We all know that the Jets didn't add an OLB via the draft. Some are still upset about it. Others don't think we need an upgrade at OLB. Still others are somewhere in between the two extremes. All is not lost for those who still think we need an upgrade at OLB. The Jets still have FA in which to address the OLB position, to address the S position, or to address OL depth. The Jets have a lot of their own FAs that they presumbably want to re-sign, including Holmes and Cromartie. Thanks to suggestions by P Funk in his posts, "4-3 Free Agent DEs" and "49er Free Agents", I think there are at least two possible scenarios in which the Jets could at the very least upgrade the depth at OLB as insurance in case either Pace or Thomas are injured, if not quite possibly significantly upgrade one of the starting spots, but it wouldn't be cheap. The two options follow the jump.
Option No. 1
There is some talk that with the drafting of Aldon Smith, the Niners may release or be willing to trade one of the 4 OLBs they use in rotation. The four are Manny Lawson, Travis Laboy, Parys Haralson and Ahmad Brooks. Lawson is 26, Laboy is 30, and both Haralson and Brooks are 27. With the exception of Laboy, the other three are young enough to still play for the Jets for at least 3 years, maybe longer. That could be enough to help them win a SB or two.
If the Niners are willing to part with one of them, I think it would be a good idea for the Jets to grab one of them. If nothing else, it would improve their depth. Of the group, I like Lawson the best, even though he has been a bit of a disappointment in his career.
Even though Lawson has not lived up to his hype before he was drafted, perhaps a change of scenery and playing for Rex would be just what he needs. I’ll omit 2007 because he only played in 2 games, I’m guessing that was due to injury. Over the last 4 years that he has played, Lawson had 179 solo tackles, 50 Assists, 14.5 sacks, 12 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, and 6 forced fumbles.
Over the same period, Laboy’s (age 30) numbers were: 75 solo tackles, 27 assists, 18.5 sacks, 7 passes defensed, 1 interception and 7 forced fumbles. Haralson’s (age 27) numbers were: 117 tackles, 51 assists, 19.5 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 0 interceptions and 0 forced fumbles. Brooks (age 27) only played in 2 games in 2007 as well as Lawson, and didn’t play at all in 2008. Accordingly, his numbers are going to be a little lower, but they are: 83 solo tackles, 13 assists, 12 sacks, 6 passes defensed, i interception and 5 forced fumbles.
As a comparison, over the same period, Thomas has had 149 solo tackles, 46 Assists, 16 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 0 interceptions and 5 forced fumbles.
Positives: Improve depth at the position in case Pace or Thomas go down with injury (and the chances of that increase with age); quite possibly improving either the pass rush or the coverage of RBs and TEs, or even both
Negatives: Signing Manny Lawson as a FA would probably mean that the Jets don’t re-sign Holmes or maybe Cromartie. As part of a trade, Lawson would probably command the Jets #1 pick next season. Signing one of the other guys may still prelude signing one of Holmes or Cromartie, or perhaps 2-3 of the lesser Jets' FAs, but they still might have enough cap space to sign a lower-tier S or OL FA. If they trade for one of those guys, it would probably cost more on the order of their 3rd or 2nd rounder in 2012.
Option No. 2
Cliff Avril is a RFA with the Detroit Lions tendered for a 1st and 3rd round pick. While the Lions wouldn't part with him easily, the Jets could sign him to an offer and include a poison pill that the Lions couldn't/wouldn't match.
Avril is 25 and has been in the league for 3 years. His stats are as follows: 66 solo tackles, 29 assists, 19 sacks, 8 passes defensed, 0 interceptions, and 8 forced fumbles. As you can see, Avril's stats compare favorably with the 4 from SF and with Thomas, even though he's only been in the league 3 years.
Positives: Youth, speed, pass rush ability, creates TOs and is better in coverage than anyone the Jets currently have; flexibility can play OLB in the 3-4 and DE in the 4-3 alignment; would cost less in terms of actual draft picks than trading up in next year's draft to pick a top OLB prospect (at a minimum, that would cost the Jets #1 & #2, and probably their #3 or #4 as well). He could be a a real terror in Rex's system and be enough to get them over the hump to winning the Lombardi Trophy.
Negatives: To get Avril, the Jets would have to pay so much that they'd definitely lose both Holmes and Cromartie, and possibly some of the other of their FAs that they want to re-sign.