On Saturday, teams are able to contact free agents from other clubs for the 1st time. That leads in to Tuesday at 4PM, when the new League Year begins and free agents can be signed. The next week is a huge one for the Jets with lots of steps to take to launch this extremely important offseason.
The Jets need to finish up signing their own free agents before they hit the open market. On Wednesday, they re-upped Darrin Walls and Ellis Lankster, while claiming Johnny Patrick off waivers from the Chargers. All three moves will solidify depth at cornerback and help special teams. It would be wise to finish the Howard deal before he hits the market and the cost to retain him increases. A contract around $5 million per year is what the market is bearing based on previous years, but there is talk that Howard could get $6-7 million on the open market. Locking up Calvin Pace at a reasonable price is more of a necessity now with both Worilds and Orakpo off the market.
Obviously the Jets need to cut Santonio Holmes to free up over $8 million in cap savings as well as deal with Antonio Cromartie‘s cap number which is $15 million before the league year begins. Either Cromartie has to take a large pay cut (which is preferable) or he needs to be cut to save an additional $9+ million. Mark Sanchez will not be cut until the Jets either sign a quarterback to replace him or March 25th arrives (the day his bonus is due), whichever comes first.
The next step is to prioritize the players they are going to go after the hardest in the 1st wave of free agents. By now, after the Combine, agents and teams know which teams are interested and what the ballpark figures are with potential contracts. The goal now is to reach out as early as possible and get visits lined up. The earlier you can get the visits in the process the more likely you are to sign the player as teams put on the full court press during those visits and do everything to close on the spot. The Jets will be looking to prioritize Jairus Byrd, Golden Tate, and possibly Emmanuel Sanders, if you believe reports. They will also most likely reach out to TJ Ward, Mike Vick, and Josh McCown. Depending on whether they are committed to Willie Colon they might even try to strike quickly with Jon Asamoah or Geoff Schwartz. There are many other talented players, but a lot of those players will wait for the top-tier free agents to set the market before signing themselves.
Finally, they have to be able to close these deals. The groundwork has been laid, the interest is mutual and the financial parameters have been broached so all that is left is to sell the player on the team and organizational plan at this point. Rex Ryan earns his money here as his passion, honesty and enthusiasm is what endears himself to players and makes them want to play for him. If they can get their top free agent targets in a room with Rex and Idzik, I like their chances to close.
I think the Jets are able to strike quickly and sign Tate in the first day or two of free agency. I also believe they will make a big run at Jairus Byrd but might be edged out by Cleveland. They will also sign a quarterback in short order as well. I think they will sign a Chad Henne or Shaun Hill type rather than Mike Vick but I do think they will strike quickly before the market gets out of control. Striking quickly at quarterback also allows them to cut Sanchez and move on, sooner rather than later, which is best for both parties. Cutting Sanchez frees up another $8+ million and allows the Jets to attack the 2nd wave of free agency where you can find great value.