NY Jets: Predicting destinations of top 10 in-house free agents
Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) and nose tackle Damon Harrison (94) celebrates beating the New York Giants in overtime at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
The NY Jets have many in-house free agents that will undoubtedly hit free agency. Where they might end up will be surprising to say the least.
The Jets have many talented players who can hit the market on March 9th, so the next few weeks will be very critical for general manager Mike Maccagnan. Last offseason, Gang Green made a huge splash during the free agency period and ‘Magic Mike’ was praised for turning the franchise around in just one year. However, a lot of those guys that were brought in last spring are eating up plenty of cap room that the team really needs at the moment.
Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, Antonio Cromartie, Marcus Gilchrist, Buster Skrine, James Carpenter and David Harris account for a majority of New York’s cap. Then, when you factor in the huge contracts of D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, you have a ton of money invested in just a few players.
This offseason, the Jets will hope to add to that list by locking up some of their big name youngsters on long-term deals. Unfortunately, money will be very tight, therefore everyone cannot be kept. Let’s take a look at New York’s best 10 in-house free agents and where they could end up.
Next: 10. Calvin Pace
Nov 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes (41) rushes as New York Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace (97) attempts to make a tackle during a game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
10. Calvin Pace
In 2015, Calvin Pace showed he has close to nothing left in the tank. He had a mere three sacks on the year while totaling just 22 tackles in a unit with no depth. After the team parted ways with 2012 first-round pick Quinton Coples, the only outside linebackers on the roster were Pace, Lorenzo Mauldin and Trevor Reilly.
At 35 years of age, solid production isn’t expected out of the veteran, but his stat line is certainly an under-performance given the number of snaps he played on defense (523). Since he turns 36 in October, it’s hard to imagine Gang Green keeping him another year.
With Mauldin and Reilly’s improvements along with the addition of CFL standout Freddie Bishop, he would be of no use to the Jets anymore. Instead, New York will probably look to add a legitimate contributor at the position because Mauldin is by no means ready to lead the pack. Expect Pace to land a one-year deal with a team in serious contention for a championship, perhaps where he started his career.
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals, one-year deal worth $1 million
Next: 9. Stevan Ridley
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets running back Stevan Ridley (22) runs with the ball as Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Corbin Bryant (97) pursues during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Stevan Ridley was nothing but a big failure in the ‘Big Apple.’ The ex-Patriot had 36 touches on the season for 90 yards after beginning the year on the PUP list recovering from his torn ACL. With the exception of the last two games, the LSU product didn’t really see much action at all outside of a few carries.
This was due to the fact that he’s extremely similar to Chris Ivory in the way he runs as a “between the tackles” back. As a result, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ridley back in New England. The Jets could be looking for a makeover in the backfield while the Patriots are in desperate need of a ground game.
Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount ended the season on IR only to be replaced by inept Brandon Bolden and washed-up Steven Jackson. He may not be their long-term answer, but Ridley is a guy that can certainly help revive the Pats’ rushing attack for the time being.
Prediction: New England Patriots, one-year deal worth $1.5 million
Next: 8. 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
Leger Douzable is one of the most underrated players on Gang Green’s defense. He can stuff the run and get after the passer pretty well even for a guy his size. Surprisingly enough, his teammates are the only ones holding him back. If the Jets didn’t have the best defensive line in football, Douzable would be playing a ton of snaps and making a substantial impact for the team.
Unfortunately, that’s the way it is, but by no means is it a bad thing the veteran isn’t receiving the snaps a starter normally would. Despite how well he can produce, the reality is that he’s approaching 30 years of age in a unit full of young superstars. His role at the moment is to teach and be a leader for the youngsters which he’s excelling in.
The way New York’s defensive line has meshed together has been remarkable and with Leonard Williams now in the mix, the group is frightening. Douzable has greatly helped the line’s growth, so it makes sense for the team to retain him.
Prediction: New York Jets, two-year deal worth $2 million
Next: 7. 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
Erin Henderson is a guy who came to the Jets last spring with very high expectations. The veteran was hoping to come away with the Comeback Player of the Year award, although his playing time in the first half of the season didn’t help his chances one bit.
The 29-year-old found himself playing behind Demario Davis and at times even Jamari Lattimore. However, in the second half of the year, he got his snaps and produced superbly (37 tackles, two forced fumbles).
According to Dom Cosentino of NJ Advance Media, New York may very well be letting Davis walk since they’re in talks with Henderson. If Maccagnan does decide to move on from Davis, you can expect to see Henderson return to the team on a multi-year deal.
It won’t be anything pricey or long-term, but Harris and Henderson could be the duo at inside linebacker for the next two seasons.
Prediction: New York Jets, two-year deal worth $3 million
Next: 6. Bilal Powell
Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Jets running back Bilal Powell (29) runs for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
6. Bilal Powell
Bilal Powell has been nothing short of a great spark plug ever since joining the Jets in 2011. He can catch passes out of the backfield, run inside as well as outside, and pick up key first downs to keep drives alive. When called upon to block, he was also able to save quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick from hitting the turf on multiple occasions.
There aren’t many scat backs like Powell in the league, therefore he’ll come with a bit of a price tag. Especially since he concluded the 2015-16 campaign on a strong note. With that being said, he probably won’t return to the team in 2016-17.
He’s being linked to Rex Ryan and the Bills for the second off-season in a row, so this time it could actually happen due in part to the position New York is in financially. Gang Green’s money will have to go towards the bigger name players and despite how talented Powell is, he just isn’t high enough on the priority list to be kept.
Prediction: Buffalo Bills, three-year deal worth $5 million
Next: 5. 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
As stated previously, Davis will most likely walk due to Henderson’s late-season emergence and the team’s cap space scenario. Although, replacing him will not be easy at all. Even though he racked up under 100 tackles for the first time since his rookie year, the 2012 third-rounder has been a big reason why the Jets’ front-seven is highly regarded.
In four seasons, he’s accumulated 349 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Any franchise across the league would appreciate numbers like those. A team that can definitely pluck Davis off the market would be the Giants. ‘Big Blue’ can use plenty of help on the defensive end after finishing 32nd in the department in 2015-16.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo does run a 4-3 defense, but Davis can potentially fit as a 4-3 outside linebacker. He’s showed he can tackle as well as rush the passer which are two qualities a linebacker in a 4-3 must have. Coverage has proven to be an issue for him, but nonetheless he’s a player the Giants desperately need.
Prediction: New York Giants, four-year deal worth $18 million ($12 million guaranteed)
Next: 4. Chris Ivory
Nov 12, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) running the ball in the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Bills defeated the Jets 22-17 Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
4. Chris Ivory
Ivory has been everything the Jets could have asked for in these past three years. In John Idzik’s first off-season as New York’s general manager, they acquired him in a trade with the New Orleans Saints that costed the team only a fourth-round pick. This move would go on to be one of the few smart decisions Idzik made in his short time with the organization.
Ivory has totaled 2,724 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground despite splitting carries with Powell and Chris Johnson for a majority of his Jets career. Through the air, he’s added 350 yards and two touchdowns.
If New York and the Tiffin product do part ways like they are rumored to, a huge hole has to be filled. Fitzpatrick, Marshall and Eric Decker made franchise history with how well they played, but a running game is essential to an offense. In games where the Jets struggled to run the ball, they mightily struggled to win.
Victories over the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys and Patriots would have been much less stressful if the ground game was effective. Look for a team like the Raiders to reach out to Ivory when the free agency period begins. They have close to $80 million in cap room and a powerful back like Ivory could complete their backfield.
Prediction: Oakland Raiders, three-year deal worth $12 million ($8 million guaranteed)
Next: 3. 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
Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison is arguably the most important piece of the Jets’ defensive line. He isn’t as talented as Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson or Williams, but his presence in the middle is game-changing. The 2012 undrafted free agent is the definition of a “diamond in the rough.”
At 350 lbs., Harrison is an absolute bull who makes New York’s defense nearly impossible to run on. However, he does struggle a lot in pass rushing due to his size, so Williams plays in most passing situations to get a better crack at the quarterback.
With all that said, it would be surprising to see Gang Green let him go. Not many nose tackles can clog the middle like he does, therefore he’d be a huge blow to the defensive line if he walks. According to multiple reports, Harrison isn’t a “money-seeking” type of player and he wants to remain a Jet.
He’s only 27 and defensive linemen can play well into their 30s which makes a long-term contract very likely. Expect Maccagnan to do the right thing and retain Snacks to keep the d-line incredibly stout.
Prediction: New York Jets, four-year deal worth $20 million ($15 guaranteed)
Next: 2. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) passes against the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
‘Fitzmagic’ had one of the best years a Jets quarterback has ever had. He nearly eclipsed 4,000 yards, which would have made him the first quarterback in the franchise to do so since Joe Namath. If he hadn’t gotten injured in the Week 8 matchup against the Raiders, that feat would have been accomplished.
On top of his passing yardage numbers, he threw for 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while rushing for 270 yards and another two scores. New York hasn’t seen a stat line like that from a quarterback in a long time, so it’s no question that re-signing him is atop Maccagnan’s off-season to-do list.
Unless the Jets have plans with Geno Smith or Bryce Petty, you can without a doubt expect Fitzpatrick to be back in green and white. The only team that may have serious interest in signing ‘Fitz’ would be the Browns, although they have the second overall pick making a rookie selection very probable.
Paying a quarterback isn’t cheap one bit, so a chunk of New York’s cap space this off-season will go towards this move. Even though it’ll be costly, it’s something that must be done for Gang Green to remain a contender.
Prediction: New York Jets, two-year deal worth $17 million ($10 million guaranteed)
Next: 1. Muhammad Wilkerson
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) celebrates his sack of Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (not shown) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
It’s 2016 and it’s mind-boggling that ‘Mo’ has still yet to strike a huge deal with the Jets. In all honesty, Idzik should have locked him up in the summer of 2014 with the $21 million he had left over from not spending during the free agency period. Now, New York is stuck in a bad spot and Wilkerson has all of the leverage.
He knows how much he’s worth and unfortunately Maccagnan may not be able to get something done long-term at the moment. If the Jets were to pay the All-Pro his deserved monster contract, a guy like Harrison could end up walking due to affordability issues.
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As a result, you can look for the team to place the franchise tag on Wilkerson. He won’t complain since he’d still make a boatload of money ($15.5 million), but the fanbase would continue to sweat and pray they don’t let their superstar slip away.
An extension could happen in the summer, but as of now, both sides have stopped negotiating, according to multiple reports. Don’t be surprised if something gets done in the end, however it won’t come anytime soon.
Prediction: New York Jets, franchise tag ($15.5 million)