Free Agent Duel: Moore or DeVito?
There are a ton of questions swirling around the New York Jets these days. Are they really going to give Mark Sanchez another season at quarterback? Will they really trade Darrelle Revis? Does anyone want Tim Tebow? And yet, flying under the radar, is the fact that two of their longtime workhorses on the front lines, right guard Brandon Moore and defensive end Mike DeVito, may not be wearing green next season. If the Jets had to choose between these two stalwart veterans, who should they bring back? PFF Analysts Pete Damilatis and Gordon McGuinness debate in yet another Free Agency Duel.
Why it has to be Moore
By Pete Damilatis
There’s a reason we named Brandon Moore as our top free agent interior lineman heading into this offseason. He’s been one of the most reliable guards in the league for a long time, and, at age 32, this past season may have been the best of his career. Given the uncertainty in so many other areas of their roster, Moore is an important cog who the Jets can ill-afford to lose.
Here is where Moore ranked among his fellow right guards each season since we started grading players in 2008: fourth, fourth, fifth, seventh, third. He’s never finished a regular season with a grade lower than +11.3. In the last five years, he has five sacks allowed and just nine games with a grade worse than -1.0. Also with a streak of 137 straight starts, Moore hasn’t missed a Jets kickoff since 2004.
Halfway through this season, you would have been right to wonder if Moore was finally starting to show his age. After a -2.1 run blocking grade in 2011, he had a -3.5 overall grade and two sacks allowed in pass protection after Week 7. He then went on to finish with possibly the best stretch of his career, earning a +24.8 grade in his last nine games while surrendering no sacks. On the season, Moore had a solid 97.2 Pass Blocking Efficiency and a +12.8 run grade that ranked fifth-highest among all guards. As he told our own Sam Monson in an interview back in December, Moore started feeling more comfortable in Tony Sparano’s offense after the Week 9 bye, and it certainly showed.
Despite their struggles as a whole, the Jets’ offensive line was one of the top units in the league this year. While Nick Mangold excelled in run blocking and D’Brickashaw Ferguson earned his paycheck in pass protection, Moore was the only one to earn high marks for both. It’s not a stretch to think that Austin Howard, in his first season starting at right tackle, was greatly helped by having Moore by his side. Keep in mind, with left guard Matt Slauson also hitting free agency, the Jets are suddenly down to Vladimir Ducasse (-1.3 grade in three seasons of backup duty) and a group of untested youngsters as their potential starting guards next season.
The Jets signed Moore for a bargain four-year, $16-million deal back when he was 28, but he should be a coveted commodity this offseason and New York simply doesn’t have the cap room to franchise tag him. Nevertheless, he still needs to be their priority. Without their veteran guard, Gang Green’s offensive line turns from a strength to a big question mark. The Jets don’t need another one of those.
Why it shouldn’t be Moore
By Gordon McGuinness
There’s not an argument I can make here to show that Moore isn’t a good player. As Pete has pointed out, that simply wouldn’t be true. Where I would argue however, is that they should be making him their top free agent priority. Moore is going to 33 years old when the 2013 season begins and, when you’re in the cap position that the New York Jets are, I just can’t justify signing him to the long-term contract that he’s likely to fetch on the open market.
Instead, I would be looking at who is available out there who can be had at a fraction of the price and still not cause too much of a drop off. Geoff Schwartz, for example, is going to be a steal for the team who takes a chance on him this offseason. He missed 2011 through injury and for some reason didn’t start over Brandon Fusco in Minnesota last season. Not only did Schwartz out play him when he saw the field, but you only need to look back to 2010 to see how good he can be. Saving money at the guard position would also allow the Jets to spend money elsewhere — on the defensive line, for example.
Why it has to be DeVito
By Gordon McGuinness
He’s a player who constantly flies under the radar, but over the past three seasons he has never ranked lower than seventh among 3-4 defensive ends in terms of his run blocking grade. Left in the shade by the play of his teammate Muhammad Wilkerson (who, in turn, was left in the shade by the ridiculous play of J.J. Watt) DeVito quietly had another very good season in 2012.
So good in fact that he kept the Jets’ first round draft pick, Quinton Coples, who admittedly outperformed DeVito as a pass rusher, held to lesser role. With 22 of his 34 solo tackles resulting in defensive stops, coming from 335 snaps against the run, he finished 10th among qualifiers at his position with a Run Stop Percentage of 6.6. That’s lower than the 9.8 percent and 8.2 percent he finished 2011 and 2010 with, respectively, but even in a “down year” he was still in the top half of 3-4 defensive ends in that regard.
He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher (and that’s being kind) with just 29 total pressures in the last three seasons combined, but his play against the run is good enough that he warrants keeping around. Coples may see more of the field in 2013, given that he didn’t look horrible against the run and was very good as a pass rusher in his rookie season, but a balanced rotation between him and DeVito would give the Jets the best of both words. He matched DeVito’s pressure total from the past three seasons in his rookie year alone, finishing third among 3-4 defensive ends with a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 8.0.
DeVito is a role player and his poor play as a pass rusher makes it highly unlikely that he’ll ever be anything more than that. He’s very good in the role he plays, though. The fact that he’s limited to just being a force against the run should actually help the Jets as it will help keep his price down this offseason. Ultimately, I really like the combination of Coples and DeVito opposite Wilkerson for the Jets, and I just feel like his play against the run has been so impressive that the Jets have to do everything they can do keep him around.
Why it shouldn’t be DeVito
By Pete Damilatis
I can understand why DeVito would be a better fit for the Jets right now. He’s great at the role that the Jets ask him to take, limited as it may be. He’s been Gang Green’s longtime anchor on the front lines, and has never received enough credit for it. But the fact is, as the NFL becomes an increasingly passing-centric league, having a one-dimensional run defender on the defensive line is becoming less of an asset and more of a liability.
With Wilkerson and DeVito, the Jets had two of the seven highest run defense grades for a 3-4 defensive end… and yet New York still surrendered the seventh-most rushing yards in the NFL last season. In their two games against the New England Patriots, the Jets gave up 238 rushing yards and DeVito earned a -3.9 run defense grade. Thanks to their dual-threat tight ends and running backs, the Patriots can throw out of two-tight end sets when DeVito is on the field, and run out of the spread formation when he’s on the sidelines. You’re never going to topple Tom Brady when your leading pass rusher, Wilkerson, has 37 quarterback pressures on the season. After parting ways with Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, the Jets have an opportunity to add some difference-makers to their defense. Although DeVito is a quality role player and could be a good value, he’s never going to have the impact that the Jets would get from spending their money on a pass rusher or an elite guard like Moore.