In this post, I will be breaking down this coming years free agency for the New York Jets. I will analyze both the Jets own free agents and who they will likely resign or let go, and I will take a look at players destined to hit the open market. I'm warning you, this will be a lengthy post, so get those reading glasses, a cup of Joe, sit back, and chill out bro.
This year was a very depressing year for a Jets fan. Rex Ryan spent the whole offseason guaranteeing that this team is ready for a Super Bowl, without even knowing what the team would look like that season. This lead to an 8-8 season due to poor coaching and poor execution on each side of the ball. While some young players flashed and showed their ability, the Jets veterans slid downward. This includes trusted guys like D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Santonio Holmes, Wayne Hunter, Eric Smith, and Antonio Cromartie. In order to get back on track and get past this season of inconsistencies, the Jets must aggressively approach what may end up being the most important offseason in the history of the franchise. Unfortunately, the free agent class this year is pretty weak as we have seen some of the more top notch talent sign deals with their teams prior to hitting the open market (see Larry Fitzgerald). The Jets are stuck with the challenge of not only finding an upgrade for positions of weakness, but they must also find both young players to build this team around, and a leader to provide a strong locker room presence. Without further adieu, lets take a look at New York Jets Free Agency 2012.The first thing the New York Jets must do this offseason, as any team in the NFL should, is decide which of their own free agents they want to resign or give up. The Jets have a fairly strong group of free agents this year. I will rank them in order of what I believe is strongest to weakest.
- Sione Pouha, Nose Tackle
- Jim Leonhard, Safety
- Aaron Maybin, Outside Linebacker
- Brodney Pool, Free Safety
- Jamaal Westerman, Outside Linebacker
- Plaxico Burress, Wide Receiver
- Robert Turner, Offensive Line
- Marquice Cole, Cornerback
- Patrick Turner, Wide Receiver
- Bryan Thomas, Outside Linebacker
- Ladainian Tomlinson, Running Back
- Donald Strickland, Cornerback
- Martin Tevaseu, Nose Tackle
- Nick Folk, Kicker
- Kevin O'Connell, Quarterback
- Matthew Mulligan, Blocking Tight End
- Mark Brunell, Quarterback
Looking at that list of free agents, I think the person that must be resigned right away is Sione Pouha. Nose Tackles largely go unnoticed in the league, but to us Jets fans, Sione is one of the best players on this team. in fact, ProFootballFocus.com ranked Sione Pouha as the best 34 Nose Tackle in the NFL this year. For a team that prides itself on stopping the run, Sione Pouha is a God. He must be brought back. Pouha is the only player that I truly believe the Jets must bring back, however there are players that the Jets would be very wise to bring back. Jim Leonhard, Aaron Maybin, Brodney Pool, and Plaxico Burress I believe the Jets should also make it a priority to sign back. Jim Leonhard plays Rex Ryan's 34 SS position very well and is a leader on a team that so desperately needs one. Aaron Maybin supplied the only consistent pass rush this season for the Jets. He is young and developmental, but if the coaches can force some meat on his bones and lock him up in the weight room for a couple months, he might be able to turn into an every down linebacker. Brodney Pool is the best coverage safety on the team, which isn't saying much. However, I think if the coaching staff spent an offseason focusing on Pool being the primary starter over Eric Smith at Free Safety and give him more first team reps, he could possibly lock up the free safety position. Plaxico Burress came in with many critics this season, but ended up assisting an anemic redzone offense, ultimately helping turn it into the most efficient red zone offense in the NFL in 2011. If the Jets ca sign him back for a one or two year contract for a low dollar amount, I think it would be smart to put him into a red zone specialist role where he could strive. Players like Jamaal Westerman, Robert Turner, Marquice Cole, Patrick Turner, and Martin Tevaseu are all depth players and there is a good chance they will be resigned.
In terms of players who should not be resigned, Bryan Thomas, Ladainian Tomlinson, Nick Folk, Matthew Mulligan, and Mark Brunell are all relevant names. In Thomas', Tomlinson's, and Brunell's case, they are just old and there is not much point in resigning them as they would occupy a roster spot that could be filled by a young playmaker. Folk is inaccurate and it is time to let him walk away. Mulligan is a penalty machine who saw way to many snaps this season thanks to the brilliant King of Predictability Brian Schottenheimer.
Ultimately, here is who I see being signed and who I see being let go:
- Sione Pouha
- Jim Leonhard
- Aaron Maybin
- Brodney Pool
- Robert Turner
- Marquice Cole
- Patrick Turner
- Martin Tevaseu (practice squad)
- Jamaal Westerman
- Plaxico Burress
- Bryan Thomas
- Ladainian Tomlinson
- Donald Strickland
- Nick Folk
- Matthew Mulligan
- Mark Brunell
- Kevin O'Connell
Now, before free agency kicks into gear, there is the NFL Draft. One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is watch videos of prospects and do mock drafts. The mocks are always changing. Here is the one that I will base the rest of this post off of (I am not including compensatory selections):
Round 1: Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
Easily the best running back in the country. I was opposed to taking a running back in round one, but then I watched almost every game from Trent Richardson this season. This team prides itself on the run and relies on the ground game to take pressure off of Sanchez. Having a gound and pound offense that has the best running back since AP, along with the bellcow Shonn Greene, and the explosiveness of Joe McKnight, the Jets offensive future could look bright.
Round 2: Vinny Curry, 34 OLB, Marshall
Curry has been the most consistent defensive player in college football for the past couple of seasons. He played defensive end for Marshall but is a much better 34 OLB prospect for the NFL. He could really provide a great, consistent pass rush that we need badly. He played a poor level of competition at Marshall, but he did dominate as he should have and really showed his swagger.
Round 3: Andrew Datko, Offensive Tackle, Florida State
Datko went down this season with a torn ACL. If it weren't for the injury, he likely would have been a borderline first round pick. He is good in both pass protection and run protection. He should help sure up the right tackle position, or at least provide great depth should we sign a free agent.
Round 4: Brian Quick, Wide Receiver, Appalachian State
One of my favorite receivers in the draft. Quick is 6'5" and has great leaping, catching, and yards after catch ability. He played at a division two school, but he absolutely dominated and he is going to be one of the most prized small school players in this years draft. Should we add Quick, along with another free agent receiver, I would feel great about out crop of receiving talent moving forward.
Round 5: Julian Miller, 34 OLB, West Virginia
Had a breakout year in 2011. He was part of a great pass rushing defense and really strutted his stuff. He has a good ceiling, but needs a lot of work and is a good project. Would provide good depth at the position.
Round 6: George Iloka, Safety, Boise State
A developmental safety. He is tall and he is fast. He could be a great player in the future if he gets good coaching. Very attractive option in such a late round.
Round 7: Dominique Davis, Quarterback, East Carolina
A developmental quarterback. He went 40 for 45 in one game this season and really flashed his upside. He could be a good career backup if he gets proper attention.
Another key part of free agency is cutting players that are currently signed onto the respective teams roster. Any coach will tell you that this is the hardest part of their job, but it is still very important and must be done. I am not a cap expert and I don't know how any of my predicted moves will affect the Jets spending flexability in the offseason. Most of my moves are on minor players, however, and I still believe that these are the proper measures to take despite how they will affect the Jets cap space.
Players to Cut:
- Logan Payne, Wide Receiver
- Gerald Alexander, Safety
- Eric Smith, Safety (chump)
- Tracy Wilson, Safety
- Bart Scott, Inside Linebacker
- Garret McIntyre, Outside Linebacker
- TJ Conley, Punter
- Wayne Hunter, Offensive Tackle
- Austin Howard, Offensive Tackle
As you can see, the only major players that I think the Jets should release are Eric Smith and Bart Scott. We all know how horrible Smith is and the fact that he is starting in the NFL that is becoming reliant on the pass is just a travesty. Bart Scott is past his prime and is being given to much money. He is under contract through 2015 and it is better to get rid of him now rather than have him be a liability for another 4 seasons. Everyone else is getting cut either because they underperformed (TJ Conley), or they are just occupying a valuable roster spot (Logan Payne).
Now comes the part where I break down some candidates at positions of need for the Jets. These are obviously players the Jets could target in Free Agency. I believe that not only do they have not have a great chance of not signing back with their current team, but also that the Jets have a good shot of winning the bidding war for them.
Two candidates I like for quarterback are Chad Henne and Jason Campbell. Not only could they provide Sanchez with competition in training camp, but were he to go down or play really, really bad, I would feel comfortable with either of them stepping in for him. I think it would be a little more likely for us to sign Chad Henne, as he has played in the AFC East, and we know that Rex loves going after inter-division players.
I would really like to bring in either Robert Meachem or bring back Braylon Edwards. Meachem has been a great down the field threat for Drew Brees the past couple of years and has found his fair share of catches in one of the best receiving cores in the country. We all remember Edwards. I believe that, despite having a very down year in San Fran, he could come back into New York and that great chemistry between him, Santonio, and Sanchez could be restored. I am going to go with the Jets signing Robert Meachem, mostly because I find it unlikely that the front office would be unwilling to bring back Braylon, despite fans pleas.
I see two good options here when looking at the list of free agents. The Jets could either bring in a veteran in Max Starks who has performed pretty well in Pittsburgh this year, or go all out to sign the best free agent offensive tackle, Demetrius Bell from the Bills. Bell is another inter-division rival, but I think he'll be highly pursued because of so many teams needing offensive line help. Max Starks would give us a veteran guy who could possibly be a starter if he wins his competition in training camp. Otherwise, he'd provide a great backup.
This is where we spend big. Safety, in my opinion, is the position that we need to get a pro bowl caliber player at. Two guys intrigue me: Dashon Goldson of the 49ers, and Michael Griffin of the Tennessee Titans. Both are very good, impact players. Dashon Goldson made the pro bowl this year after helping a 49ers secondary become an integral part of one of the best defenses in the NFL. He plays very well in the box and is above average in tight end coverage. Michael Griffin has been a very good player in Tennessee since his rookie year. He is a great in coverage and should probably be on of the more valued players in this years free agent crop. Goldson I believe has a better chance of leaving his current team than Griffin, however. He could be looking for a bigger, more long term contract that the 49ers likely would not provide. The Titans don't have many free agents to resign, so there is a good chance they spend big to retain Michael Griffin.
Dan Connor was a backup player before stepping in for the injured Jon Beason this year in Carolina. He played very well for a guy seeing his first major starting play. He will likely be pursued by teams looking for a decent player or an upgrade over what they currently have. It is very possible the Jets would win the war for him, however, as they have been with free agents the past couple of years. If we could get him for a nice two-year deal, I would feel much more comfortable with the Jets cutting Bart Scott. As for outside linebacker, depth will be needed. I like Reggie Torbor in terms of depth. He has been on both the Dolphins and the Bills, so his mind is chock full of great info.
I would like either Jay Feely or Mike Nugent here. Both have been on the Jets in the past and are coming off a couple of decent seasons. I'll go with Nugent here because I remember Feely saying that he has some spite for the Jets for not bringing him back to New York,
Either Donnie Jones or Matt McBriar. Their punters. They punt well. I'll go with McBriar.
So, now it looks like we might have a final roster for next season. Let's take a look at what the possible final 53 man roster would look if the domino's fell like how I am predicting.
Quarterback - Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne, Greg McElroy, Dominique Davis
Running Back - Trent Richardson, Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell
Fullback - John Conner
Wide Receiver - Santonio Holmes, Robert Meachem, Jeremy Kerley, Brian Quick, Patrick Turner
Tight End - Dustin Keller, Jeff Cumberland, Josh Baker
Offensive Tackle - D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Max Starks, Andrew Datko, Valdimir Ducasse
Offensive Guard - Bradon Moore, Matt Slauson, Caleb Schlauderaff
Offensive Center - Nick Mangold, Robert Turner
Defensive End - Mike Devito, Muhammad Wilkerson, Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua
Nose Tackle - Sione Pouha, Kenrick Ellis
Cornerback - Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson, Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant
Free Safety - Dashon Goldson, Brodney Pool
Strong Safety - Jim Leonhard, George Iloka
Inside Linebacker - David Harris, Dan Connor, Josh Mauga, Nick Bellore
Outside Linebacker - Aaron Maybin, Calvin Pace, Vinny Curry, Julian Miller, Reggie Torbor
Kicker - Mike Nugent
Punter - Matt McBriar
Long Snapper - Tanner Purdum
So there you have it. My early opinion on how the Jets should approach the 2012 offseason. With this team I believe that the Jets are "re-contenders" for the Super Bowl and should be much better come September 2012. I appreciate and read every comment so please leave your criticism and tell me what you'd do differently, what you don't like, etc. Thanks for reading and stay icey.
P.S. I am also hoping that the Jets do fire Schottenheimer and replace him with Bill Callahan.