OK Jets fans, we are one week into free agency 2012. The Jets have taken a different tact than we are used to in the Mike Tannenbaum/Rex Ryan era. A team that has been typically out front for the top free agents has taken more of a cautious approach this time around. They have filled some holes, but how well? Let’s take a look:
LeRon Landry, S-Grade B
This by far is the biggest splash the Jets have made so far in free agency, and their biggest need. The Jets only had one safety on the roster, and he isn’t very good. Any Jets fan that paid attention last season knows how bad our incumbent safety, Eric Smith, played last season. In 2011, Smith had 89 total tackles, with 4 passes defended and 1 interception. The proof is not so much in the stats, but it is in what we saw on the field. And what we saw on the field was a whole lot of nothing. Everyone saw Tim Tebow blow by him for the game winning TD on an important Thursday night late in the season. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez ate him alive this season. Tom Brady was most likely salivating watching film of how pathetic Eric Smith was in pass coverage. Anyone is a step up from Smith.
So in walks LaRon Landry. In his first 3 years with the Redskins, although never known as a “ball hawking” safety, he was around the football a lot, with 23 passes defended over the 3 years. He also amassed 250 tackles and 4 interceptions over his first 3 years.
The problem, and what lowers the grade first is injury problems. After missing only 1 game over his first 3 seasons, Landry only played in 17 games over his next two seasons. He is also not the centerfielder type of safety that the Jets sorely need. The Jets got beaten down the field all season long, and badly. They need someone who is a cover guy, and Ed Reed type, or a Kerry Rhodes type, at least the type they though he would be before he got caught up in his image.
Drew Stanton, QB-Grade C+
Yes, the Jets addressed their need for a backup quarterback. Drew Stanton does represent a number 2 that could come into the game if necessary, that isn’t ready for the retirement home. No offense Mark Brunell, you are a great veteran influence, but it is 2012, not 1996. Clearly, his best days are behind him. Every Jets fan is well aware that if Mark Brunell had to play for any extended period of time, the Jets would be in big trouble. And as I reported earlier, Drew Stanton was looking to move up to a number 2 role, so being motivated is always a plus.
But the negative for me the lack of playing time he has had. Yes he won 2 out of his 3 starts in 2010 when Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill both went down with injuries. But he hasn’t taken a snap in over a year in a meaningful game. If the Jets were looking to acquire someone that might motivate Mark Sanchez a little, is a guy that hasn’t played in over a year the answer? Why not wait until after Peyton Manning signed, and inquire about the interest of whomever lost their job, which turned out to be Tim Tebow? Drew Stanton probably would have been still available had they waited out the Manning fallout.
I might have given this move a higher grade if the Jets had exhausted all options first.
Chaz Schillens, WR-Grade B+
This was an obvious match. The Jets needed a speedy receiver to join a receiving corp that is losing Plaxico Burress, and had a lot of disharmony led by Santonio Holmes. Chaz Schillens could be the guy to fit that bill. As a secondary wide receiver, Schillens has caught 72 passes over his first four seasons. It’s hard to evaluate the potential of that, until you look at his TDs. He has 7 TDs in those 72 passes, which is almost 10% of his catches over the first 4 seasons. This is the potential for a prolific scoring threat. Furthermore, he will be instantly comfortable in his new surroundings, with Sanjay Lal as his receivers’ coach. He previously coached Chaz as the wide receivers’ coach in Oakland.
The only reason for the lowering of the grade has been Schillens’ ability to stay on the field. Surrounded by 2 full seasons were 2 injury plagued season in 2009 and 2010, playing in only 13 games over that time. If he can stay healthy, he will be a terrific threat.
Overall Grade: B
So far the Jets have taken a cautious, but thought out take on free agency so far in 2012. They haven’t gone for the big name, but they have filled holes. The choice at backup quarterback is a little bit curious, and the others are talented, but have had injury problems. They could work out in spades, or fall apart.
There is more work to be done as well. They still need a good cover safety, and a pass rusher is needed in the worst way. It sounds like the Jets are going to address the need for a pass rusher in the draft, and explore safety options through free agency. Only time will tell how it all works out.