New York Jets Offseason Overview


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 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.

Jul 26, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver

Jeremy Maclin

(18) during training camp at the Eagles NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Attack Free Agency – The Jets have holes at backup quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, guard, backup tackle, backup center, outside linebacker, backup inside linebacker, cornerback, and free safety. The most important are a veteran backup quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, corner and free safety.

The free agent quarterbacks via (before roster cuts) are Matt Cassel, Matt Flynn, Josh Freeman, Chad Henne, Tavaris Jackson, Josh McCown, Michael Vick and Colt McCoy. I would eliminate Freeman and McCoy because they aren’t any good. The rest have some level of ability and starting experience and could be an alternative if Geno Smith struggled or got injured. Michael Vick is obviously the best quarterback on the list but he should be in high demand and could get a starting job.

The wide receiver group has a bit more talent highlighted by Anquan Boldin, Kenny Britt, Riley Cooper (ties to Mornhinweg), Cotchery, Eric Decker, Andrew Hawkins (RFA), Darius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Jones, James Jones, Brandon LaFell (RFA), Jeremy Maclin (ties to Mornhinweg), Dexter McCluster, Hakeem Nicks, Emmanuel Sanders and Golden Tate (ties to Idzik). The best of that group are Golden Tate, Jeremy Maclin, James Jones, and Decker. After Nicks’ awful year he could be had for cheap and paired with another receiver as a number two wideout. Brandon LaFell is a very interesting option although he is an RFA but could be had in a trade if the Panthers make a run at Nicks.

The options at tight end are thin with Jimmy Graham leading the bunch but despite the Saints being in cap hell they will do everything possible to keep Graham. Greg Olson of the Panthers and Scott Chandler of the Bills are good receiving tight ends that are a big part of both offenses and it would be surprising if they made it to the free agent market. Jermichael Finley was a player that Idzik targeted last year but a near career-ending injury means he is a huge risk and cannot be a player to be relied on. Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta of the Ravens are both free agents and the Ravens might only be able to keep one. Brandon Myers had an excellent year with the Raiders two years ago and a decent year with a bad Giants team and could help here. Brandon Pettigrew has a lot of talent but has been inconsistent his whole career. Tony Gonzalez is supposed to retire again and Dustin Keller is coming off of a major injury.

The best of the cornerback market are Vontae Davis, Brent Grimes, Captain Munnerlyn, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Aqib Talib, Charles Tillman and Alterraun Verner. All of those players except Charles Tillman are under 30 and would be an upgrade over the way Antonio Cromartie played this year. How many of those players actually make it to the market is the big question mark. Other players like Rashean Mathis, Drayton Florence, Richard Marshall and Sam Shields are also out there. The challenge will be to see what the market rate is because it was about $5 million last year and to determine how you think Antonio Cromartie will play next year and what his value is compared to available replacements.

The safety market starts with Jarius Byrd and TJ Ward at the top. Byrd is a playmaker the Jets have lacked at the position since Kerry Rhodes and his signing would weaken division rival Buffalo and Ward is an emerging talent that can certainly help a position of weakness. Other options include Ryan Clark, Quintin Mikell, Donte Whitner, and Quentin Demps. Former Jets Jim Leonhard and James Ihedigbo are also available.

Dec 30, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders wide receiver Jace Amaro (22) after the Texas Tech Red Raiders defeated the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Execute Their Draft Plan

The Jets will have 10-12 picks in the draft depending on the super secret compensatory pick formula. They have a 1st, 2nd, possibly two 3rd rounders if Revis stays in Tampa (signs point to yes), 2-3 4th rounders (Landry comp pick, possible Devito), 5th, 6th and two 7th round picks (possible Slauson comp pick). What their actual needs are will be determined by how they fare in free agency. Idzik has said that he uses free agency to fill needs and drafts the best player available. This is a strong draft for wide receivers, outside linebackers and corners, but a top-heavy draft for tight ends and safeties. That suggests that unless a player they love falls to them that they should take a player from a weaker position group first because the drop off from the 2nd tight end to the 4th is larger than the drop off from the 2nd to 4th wide receiver. A game-changing tight end in the 1st coupled with a very good wide receiver in the next round is better than a very good wide receiver and an above average tight end later. With the two 3rd round picks they can choose to be aggressive and go get a player they want but with a large amount of needs they should just try to accumulate players in an overall deep draft.

Have a Sense of Urgency Instilled From the 1st Day of OTAs – With an integration of a lot of new faces to go along with a young core it is important that Rex Ryan, the coaches and the veterans show the preparation needed to improve in the offseason. Geno Smith needs to be proactive and work on both his own areas of weakness while getting to know his new offensive weapons. A “Jets South” type gathering would be wise considering working on trust and timing with new players is most important. As much as it is laughed at because of Sanchez’s lack of success in his final two years as a Jet it would be helpful to a 2nd year quarterback looking at a mostly new receiving core.

Get the Quarterback Competition Done With as Soon as Possible – The sooner the team knows who the quarterback is and can install the right plays to highlight their talents and see who is the leader is the better. If it is clear that Geno Smith continued on the path of improvement from the last month of the season just name him the starter before the preseason games. If he regressed backwards give the veteran the job. The latest everything should be settled is the end of preseason game two because the team should be having a full dress rehearsal for preseason game three, not still trying to find a quarterback.

With eight months before games that count for the Jets the offseason is a long process. There will be a lot of twists and turns along the way. It will be a lot of things but it certainly won’t be boring.