The New York Jets have traded Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and regardless of if you like the terms of the trade or not, the team has just lost its best player. It's been said that the night is darkest before the dawn, and the loss of the 3x All-Pro is certainly one of the darkest moments. But, the dawn is coming, and here is how the team can get there:
The first step is the 2013 NFL Draft. We've discussed at some length what it would take for GM John Idzik to have a successful draft, but at this point, I would argue that Idzik needs to leave with two immediate starters (both from the first round, and assuming he keeps both picks) and two more potential starters as well, along with another two role players. Idzik will need to find the best players available due to the general lack of talent on the team, but he will also need to keep filling the holes, which involves every single position group on the roster. Ideally, Idzik will trade for RB Chris Ivory with the fifth round pick that I've been arguing for, but there will be a number of other running backs on the board that have good potential.
With Revis gone, it's important for Idzik to identify the core of the team and build around them. Under Mike Tannenbaum, the "Core Four" included Revis, Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and David Harris. For Idzik, he should also be looking at Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Jeremy Kerley, etc. Idzik will need to identify that core and build around them, finding other players so they can succeed together.
Next, Idzik should strongly consider revamping the front office by firing some of Mike Tannenbaum's people, such as Terry Bradway. Unless he truly believes, after seeing them operate through the draft, that it was Tannenbaum's fault, and not their own, that the team previously struggled to acquire depth, he should seek to replace them.
After that, Idzik will need to evaluate the coaching staff through the season. If Rex Ryan and Marty Mornhinweg are able to coach a fairly talent-less roster up into a serviceable roster, it may be worth retaining them. If not, Idzik should look to put his own stamp on the team by bringing in his own guys.
Eventually, going into the 2014 season, Idzik will have a significant amount of cap space to be fairly active in free agency. The team should have approximately $50 million in free space if Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes are cut, and around $30 million if they aren't. Furthermore, with a minimum of eight picks (there are rumors of up to four additional conditional picks as well) in the 2014 draft, including the fourth rounder (extremely likely to become a third rounder) that Revis has netted the team, Idzik will have a significant amount of flexibility next year to mold the team into the image he has for the team. From what he has said, it sounds like he is looking for a Seattle Seahawks-type competition where every player has to perform to keep their job.
This is, of course, just a sneak preview of what lies in store for the Green and White. Although the team may be in for a rough 2013 season, next offseason is where the real magic will happen, where we'll see what the team can truly become under John Idzik. The dawn is coming, people, that I can assure you.