NY Jets: Top 10 free agents to target in 2016
By Michael Pallas
Dec 6, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener (80) runs after a pass reception against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 45-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The NY Jets will soon have to start the off-season phase of the team building as they have a few needs that need to be addressed via free agency.
The team has several small needs. The loss to the Bills exposed bigger needs though. As ESPN’s Rich Cimini points out, general manager Mike Maccagnan likes to build through the NFL Draft and free agency, unlike previous general managers who wanted to do one or the other.
There are three key needs for the Jets. They need a running back, pass catching tight end and a pass rusher. Here are the top 10 free agents the Jets should consider pursuing as they head into the off-season
Next: 10. Percy Harvin
Oct 4, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Percy Harvin (18) runs after a catch during the second half against the New York Giants at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Giants beat the Bills 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
10. Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin can do two things for this team. He can add depth to the wide receivers corps, he can return kickoffs and he’ll probably come cheap given diminished skills.
I know we’ve been down this road before, but at that time, his contract wasn’t worth keeping him. Now we can negotiate a deal with him for his role.
Also, it doesn’t make sense to have Antonio Cromartie returning kickoffs. Not only did that experiment not work, but they don’t want to expose the second-best defensive back to injury, if it’s not necessary.
Next: 9. Jaquizz Rodgers
Sep 3, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jacquizz Rodgers (35) rushes the ball against Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Hayes Pullard (52) during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
This would be another return specialist move. However, it could help in other areas.
Signing Rodgers would actually kill three birds with one stone. He’d be cheap, which would keep some options open, would fill a void needed in the kick return game, and if we can’t re-sign Bilal Powell, he could be our pass catcher out of the backfield on third downs.
Again, the Jets truly need a player specifically for their special teams returning duties. Rodgers would fit that role nicely.
Next: 8. Reggie Bush
Jan 4, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush (21) celebrates his touchdown run in the first quarter past Dallas Cowboys strong safety Barry Church (42) and Anthony Hitchens (59) in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
8. Reggie Bush
It is possible that Reggie Bush is heading toward pasture. He is a running back and he’s thirty, the magical number for running backs.
It is also possible that Bush just needs a role that fits his skills. He could be used in the Bilal Powell role for the Jets, and that would keep him cheap.
Also, he did play in LA in college. Maybe the bright lights of New York could rejuvenate his career, similar to those in the same situation that want to end their careers on a high note.
Next: 7. Bilal Powell
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Bilal Powell (29) celebrates his touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
7. Bilal Powell
It took Powell some time, but the Jets stuck with him. This season he finally found a role that fit him.
Unfortunately, he might be a casualty of the salary cap. He’d be a perfect fit at the right price however. That price may be too low to keep him, unless he is willing to keep his salary low to be on a contending team.
Powell proved to be consistent when it mattered most and delivered when the Jets needed it. Teams will be after him if he hits the free agency market but at the right price, could continue where he left off of with the Jets in 2016.
Next: 6. Chris Ivory
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs the ball against the Tennessee Titans during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Titans 30-8. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
6. Chris Ivory
Chris Ivory is another must-re-sign, at the right price. Like Powell, he may be a casualty due to the salary he’ll command. When healthy, he was a catalyst on offense that kept those chains moving and add a nice dimension on offense.
Ivory had the best season of his career this season, behind the best offensive line he’s played behind. He had his first 1,000 yard season, and he had a career high in touchdowns at seven.
As the premier back of the Jets, it’s important they re-sign him before he hits the market since plenty of eyes will be on him to acquire his services.
Next: 5. Coby Fleener
Sep 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener (80) catches a pass for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Colts defeated the Titans 41-17. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
5. Coby Fleener
While he wasn’t a Pro Bowl tight end, Coby Fleener was a great security blanket for Andrew Luck. He’s a second-tier target, though. The Jets might pursue a draft pick over Fleener but again, at the right price, he could be exactly what the Jets need.
Like Gresham, though, he is 27. This makes him attractive. His low contract price will probably make him attractive to the Jets too that could use his skill-set on offense.
Fleener would compliment the Jets’ offense will thanks to his route-running and ability to create good mismatches on offense.
Next: 4. Von Miller
Jan 3, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws a pass under pressure from Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) during the second half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
4. Von Miller
I will grant you that this is a longer shot than the Jets landing Williams in last year’s draft, but he is an impending free agent. If somehow Denver allows Von Miller to hit the market, the Jets must do everything they can to sign him.
Miller has averaged 12 sacks per season through his first five years and he missed only seven games. His 60 sacks so far place him tied for 23rd on the active career sack leaders list.
The impact Miller would have on the Jets would be huge but that will come at a price. Just like last off-season, the Jets need to open their wallets and go after top talent once again to continue adding great talent to their roster.
Next: 3. Jermaine Gresham
Dec 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) makes a catch during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Jermaine Gresham was a Pro Bowl tight end early on in his career, when he was the primary pass catcher. That changed when Cincinnati moved to the two tight end set and his numbers dropped. They stayed relatively low in Arizona due to the same reason.
The Jets don’t run many two tight end sets and he would make a great target for Ryan Fitzpatrick next season. In addition to that, he is 27, which makes him the youngest of the top tight ends on the free agency market. This gives the Jets an opportunity to sign him for longer and keep him in the fold.
Truth of the matter is, the Jets need an upgrade or two at tight end. Gresham would be a nice acquisition that would not only add some talent to the position but push the envelope on the Jets’ offense in 2016.
Next: 2. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Fitzpatrick had his best season as a pro. He also had one of the best regular seasons any quarterback of the Jets has had ever.
He set the touchdown record and he became the only the eighth quarterback in team history to lead the team to 10 wins. That should be rewarded with a new contract.
It has to be reasonable, though. The Jets are limited in cap space this off-season, unlike the last one. Fitzpatrick is set to be a free agent so it’s imperative the Jets ensure his return to continue his momentum on the team.
Next: 1. Muhammad Wilkerson
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) chases Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Jets 22-17. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Free agency isn’t just about signing new players, but keeping your own. Wilkerson is an impending free agent and he led the team with 12 sacks this year. Despite his injury against Buffalo, he is a must re-sign or should be tendered the franchise tag.
The Jets will have around $18.8M in cap space to use between free agency and the draft. However, there’s no choice here but to re-sign there best defensive lineman.
More jets: Analyzing top players that need to be re-signed by the Jets
Wilkerson will command a big contract but the Jets should pay up since he’s been one of their most consistent defensive players since he arrived. He works hard, goes above and beyond every play and has made everyone around him better.