Actually, I guess the title should read something like, "Off Season By Off season Analysis of Mike Tannenbaum" since I'm also including FA and trades. I can see by reactions so far that I've struck a nerve with a lot of posters. I've been accused or rewriting history, cherry picking stars, and sinking the Titanic, er, no wait, not the last thing. Anyway, as I said when I began this series, I actually thought the 2006 draft was probably Tanny's best, and the 2007 draft was very good because of Revis and Harris. Some posters have twisted my words and claimed that I was saying that Tanny was awful and those two drafts were bad. Never said those things. My initial premise was that Tanny started out strong, but has been going downhill since. In researching those posts, I discovered that is indeed true, but that both the 2006 and 2007 off seasons could have been better, and would have had the Jets in a much better place now if Tanny had done some things differently. Anyway, on to 2008 after the jump.
2008 Off Season
FA: In 2006, Tanny got rid of a lot of dead wood, and brought in a number of cheaper, 2nd tier FAs to address some needs and holes, and had a good draft. His philosophy seemed to be building the team through the draft and supplementing with cheaper FAs. I liked that approach. In 2007, Tanny again cleared the roster of some dead wood, and with the exception of the trade for Thomas Jones, signed cheaper, lower-tier FAs.
In 2008 Tanny again got rid of some dead wood, allowing Erik Coleman, Sean Ryan, Anthony Clement, Andre Dyson, Justin McCareins and Chad Pennington to sign elsewhere as FAs. This offseason seemed to signal a shift in Tanny's philosophy from building primarily through the draft to the "win now" mode, however as he went wild signing big ticket older FAs and trading draft picks for older veterans. On Feb. 29 he signed Alan Faneca to a 5-year, $40 million deal. Around March 3, he signed Calvin Pace to a six-year $42 million deal and Damien Woody to a 5-year $25.5 million deal. Faneca was on the downside of his career and was overpaid, but the Jets weren't garnering a whole lot of respect at that time, and they probably had to over pay to get Faneca to come to NY. That gave the team some instant credibility. They also grossly overpaid Pace. It was a head scratcher when the Cardinals reached for Pace with the 18th pick in the first round of the 2003 draft. Between 2003 and 2006, Pace had all of 7.5 sacks. In 2007 he had 6.5 and the Jets were desperate for a pass rushing OLB. Woody had never lived up to his potential and had played several different positions on the OL. He started out at C for NE, then moved to LG his last year there. He then moved to Detroit, where he was primarily a RG, but played RT his last season in Detroit. Again, NY had to overpay to get Woody, but he did an excellent job at RT for the Jets. While Faneca played very well in the rushing attack, his play started tailing off pretty quickly and he became a liabilty as a pass blocker. Woody wound up being the best of the FA moves. While they helped improve the team and it was an attempt to try to salvage Mangini's job, it basically failed. I think the team would have been better served by signing some cheaper, younger FAs who could have stayed and contributed longer. Again, the team might not have some of the holes it has now had they gone that route.
Those moves weren't the end, however. The Jets also signed FB Tony Richardson, CBs Ty Law and Andre Woolfolk, RB Jesse Chatman, TE Bubba Franks, and then acquired QB Brett Favre during TC. After Chad was allowed to sign with Miami, many thought Clemens should get an opportunity to be the Jets QB. It was not to be.
Trades: In the first days of FA, the Jets traded their 3rd and 5th round picks to the Carolina Panthers for Kris Jenkins to address their porous run defense which had been 29th in the NFL in 2006. They also traded LB Jonathan Vilma to the Saints for the Saints 4th round pick in 2008 and an undisclosed draft pick in 2009. I think that wound up being a 4th or 3rd round pick in the 2009 draft, but am not certain about that. The Jets also traded DT Dewayne Robertson to the Denver Broncos for a bag of used jocks and half a can of shaving cream (a conditional pick in the 2009 draft, which I think wound up being nothing). They traded a conditional 4th round pick in the 2009 draft for Brett Favre. Jenkins was a great acquisition, but alas, couldn't stay healthy and on the field for the Jets. It was great just to get Robertson off the team. The Jets got fleeced by the Saints in the Vilma deal, but I think they shot themselves in the foot with the way they handled the situation. Everyone knew they weren't happy with Vilma and didn't see him as a fit, so they weren't able to get more for him. Lots of people were happy to see the trade for Favre. I wasn't. At one time, Favre was my favorite NFL player, but by that point in time, I had come to despise him. That's a story for another day, however. The Jets were going all in to win in 2008 and weren't going to get it done with Kellen Clemens at QB. This is where not having Schaub or Garcia as the QB really started biting them in the butt imo.
The Jets were still in search of that stud pass rusher. Vernon Gholston was the consensus best OLB prospect in the draft, but a number of Jets fans (including me) were afraid of him. He seemed soft and was all but invisible in the National Championship game. Tanny rolled the dice, however and took him at #6 in the first round. The Jets traded their 2nd round pick (#36) and the 4th round pick they obtained from the Saints (#116) to Green Bay in order to move up to the #30 pick of the first round to grab Dustin Keller. Their 3rd and 5th round picks went to Carolina for Kris Jenkins. I liked the fact at the time that Tanny added a QB, and Ainge had pretty good blood lines, had played in the SE conference, and had good size and a pretty good arm. I also liked the fact that Tanny sought to add depth at the WR and OT positions. I wasn't happy that he traded up for Keller, but was happy that he didn't trade up for Chris Long or Darren McFadden as many Jets fans wanted him to, and a number of "experts" thought he would do.
What they left on the table:
Players they bypassed in taking Gholston: I think reasonable possibilities were Derrick Harvey (some thought he might be able to be an OLB prospect), Keith Rivers (OLB prospect), Jerod Mayo (ILB), Ryan Clady (less likely as a 1st rounder needs to start, but still possible as insurance for or eventual replacement for Woody), Jonathan Stewart (replacement for Jones), Brandon Albert (eventual replacement for Faneca or Moore), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (upgrade of Barrett),
In terms of starting needs, the only big need outside of a pass rushing OLB was S. At S, they had Abram Elam (3rd year), James Ihedigbo (2nd year), Eric Smith (3rd year) and JR Reed (5th year). On the OL they had Ferguson, Faneca, Mangold, Moore, Woody and Turner. Both Faneca and Woody were older and would need replacing sooner rather than later.
At QB they had Brett Favre, but they knew he was a short term rental for only a couple of years at most. They had taken Clemens in the 2006 draft. They added Ainge later, but possibly could have taken another QB higher as a value pick to insure that they'd have a successor to Favre if Clemens faltered. If nothing else they could use one as the backup or trade one of them for a good pick in a successive draft. At WR they had Coles, Cotchery, Brad Smith, Chansi Stuckey, David Clowney, Wallace Wright and added Henry. The group could have been better and deeper, but at the time, I think most thought the WR group was pretty good. At TE they had Bubba Franks who had played with Favre in GB, Chris Baker, and Dustin Keller. At RB, they had Thomas Jones, Jesse Chatman, Leon Washington, and Tony Richardson. On the DL they had Shaun Ellis, Kenyon Coleman, and Mike Devito at DE and Kris Jenkins, Sione Pouha, and CJ Moseley. They could have perhaps gone for an upgrade at Coleman's spot, but I think liked Devito. At ILB they had David Harris, Eric Barton, Jason Trusnik. and David Bowens, who I think played both on the inside and outside. At OLB they had Gholston, Pace, Bryan Thomas, Cody Spencer, and Marques Murrell (he may have been an OLB). They could have looked to upgrade the depth at ILB. At CB they had Revis, David Barrett, Ty Law, Ahmad Carroll, Hank Poteat, Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery. They could have perhaps looked to upgrade the 2nd CB spot opposite Revis (Barrett), but think they were pretty confident with that group of CBs.
Thus with a stud pass rusher seemingly being the only major missing piece, I think they felt they had to go with Gholston. There weren't many other good OLB prospects in that draft. If they didn't take Gholston, I think their other best choices would have been another QB, a S or BPA.
Players they missed out on in trading for Kris Jenkins: (3rd rd.) Charles Godfrey (S - I really wanted the Jets to draft him), Jamaal Charles (speedy RB replacement for Jones); (5th rd.) Carl Nicks (OL prospect depth or to replace Woody), Jonathan Goff (ILB depth). I loved the trade for Jenkins at the time, but it was risky. He had played the entire 2006 and 2007 seasons, but had missed most or all of the previous two seasons.
Players they missed out in trading the 4th for Favre: Quintin Demps (decent S prospect), Xavier Adibi (OLB depth), Red Bryant (NT prospect - I was really high on him at the time) They didn't really miss anything with this pick, and getting Favre helped rid the team of Mangini and to Rex.
At the time, the draft seemed pretty good, but looking at it now, it was pretty brutal. Gholston was a bust. Keller has been disappointing. In taking Gholston and trading up for Keller, they missed out on some excellent prospects that could have helped the team at several positions. Jenkins never played a full season for the Jets. Lowery developed, but is no longer on the team. Ainge, Gholston, and I believe Henry are no longer in the NFL. I think Garner is still in the NFL (Miami). The veteran players they traded for (Jenkins and Favre) gave Jets fans some thrills, and the team some respect, but ultimately didn't really help the team. Some of the players they could have drafted with those picks could still be with the team either as starters or as backups. Godfrey would have been a huge boost to their safety corps, and Charles would have given the team a homerun threat on offense.
The biggest problem for me with 2008. is that Tanny forsook building through the draft and went all in for "winning now" with big FA contracts for players who really weren't worth the coin, and trading for older players who only would have been on the team for 2-3 seasons at most.