Best ways for Jets to modestly spend $100 million in free agency
By Steven Blush
With the impending release of a key defensive player and other roster purges, the New York Jets will have nearly $100 million to spend on luring studs to Florham Park. Here is a modest plan that reflects general manager Mike Maccagnan’s blue-collar style, and conservatively addresses this team’s holes to fill.
Now that the players have cleared out their lockers, the New York Jets organization gets to work, with lots of breaking down film and compiling scouting reports. After the impending end of the Muhammad Wilkerson error, there will be $100 million available to spend in free agency.
Any profitable business operates from a position of strength. The Jets are a last-place team with first-rate salary space. So it makes sense to invest such funds in young proven high-motor ballers that won’t break the bank at cornerback, offensive line and defensive front seven.
But at pick No. 6 in the 2018 NFL Draft, they probably can’t draft a “sure thing” QB like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield. Some insiders compare Josh Allen to Jake Locker, while others say Lamar Jackson may have to change positions. So the wisest move would be to spend Wilkerson’s squandered millions and then some on Kirk Cousins or Teddy Bridgewater or some other proven starting QB. Then they could trade down and/or find a developmental gem like Jackson, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, or Missouri’s Drew Lock.
GM Mike Maccagnan won his job for his talent evaluation skills, and for Season Four, he has no excuse in free agency. Tom Coughlin’s one-year defensive overhaul of this season’s Jaguars or the Bills remodel with five new starters on defense, can serve as a model for 2018 playoff contention. Here are some of the best ways the Jets can modestly spend $100 million in free agency.
Keep Your Eye on the Money
The Jets have 15 unrestricted free agents that wanna get paid. First, Trader Mike needs to re-sign his own key free agents: Morris Claiborne, Demario Davis, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Chandler Catanzaro. It would make sense to bring back Julian Stanford, Terrence Brooks, Dakota Dozier, and David Bass. Wesley Johnson, Bruce Carter, Chris Gragg and Jonotthan Harrison can clear enough cap room on to cover their entire 2018 draft salary space. Or there’s sound reasoning for retaining all three lunch-pail performers.
Maccagnan isn’t the type to spend all his money in one place. If the GM were to make a splash, just the money saved on Wilkerson’s departure could be to be spent on a “second tier” stud corner like the Bears’ Kyle Fuller or the Packers’ Davon House. Pairing a stud free agent CB opposite a re-signed Claiborne, along with penalty-machine Buster Skrine in reserve nickel coverage only — while developing a young stable of under-age-24 corners — makes sense.
All Down the Line
The Jets loved what they saw in DL Xavier Cooper. Unlike Wilkerson, X-Man went all-out every snap. They also like the versatility of fellow D-lineman, penalty-prone 300-lb.-er Mike Pennel. Early season star Kony Ealy went invisible and has likely played his way out of town. Affordable UFAs to bolster the front-seven include Tennessee’s DaQuan Jones, Dallas’ Demarcus Lawrence. and Seattle’s Marcus Smith. 2015 seventh-rounder Deon Simon gets his last chance this training camp.
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Drop the Bomb
If Florham Park is not sold on proven QBs like Cousins or Bridgewater, they need to bring back Josh McCown as de facto player-coach. Christian Hackenberg will battle with Bryce Petty and Joel Stave for the practice squad. To help that next QB, they should pursue a young stud receiver like Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson or Miami’s Jarvis Landry, or cheaper alternatives like Green Bay’s Jeff Janis or Indianapolis’ Donte Moncrief. There’s talk of moving on from Jermaine Kearse, which I will never understand. They can also sign one of the UFA centers discussed last week.
Interim owner Chris Johnson recently said that there’s no mandate for the 2018 Jets to make the playoffs. How can that be possible, especially after a free agent splurge following a five-win season? The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Jets need to be big spenders in free agency to at least field an even more competitive team in 2018.