit to fill the third-down back role than to be the No. 1 tailback. His pass blocking grade in 2012 was +1.8 and, although he has to improve his hands (three dropped passes), Powell can be serviceable for the Jets in the West Coast Offense that Mornhinweg is supposed to install. Still, they will need another back to complement him.
The Free Agent Fix: Rashard Mendenhall
After Adrian Peterson shocked the world in 2012 by coming back from an ACL tear, not many people remember that he wasn’t the only running back to injure his knee in the final few games of the 2011 season. Rashard Mendenhall went down a week after Peterson, but his recovery didn’t go as well and he barely played in 2012. The Jets could take advantage of that and sign a player that is on a different level to Greene when healthy.
Mendenhall is a tough runner with the ability to fight through defenders to the second level — exactly what they didn’t have in Greene. In the three seasons he started for the Steelers he averaged a 36.3 Elusive Rating. Mendenhall gets his chance to start and the Jets get themselves a starting caliber back. A win-win situation for everyone.
Follow Gonzalo on Twitter: @PFF_Gonzalo