Jan 21, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets new general manager Mike Maccagnan speaks during a press conference at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com via USA TODAY Sports
As the New York Jets prepare for the upcoming regular season, they will have some interesting contract situations come 2017.
The New York Jets have had an eventful 2016 offseason from a contract standpoint to say the least. Drama with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson as well as the retirement of $14.1M cap hit offensive lineman D’Brickashaw Ferguson has put plenty of pressure on general manager Mike Maccagnan.
On top of that, he passed on running back Chris Ivory and defensive tackle Damon Harrison who both received big money during the free agency period. Nonetheless, he handled everything well and the team is in great shape for the new season.
As far as 2017 goes, contracts should be much less hectic. The team exercised the fifth-year option on defensive end Sheldon Richardson‘s rookie deal to push back its expiration until 2018. With that being said, there aren’t many big name players on the roster who are due to hit the market in the spring.
The upcoming offseason should be smooth, but the Jets still have to ace it. Even though Maccagnan’s third test will be a cakewalk compared to his first two, important decisions regarding contracts loom. Here are three key players who can test the free agency waters in March.
Next: 3. Brian Winters
Oct 4, 2015; London, United Kingdom; New York Jets left guard Brian Winters (67) against the Miami Dolphins in Game 12 of the NFL International Series at Wembley Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 27-14. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Winters had a decent 2015 campaign after performing horribly in his first two years. The 2013 third-round selection was drafted by the infamous former general manager John Idzik and was expected to compete for a starting job right off the bat.
He then proceeded to look extremely lost and miss handfuls of assignments constantly. It’s actually quite surprising how efficiently Gang Green ran the ball in 2013 and 2014 with how poor his production was.
If Winters can replicate what he did last year, the Jets will have an interesting choice to make. Do they stick it out for another few seasons with the Kent State graduate or do they move on completely?
If New York wanted to, they could’ve moved on this offseason. According to Over The Cap, cutting Winters would save approximately $1.1M. Look for this scenario to play out in 2017.
Next: 2. Geno Smith
Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) drops back to pass against the New England Patriots in the first quarter during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
2. Geno Smith
Smith is another Idzik pick who you could say has failed to develop. He hasn’t had a set of weapons like Fitzpatrick did in 2015, but some of his throws and decisions just make you scratch your head.
Over the course of his Jet career, the West Virginia product has racked up 5,836 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 35 interceptions. He has also coughed the ball up seven times and completed roughly 58% of his passes. He deserves a spot on a roster and perhaps even a starting job, although a big payday is unrealistic for him.
New York selected Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the second round of this year’s draft, so the end of Smith’s stint in the ‘Big Apple’ may be upon us shortly. The possibility of a Fitzpatrick return doesn’t help his cause either.
If the Jets were to keep Smith, a cheap two-year deal where he serves as a backup for Fitzpatrick or Hackenberg would make the most sense. You can’t label him as a “franchise quarterback,” therefore he doesn’t deserve “franchise quarterback” money.
Next: 1. Muhammad Wilkerson
What’s an offseason for the Jets without contract talks regarding Muhammad Wilkerson? For the fourth spring in a row, Gang Green will attempt to get something long-term done with the standout defensive end. That’s of course once he signs the franchise tag the team used on him two months ago.
Wilkerson has been nothing but a beast in his first five seasons tallying 300 tackles, 36 sacks and nine forced fumbles. At 315 lbs. and in a 3-4 system, those are unbelievable numbers. He is without a doubt due for a monster deal and it’s mind-boggling that the Jets have yet to give him what he wants.
Since he’s the only big-time player on the team set to hit the market, New York can practically dedicate their entire offseason to him. Losing Harrison and then Wilkerson the following year would be devastating, so something needs to get done.
Overall, you can expect a huge offer to be on the table once again. Even if Wilkerson is asking for $20M per season, the Jets are projected to have enough cap space to get it done if they choose to. It’s only a matter of if it happens or not.