NY Jets: Analyzing top 11 defensive free agents
Sep 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets inside linebacker Demario Davis (56) comes away with a fumble recovery during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Jets 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Steven Ryan-USA TODAY Sports
The NY Jets have some tough decisions to make with their eligible free agents on the defensive side of the football.
Last time I wrote, we went player by player and took a look at the top 10 offensive free agents of the Jets and analyzed whether they should keep or trash them. Now, we’ll take a look on the defensive side of the ball at the 11 guys general manager Mike Maccagnan needs to decide on in these next few weeks.
Unfortunately for Gang Green, some of these players will cost a fortune to bring back and they currently sit with approximately $18 million in cap space. A few cuts and contract re-structures can in fact put New York at about $35 million in room, but they cannot afford to dump the wrong guy.
Luckily for Maccagnan, he won this season’s executive of the year award, therefore he isn’t exactly faced with a ton of pressure in the 2016 campaign. He gave the fans what they wanted last off-season, so it will be interesting to see if he can answer the bell again.
Let’s decide which of the 11 defensive free agents ‘Magic Mike’ should retain.
Next: 11. Muhammad Wilkerson
Nov 12, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) stretches before the game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
This one shouldn’t even be a question for the Jets. Whether it’s on a franchise tag or the massive deal he deserves, Wilkerson better be in green and white this upcoming season. The man is an athletic freak who New York has to build their future around.
If Maccagnan agrees on a contract with him opposed to the franchise tag, you can expect a six-year deal worth about $90+ million. He won’t ask for a Ndamukong Suh-like contract, but guaranteed money will be important if the Jets want to lock up ‘Mo’ for good. Gang Green should be able to get this done, although if disaster strikes, the fanbase can turn on Maccagnan really quick.
Next: 10. Stephen Bowen
Aug 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Ryan Nassib (12) avoids a sack attempt by New York Jets defensive end Stephen Bowen (72) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Giants 28-18. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
10. Stephen Bowen
Bowen was acquired by the Jets in the beginning of the 2015 off-season on a one-year deal worth $665,000. For a majority of the year, he rotated in behind the ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and Leonard Williams with fellow free agent-to-be Leger Douzable. He did provide New York with experience in the unit, but he wasn’t much of a necessity.
As a result, the Jets should move on from the 31-year old veteran. The line already consists of four stars who play nearly all the snaps. Bowen would be the “sixth-string” defensive lineman yet again if Maccagnan chooses to retain Douzable. Cutting the line down to just five men can help Gang Green address other positions a lot easier.
Next: 9. Leger Douzable
Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Jets defensive end Leger Douzable (78) reacts during the first half against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Just like the previous slide says, Douzable is the guy New York should keep instead of Bowen. At 29 years of age, the UCF product can be that sole veteran the line needs to continue producing at this high level. Now, you may say that this bunch doesn’t need help from an experienced player, but there’s always room for improvement in the NFL.
The Jets don’t have to retain Douzable on a multi-year deal. All they need is one more year out of him before he hits 30 and becomes close to useless. His production has dropped since he first joined the team, although that’s due to the fact that he’s playing behind four studs. Overall, bring the man back, but just for one year.
Next: 8. Damon Harrison
Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden (20) runs as New York Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison (94) defends during the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
‘Snacks’ isn’t necessarily the heart and soul of the defensive line, but he’s certainly essential. As one of the best run-stuffers in the game, Harrison is a very tough player to replace. There simply aren’t many players in the league like him that make it so hard to run the ball, so the Jets cannot afford to let him walk.
With that being said, New York should bring him back on a multi-year deal. He won’t be too costly, since the Jets used a second-round tender on him this past off-season and no team even gave him a look. A three or four-year deal would make the most sense since Harrison does sit at 27 years of age and 350 lbs. Nonetheless, Gang Green can’t lose him.
Next: 7. Calvin Pace
Nov 8, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) is driven from the pocket by New York Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace (97) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
7. Calvin Pace
In 2014, the Jets retained Pace on a two-year deal after cutting him in order to save money. New York then suffered through a 4-12 season since former general manager John Idzik refused to spend that money, but it all worked out in the end. The Jets were able to stack the 2015 roster with plenty of talent and Pace ended up being an important piece to the pass-rushing unit.
This off-season, however, things should be much different. The veteran did produce decently these past two years, but it’s time for an overhaul at the position. Lorenzo Mauldin and Trevor Reilly are both raw, so the team is in desperate need of one if not two solid starters. Pace had a great run in New York, although his time is clearly up.
Next: 6. Demario Davis
Sep 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets linebacker Demario Davis (56) celebrates after recovering a fumble against the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
With David Harris beginning to get old and pretty much non-existent when it comes to coverage, Davis is the guy the Jets have to lean on. He had a down year in 2015 only racking up 90 tackles, so in 2016 he should be able to bounce back. On that note, his price tag shouldn’t be too high and not many teams would invest much in him anyway.
Overall, Davis is a guy New York should hold onto. Yes he’s replaceable as a complement to Harris, but his youth at middle linebacker (27) is something the Jets need. Gang Green hasn’t drafted an inside linebacker in the first three rounds since the man himself in 2012, therefore this off-season could be the perfect time to get younger at the position.
Next: 5. Erin Henderson
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills running back Anthony Dixon (26) runs with the ball as New York Jets linebacker Erin Henderson (58) defends during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Jets 22-17. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Just like the previous slide says, the Jets have to get younger at inside linebacker. Henderson is 29 years old and past his prime as one of the better tacklers in the league. He rotated in nicely with Jamari Lattimore behind Harris and Davis, but the lack of youth in the corps is evident.
As a result, the Jets should let Henderson walk. He made a solid enough comeback into the league to find a job elsewhere, although his work isn’t needed in New York. It’s time for Gang Green to begin building their linebacking corps similar to how they formed the stout defensive line.
Next: 4. Jamari Lattimore
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;New York Jets linebacker Jamari Lattimore (54) and New York Jets defensive back Rontez Miles (45) tackle Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes (21) In the first half at MetLife Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
The Jets do need to get younger at inside linebacker, but an exception can be made with Lattimore. The ex-Packer provided a good lift on special teams, even though the unit was poor for the most part. He also contributed in the variety of blitz packages coach Todd Bowles drew up.
Lattimore is essentially a fringe player when it comes to making the 2016 roster. He definitely belongs back on the team for the spring and summer, however he could end up being a camp casualty when it’s all said and done. For now, retaining him on a one-year deal is something Maccagnan should consider.
Next: 3. Darrin Walls
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Darrin Walls (26) celebrates breaking up a pass intended for Miami Dolphins running back Damien Williams (34) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
3. Darrin Walls
Walls has provided the Jets with depth at cornerback for the past four seasons, although that stint may come to an end very soon. New York currently has six corners under contract ahead of him on the depth chart. Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine, Marcus Williams, Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle all play more than him.
With that being said, the Jets should move on from the Notre Dame graduate to keep their focus and roster space on positions of need. Keeping him as a camp body wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but New York already has enough corners to roll with in 2016.
Next: 2. Antonio Allen
Sep 7, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Rod Streater (80) makes a catch past New York Jets corner back Antonio Allen (39) during the second quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Allen’s 2015 season unfortunately ended way too soon. The 2012 seventh-rounder tore his ACL in August and left the Jets with little depth at the safety position. New York was forced to sign Dion Bailey off of waivers and Rontez Miles from the practice squad midway through the year. Jaiquawn Jarrett‘s season-ending injury didn’t help much either.
Overall, it’s very tough for the Jets to keep Allen. Even though he’s relatively young (27) and good in coverage, we have yet to see him play well at the safety position since 2013. He did play in 2014, but he was moved to corner since the secondary was an absolute disaster. Unless it’s on a cheap one-year deal, Allen probably shouldn’t return in 2016.
Next: 1. Jaiquawn Jarrett
Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans wide receiver Derek Hagan (80) catches a pass against New York Jets free safety Jaiquawn Jarrett (37) during the second half at LP Field. Jets won 16-11. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
What was said for Allen can basically be said for Jarrett as well. The Jets survived without both of them this past season. It wasn’t pretty when Calvin Pryor and Bailey were both out at once, but New York’s safeties this year looked a whole lot better than what they looked like in 2014.
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Gang Green can keep the 26-year old on a one-year deal if they choose to do so, although anything more than that would be unnecessary. Bailey and Miles showed that can play behind Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist, so Jarrett wouldn’t receive significant playing time like he did in 2014.
Once again, unless he’s kept on a cheap deal, there’s no point in overpaying for a backup safety when one can be drafted or signed for less money.