Offseason to-do list for the New York Jets
The New York Jets were one of the NFL’s most improved teams in their first year under the new regime of Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles. While fans of the franchise haven’t experienced a 10-win season since 2010, they were still left unsatisfied after a devastating “win and your in” loss to Rex Ryan’s Bills in the season finale. The Jets made a huge leap in 2015, and had the potential to be a dangerous playoff team. If they’re going make the postseason in 2016, they must keep building this offseason.
Offensive free agent decisions
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chris Ivory, and Bilal Powell are all unrestricted free agents this offseason. The Jets have limited cap space heading into the 2016 season, making it nearly impossible to bring each of these contributors back (plus address their UFAs on the defensive line). There are some obvious cuts and restructures to be made that can clear up to $15+ million, though, which will allow them more financial flexibility.
First things first, re-sign the QB. Fitzpatrick breathed life into the Jets’ offense, throwing a franchise-record 31 TDs. He was adept when navigating the pocket, accumulating the seventh-highest cumulative run grade (+8.7) among QBs, while getting sacked on just 8.8 percent of dropbacks in which he was pressured (best in the NFL). As good as he was in this area, he struggled with accuracy (70.5 percent, ranked 23rd of 27 qualified QBs, and 31 percent on deep passes, ranked 21st of 22).
Fitzpatrick is an average QB, but he is a fit for Chan Gailey’s system, and a leader who has gained the trust of his teammates. For a lack of better options, the Jets will likely have to pay Fitzpatrick a nice sum (approximately $9 million a year) to bring him back. It’s pricey, but necessary if the Jets want to continue their offensive improvement.
The Jets must also decide which ball carrier they prefer going forward.
– Played 61 percent of snaps from Week 1 to Week 10.
– Played 42 percent of snaps from Week 11 on.
– Played 39 percent of snaps from Week 1 to Week 10.
– Played 51 percent of snaps from Week 11 on.
Injuries have made it difficult for both Ivory and Powell to stay on the field at times, but it makes more sense to retain Powell because he’ll demand considerably less than Ivory on the market. He was also just as effective—Ivory’s cumulative overall grade was +8.6 (+0.016/snap), compared to Powell’s +4.6 (+0.012/snap). Powell adds a different dynamic, having more speed and pass-catching ability than Ivory. The Jets will also need to add a RB to compliment Powell’s strengths.
The Jets’ offensive line (20th in pass-blocking, 28th in run-blocking) struggled immensely in 2015, especially on the outside. Their starting tackles, D’Brickashaw Ferguson (ranked 62nd of 76 OTs) and Breno Giacomini (ranked 69th), had replacement-level seasons. They were, arguably, the least effective duo of OTs in the NFL. In the passing game, Ferguson and Giacomini were dominated by edge rushers nearly every week (ranking 50th and 39th in pass-blocking efficiency among 59 OTs, respectively). Unfortunately, they weren’t much better blocking the run—running outside these tackles yielded only 2.8 yards per carry.
The good news? The 2016 tackle class is quite deep. The Jets hold the 20th and 51st picks in the draft, and could use either of those selections to start rebuilding their once-dominant offensive front. It’s likely that they restructure Ferguson’s contract and hope for a better season, as he’s signed though 2017; however, Giacomini should be cut, as it would free up $3.8 million. An average age of 29 for an O-line is concerning, and by selecting one of the draft’s top tackles, they could replace that OT spot with some youth. There are a handful of starting-caliber tackles that can be drafted in rounds one or two:
|Player||College||Snaps in 2015||Overall cumulative grade in 2015||Grade per snap since 2014||2015 pass-blocking efficiency 2015|
|Laremy Tunsil||Ole Miss||421||+15.9||+0.023||98.3|
|Jack Conklin||Michigan State||843||+39.0||+0.045||97.5|
|Ronnie Stanley||Notre Dame||874||+17.8||+0.022||97.6|
|Taylor Decker||Ohio State||896||+13.2||+0.021||96.8|
Depending on the draft board, Michigan State’s Jack Conklin could fall to the Jets in the first round. He is a firm anchor who has been extremely consistent throughout his collegiate career. Kyle Murphy from Stanford would be a great value pick in the second round. The Jets’ offensive line needs as much competition as possible, so they should consider adding an offensive tackle via free agency, as well, if cap room allows.
The Jets are in need of both an ILB and OLB for the upcoming season. Demario Davis (ranked 69th of 94 LBs in 2015) shouldn’t be returning. He struggled in all phases of the game, especially tackling the ball carrier. His tackling efficiency of 6.4 (making six tackles before missing one) ranked 58th among 69 LBs. As a result, Erin Henderson (17.0 tackling efficiency) began to see rotational snaps. From week 12 on, he graded out as our ninth-best linebacker overall, and tied for third-best against the run. It makes sense for the Jets to re-sign him, as he won’t be very costly and can assume most of Davis’ snaps next season. Pairing Henderson with David Harris will make for an excellent run-stopping duo.
Jets fans have been waiting for a premier edge-rushing OLB for some time now. New York edge defenders totaled 70 total pressures (4.4 per game) last season. For perspective, Denver’s edge defenders combined for 176 total pressures (11 per game). That’s a significant and game-changing difference.
In an ideal world, the Jets would add a quick OLB to pair with Lorenzo Mauldin (five sacks, tied for fourth-most among rookie edge defenders) in their 3-4 scheme. There are several NFL-ready OLBs that can be drafted in rounds one or two:
|Player||College||Snaps in 2015||Overall grade in 2015||Pass-rush grade in 2015||Pass-rush productivity in 2015|
|Jaylon Smith||Notre Dame||801||+28.8||+4.7||17.4|
|Darron Lee||Ohio State||879||+16.7||+8.2||14.9|
|Kyler Fackrell||Utah State||940||+39.2||+26.9||15.7|
There’s a great chance all of these guys will be on the board when the Jets pick at 20. The best fit for them may be Georgia’s Leonard Floyd. He is explosive with a very speedy first step, and he projects to be a versatile piece in 3-4 schemes. The Jets need production from edge rushers to become an elite team. Will this be the year they step up and land a highly-touted outside linebacker?