Now that the season is over and the decision to retain Rex Ryan has been made it is time to look at an outline of what the Jets have to do the rest of the offseason to complete the rebuild. This is just an overview there will be plenty of time to get into greater depth on these topics.
Retain Top Assistants and Get Rid of Poor Ones - The Jets have some key assistants whose contracts expire February 1 including Assistant Head Coach/Running Back coach Anthony Lynn, Defensive Coordinator (in name only) Dennis Thurman, Defensive Line coach Karl Dunbar, Wide Receiver coach Sanjay Lal, Offensive Line coach Mike Devlin and already departed Linebacker coach Brian VanGorder who left to become Defensive Coordinator at Notre Dame. Rich Cimini of ESPNNewyork.com tweeted Sunday that the key staff members will be back for the most part with very few changes. That is good for continuity which is important for a young team that will get even younger this offseason. It would be wise to keep Lynn, Dunbar, and Thurman in my opinion. Dunbar because he is the best defensive line coach in the league and Lynn and Thurman are trusted Ryan advisors that are able to carry out his message to the team. Sanjay Lal and Mike Devlin both have done substandard jobs and should be replaced.
Extend Muhammad Wilkerson - As a drafted player entering the 3rd year of his contract Wilkerson is eligible to be extended right now well before the free agency period begins. Since he is a core player for the franchise they should lock him up long-term. The cost will be around $12 mil/year but his all-around play warrants it. He is a very good run defender who grew into a ten sack pass rusher in just his 3rd year in the league. He is the 2nd best 3-4 defensive end behind JJ Watt and is closing the gap on Watt yearly. He is also a good citizen who is active in the community who is very worthy of being the face of the franchise. The signing will also signal that the team takes care of their own.
Salary Cap Casualties - The Jets are currently at a payroll of $101 million dollars according to Over the Cap which would be $25 million under the projected cap of $126 million for 2014. It is widely believed that it is a fait accompli that Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie will be salary cap casualties with a savings of $26 million dollars, bringing the Jets $51 million under the projected cap. With Wilkerson’s extension that leaves the team $39 million under the cap to sign their draft class, their own free agents and to be active in free agency. Decisions also need to be made on a possible pay cut for David Harris and possible cut for Mike Goodson if his legal case takes a turn for the worse.
Resigning Their Own Free Agents - The Jets have very few big decisions on their own free agents. Their number one priority should be to sign Austin Howard who had a good year this year and continues to be an ascending player. They will also need to choose whether to bring back either Jeff Cumberland or Kellen Winslow as a number two tight end as neither is a number one tight end. They could also choose to cut bait on both but the since the free agent tight ends are underwhelming they will resign one of their own and most likely get a number one tight end in the draft . Kicker Nick Folk wants a multi-year deal with a large raise. As good as he was this year, however, it might be prudent to find a college kicker late in the draft and save the money for other positions. Leger Douzable was a terrific rotational player along the line but his true value needs to be determined especially if another team offers him starter money. Same thing with Calvin Pace who had ten sacks but if another team wants to give him $3-4 million dollars I would expect the Jets to move on. Darrin Walls, Aaron Berry and Ellis Lankster are all free agents with Lankster most likely coming back based on his special teams ability. Walls has untapped talent but can’t get off the bench and Berry has starter talent but can’t stay healthy. Vladimir Ducasse is most likely gone and the decision on Matt Simms is dependent on the veteran they bring in to compete as well as the draft. Josh Cribbs is a nice player but limited as a niche player that returns kicks and runs some wildcat packages and probably won’t be back. Ed Reed‘s return is dependent on who is brought in to play safety. If it is Allen at one safety and a draft pick at the other safety than Reed could be back to be a mentor/role player like he was in the last three games if Landry stays on I don’t see a role for Reed.