Sep 14, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) catches a 33 yard pass with New York Jets cornerback Dee Milliner (27) defending during the second half of a game at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets are already in organized team activities with players working hard to secure final roster spots. Here are the top three players that might not make the cut.
There’s no denying that the New York Jets have a playoff roster. Outside of the quarterback position, every unit is loaded with talent as well as depth. If quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick were to return to build off of his impressive 2015 campaign, the team would look solid on paper from top to bottom. It’s always great to have a stacked roster, although a stacked roster means good players will have to be cut when it’s time to trim it down. Gang Green faces that dilemma this offseason.
Last offseason, general manager Mike Maccagnan didn’t have many difficult decisions to make when it came to the 53-man roster. Ex-general manager John Idzik left a ton of money on the table and he used it to his advantage. All ‘Magic Mike’ did in 2015 was acquire players to repair the disaster that was the 2014 regime, so he knew all along who was staying and who was going in August. This summer will be much different for the Jets in the sense that there will be quite a bit of tough decision-making.
At certain positions, New York has plenty of players but few are needed. Unless you want to keep eight tight ends, seven middle linebackers or anything along those lines, parting ways with good players has to be done. It’s unfortunate because another franchise benefits from you trimming the roster, but most are doing the same exact thing.
Let’s take a closer look at three talented players the Jets may have to send packing before Week 1.
Next: 3. A running back that didn't have much impact
Oct 4, 2015; London, United Kingdom; New York Jets running back Zac Stacy (30) is pursued by Miami Dolphins left end Derrick Shelby (79) 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
3. Running Back Zac Stacy
The 2013 standout didn’t see as much action as he could’ve last year due to a broken ankle in the Thursday night matchup against the Buffalo Bills. If New York didn’t have insurance at running back, the ex-Ram’s season-ending injury would’ve been a devastating blow to the offense. Bilal Powell was able to step up and even Stevan Ridley rotated in occasionally. Of course, Chris Ivory was the workhorse in the backfield until the train came off the tracks for him in the final three weeks.
The Jets went ahead and reloaded at the position this past March by signing Matt Forte and Khiry Robinson while extending Powell on a three-year deal. Dominique Williams is the other back on the roster who played for the Vikings in his first two seasons. Forte and Powell are locks to make the team due to the impact they’ll have in the offense, so the competition seems to be between Robinson, Stacy and Williams for third on the depth chart.
It’s hard to see New York keeping more than three backs because of how offensive coordinator Chan Gailey utilizes them. The Jets run a spread offense and love airing it out to their stud receivers, therefore a fourth would have close to no meaning. Since Williams has the least amount of exposure amongst the three, it should essentially come down to the two veterans. It all depends on whether Gailey wants another versatile back in Stacy or the powerful Robinson who could perhaps be the team’s option at the goal line.
Next: 2. A cornerback with one last chance
2. Cornerback Dee Milliner
The 2013 ninth-overall pick has simply been a disappointment for Gang Green. In each of his three seasons in the NFL, he’s missed multiple games due to injury. The sad part is that when he’s healthy, he produces just fine. At the end of his rookie year, he kept red hot wide receiver Josh Gordon out of the end-zone and picked quarterback Ryan Tannehill twice the following week to spoil the Dolphins’ NFL Playoff hopes. Ever since those two games, the injury bug has been hammering the Alabama product.
If Milliner can’t keep himself on the field this summer, it can be lights out for him as a Jet. New York has a plethora of cornerbacks who can contribute and they all have a realistic chance at a roster spot. Darrelle Revis, Marcus Williams, Buster Skrine, and Juston Burris are guarantees while Dexter McDougle is an extremely tough guy to cut. Darryl Morris, Kevin Short, Kendall James and Bryson Keeton round out the rest of the unit.
Normally, teams keep six corners on the roster for nickel and dime packages as well as special teams. If Morris, Short, James or Keeton shine in training camp and the preseason, don’t be surprised if you see Milliner bite the dust. Head coach Todd Bowles doesn’t know what to expect out of him since he hasn’t been healthy, so what would the harm be in cutting him? He’s played in a combined eight games since his rookie campaign and if his production takes a hit due to his absence, Maccagnan won’t think twice about dumping him.
Next: 1. A quarterback that is a turnover machine
Nov 1, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) stands behind center against the Oakland Raiders in the third quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Jets 34-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
1. Quarterback Geno Smith
This would be a gutsy move, although it may very well happen given the Jets’ crowded quarterback situation. If ‘Fitz’ returns, there would be four on the roster. Most teams hold three and some even two, therefore keeping everyone would be fairly unusual. Fitzpatrick would start, second-round selection Christian Hackenberg isn’t going anywhere, and Bryce Petty was drafted in the fourth round last year. All signs point to Smith being the odd man out of this crew.
He has a lot to prove and he could even end up panning out for a team, but he pretty much has his hands tied behind his back if New York and Fitzpatrick get a deal done. He had a poor set of weapons to throw the ball to in 2013 and 2014 along with an offensive coordinator in Marty Mornhinweg who rarely opened up the playbook. Over the course of his career, Smith has racked up 5,836 yards, 27 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. He also has 638 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
If the Jets were to cut him, he’d get scooped up by another team immediately. Before the Kansas City Chiefs traded for Alex Smith, he was projected to go first overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. He’s still raw when it comes to his growth as a player, so the right coaching can help significantly in getting that first overall pick-potential out of him. The move would save close to $600K in salary cap space per Over The Cap, which Gang Green could really use to make the re-signing of Fitzpatrick possible. Smith has a shot at being a franchise quarterback, however, the Jets may have no other choice but to cut or trade him when it’s all said and done.