FA Spotlight: WR Jeremy Maclin and OLB Anthony Spencer

The reason I am placing these two upcoming free agents together in the same post is that they are both high risk-high reward players, with each player coming off major injuries. Both have shown themselves in the past to be highly productive players when healthy, but have basically missed out on the entire 2013 season recovering.

Players such as these I think are very good options to pursue. On the one hand, the Jets are severely lacking high-end talent on their current roster and can really use players of Maclin's and Spencer's caliber. On the other hand, players like these frequently come with a huge price tag, and if anything was learned from the Mike Tannenbaum era, signing players to huge deals can majorly hamper the salary cap situation down the road. Thus, even though the Jets should have loads of money to spend in the offseason, it is still probably for the best for them to try finding players who are good bargains.

Jeremy Maclin

Bio: Maclin was selected 19th overall by the Eagles in 2009 and immediately paid dividends, catching 56 balls his rookie year. Every year since (with the exception of this season), Maclin caught at least 63 balls and has 26 touchdowns over the 4 seasons he's played. He has never topped 1000 yards, though he did come decently close in his last 3 healthy seasons. In short, he's been a very consistent, good but not elite, second receiver for the Eagles. During preseason this year he tore his ACL, but should be back and ready to go in plenty of time for next season

Jets needs: The Jets talent at WR is, and will be, extremely weak. With the likely impending release of Santonio Holmes, they'll have no #1 or #2 receiver (not that he was a #1 or #2 at this point, anyhow). While many expect that the Jets will pick a WR high in this years loaded draft, most rookie WR's historically struggle to make much of a meaningful contribution. Thus, it makes a lot of sense for the Jets to look for a highly competent WR in free agency this offseason to pair with a draft pick and in that way hopefully make up for the lack of top WR's.

Will he be re-signed: The Eagles may very possibly re-sign him, preventing Maclin from ever actually entering the free agent pool. Per's excellent cap calculator, the Eagles are set to have a drop over $24 million available against the cap this offseason and other than Maclin and Riley Cooper, they don't have very many of their own free agents that they will need to re-sign. That being said, they may well decide that they don't want to re-sign two of their own WR's and instead just focus on res-signing Cooper, who has seemingly found excellent chemistry with Nick Foles. Furthermore, the Eagles may decide their offense sans Maclin is fine and that they need to spend their available money to shore up a defense that managed to give up 48 points to a Vikings team playing without Adrian Peterson.

How would he fit the Jets: While Maclin isn't really a #1 receiver, and thus doesn't actually fill up that major vacancy, neither are really any of the other WR's available on the market. Furthermore, the Jets functioned most of this season without any competent WR's to speak of, so just getting one - even if he isn't a true #1 - should provide a big boost. What Maclin brings to the table is speed, and lots of it. He is very elusive after the catch and can burn corners for deep balls. Should Geno remain QB of the Jets, Maclin would be an excellent weapon for him to utilize. Maclin could help him out with some short throws and allow Geno to throw the bombs we have seen he is capable of throwing. Maclin in a lot of ways is the type of receiver we all hoped Holmes would be.

Why this would be a good move: The major reason to like a move like this is that we can possibly get a good bargain. A receiver of Maclin's caliber, especially in a top-weak free agent class like this, would normally get top dollar, regardless of whether he actually deserves it. Due to the fact that he's coming off injury he is likely to get somewhat less than what other top wideouts are commanding.

Another notch in Maclin's favor is his prior relationship with current Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg. If Rex and Morhinweg are retained, it would certainly be a boon for the offense to have players coming into the system who already have prior knowledge and understanding of the system Mornhinweg runs.

Lastly, while Maclin isn't a #1 receiver, frankly, nobody else out there on the market is either. He's probably around the best the Jets can get through free agency and the Jets certainly need all the help they can get.

Why this would be a Bad Move: As stated above, Maclin has never actually had a particularly excellent season. While other top receivers (i.e. Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker) on the market all have question marks surrounding them, many have had multiple seasons that top Maclin's best.

Furthermore, the Jets would still have to worry about Maclin's knee. Granted he supposedly will be easily ready for the start of next season, but having watched Darrelle Revis in Tampa this year, it's no sure thing that a player will come back from an injury like this as his old, playmaking, self.

Verdict: I am all for signing Maclin. I think he's one of the best WR's available, he should be comfortable with the Jets offense and would come at a somewhat discounted price. Maclin I think would prove to be an excellent value.

Anthony Spencer

Bio: Spencer was drafted 26th overall by the Cowboys in 2007 and is already turning 30 in January, so he's no spring chicken. Spencer took a while to live up to his high draft position and struggled his first couple of years in the league, but really came on the last few years to the point that the Cowboys placed the Franchise Tag on him in consecutive offseasons. In 2012, his last healthy season, Spencer was dominant with 11 sacks and over 90 tackles (the only player in the entire league to hit those 2 marks) and made his first Pro Bowl. Pro Football Focus rated him the best 3-4 OLB in the league. Spencer had knee surgery in July 2013 and recovered enough to play in week 2 of this season, but that was all, and he had microfracture surgery on his knee, ending his season.

Jets needs: Simply put, the Jets pass rush from their OLB's has been a flat out joke the last few years. To put it into perspective, Calvin Pace (10 sacks) and Mo Wilkerson (10.5 sacks) this season, are the only players in the Rex Ryan era to eclipse 8 sacks in one season. Beyond the basic stats, it's been painfully obvious the last few years that the Jets need major help in the pass rushing department, yet that help has never come. Should he prove to be back to his old self, Spencer would be a huge upgrade over what the Jets are currently trotting out there.

Will he be re-signed: In short, no. While the Cowboys obviously need immense help on the defensive side of the ball, they're in such extremely awful cap position that they basically can't afford to sign anyone, let alone someone coming off of major surgery. Spencer will hit the FA market.

How would he fit the Jets: As mentioned above, the Jets need a pass rushing OLB in the worst way. Should Spencer be healthy, he would fit like a glove. Further strengthening his potential fit is the fact that the last few years he played under Rob Ryan, so he already knows the Ryan Family brand of defense (again, assuming Rex is brought back).

Why this would be a good move: Much like Maclin, the Jets could get a huge bargain by signing Spencer. Had he hit the FA market following his excellent 2012 campaign, Spencer would most likely be the best OLB available on the market and would cost a small fortune to sign. Due to the extent of his injury though, it is hard to see anyone giving him a big contract in the slightest. The risk would be low (small contract) while the potential reward would be high (good pass rusher).

Why this would be a bad move: Spencer isn't young and the reason he had the microfracture surgery was that his knees weren't healing properly following a prior procedure. This does not exactly make me confident in the long term prognosis for his knees. Furthermore, microfracture surgery is one of the most difficult surgeries to come back from and still retain explosiveness (think Amare Stoudemire) and as we have seen with Santonio Holmes this season, it's pretty unpleasant to watch guys who no longer have their explosive burst.

Verdict: Tough to say. I'm leaning towards yes, but I can easily see him being another Shawne Merriman. Either way, if the Jets are planning to revamp their OLB corps, I don't think Spencer should be the centerpiece and probably only a secondary piece in the puzzle. I am just that bugged out by microfracture surgery.

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