While these exercises have been popular of late, let's take one more look at the moves the Jets could make this offseason to improve their chances for success in 2014 and beyond. I say "2014 and beyond" because, realistically, this team is not just one year away from competing for a Super Bowl, which should always be the ultimate goal. With the team finally having some financial flexibility this off-season (in addition to several anticipated compensatory picks and the additional 3rd/4th round pick from the Revis trade), Idzik has the opportunity to guide this franchise towards a successful future.
We all know that with Rex at the helm, the Jets will field an aggressive, high-caliber defense. However, the introduction of OC Marty Morningweigh might have been the best addition to the Jets last off-season. He was lighyears better than both Brian Schottenheimer and obviously Tony Sporano, so the continuity of keeping both Rex and Morningweigh, I think, was a stellar choice by Woody.
This post will discuss re-signings/roster cuts, free agency and the draft. With that in mind, every Jets fan should take a look at the great work done at overthecap.com, which now has a Jets 2014 Financial Scouting Report available (http://overthecap.com/2014-new-york-jets-offseason-salary-cap-financial-report/).
1) Re-Signings/Roster Cuts
There's been a lot of talk about the upcoming cap room that the Jets are projected to have this off-season, and rightfully so. After years of Tannebaum signing albatross contracts and over-paying homegrown talent (D. Harris and Sanchez, namely), Idzik's frugality last off-season will pay dividends now. As it stands right now, the Jets will have projected $22M under the 2014 cap.
On roster cuts, the Jets should consider cutting each of S. Holmes (savings of $8.25MM), M. Sanchez ($8.3MM in savings) and Antonio Cromartie (around $9.5MM in savings). I would be open to re-signing Cromartie at a lower number after letting him test the free agency waters, but I think there's universal agreement that Holmes needs to go and both Sanchez and Jets fans want fresh starts away from each other. These three cuts would increase cap space by approximately $25MM, leaving the Jets with around $46-$48MM of cap space reportedly (http://thejetsblog.com/nyjets/six-big-questions-about-the-new-york-jets-at-as-they-face-the-2014-offseason/). Add in the cut of RB Mike Goodson (another $1.3MM in savings) and the potential re-negotiating of D.Harris' contract and more space would be added.
Now it's time to look at notable re-signings and extensions. The first item of business should be locking M. Wiikerson up to a long-term extension, which will likely come in at a number around $10-$12MM per year. I don't think its imperative for the Jets to extend Jeremy Kerley; while I like Kerley as a piece, I don't think he's elite, he was injured much of this year, and most importantly, I think he's a fairly interchangeable commodity in today's NFL. Idzik should let him play another year on his current deal. The Jets will also have to make decisions on Willie Colon and Calvin Pace. I think both players can and should be brought back on short term (i.e., 1-2 year deals) and I think both players would be amenable to such contract discussions. Colon, of course, is injury-prone and tore his biceps in Week 17, while Pace is long in the tooth and should not be overpaid at age 34 for a career year on a defense that opened up holes for the linebackers by excellent front play. TE Jeff Cumberland is a bit of a one-trick pony with his pass-catching and he's not elite, so I don't think it's imperative that he be brought back either. The Jets should also re-sign K Nick Folk and CB Darrin Walls. Folk is a no-brainer, and I like what I saw from Walls this season as corner depth, particularly when he was pressed into a larger role in the Atlanta game for instance. Leger Douzable is also a free agent, but I don't believe it's imperative for the Jets to re-sign him to a long-term deal, as defensive line depth can be addressed later in the off-season or by moves discussed below. After these re-signings, the available cap space would be hard to estimate, but the figure would appear to be around $27-32MM in available cap space heading into Free Agency.
Every Jets fan knows that the offensive skill positions (TE, WR, and perhaps RB) will need to be addressed. In addition, after the above moves, Idzik should think about adding players at both G and CB. Finally, Jets fans have always looked for a play-making safety...I think a FS would be preferable as A. Allen has shown glimpses, but Rex does like to use his safeties interchangeably.
TE - the TE free agency class is headed by Saints TE Jimmy Graham, but it's a long-shot to think the Saints will let him walk. After Graham, there are a few recognizable names, but the Jets should be wary of signing any of these players as they all carry some red flags. The available TEs at this point include B. Pettigrew (TE, Det), F. Davis (TE, Wash (injuries)), J. Finley (TE, GB (injuries)), Dustin Keller (TE, Miami (injuries)), K. Winslow (Jets, age, injuries). Two players I would like Idzik to look at for low-cost bargains would be Anthony McCoy (Sea) and Garret Graham (Hou). Both would come in at low cost and be at least as good as Cumberland has been for us, capable of contributing as a No. 2 TE with Sudfeld as our No. 3 TE.
WR - the WR class this off-season has the potential to be very intriguing. Big names like J. Maclin, H. Nicks, K. Britt, E. Decker, James Jones, Jacoby Jones, E. Sanders and G. Tate might all be available. I think J. Maclin will re-sign with the Eagles on a one-year prove it deal in an elite offense to increase his chances for a lucrative long-term deal. I'm weary of Decker, as he might be a system product in Denver, and G. Tate - to me - is nothing more than a very low-end No. 2 WR. That leaves Nicks, Britt, James Jones, and E. Sanders. Of this group, I like E. Sanders and Britt the most. Britt has the talent of a true No. 1 but needs to grow up and a change of scenery from Tenn. He played his college ball at Rutgers and might be interested in a one-year, low figure number that would give him a chance to increase his value for next off-season. I think Idzik would be wise to bring in Britt as a risk-reward move. This would give us Britt, Kerley, S. Hill, and D. Nelson as a core four WR heaidng into the draft.
Secondary - after the release of Cro, I think it will be imperative for Idzik to sign a play-maker in the secondary. This class is loaded with depth at the CB position, but I think Idizk should try to sign both of or either S. Jarius Byrd (Buf) and CB Vontae Davis (Ind). Signing both would be preferable given the propsoed low-spending on both WR and TE in free-agency above. Davis would be able to come in and play one CB position across from Milliner from day one, while Byrd would provide the Jets with a big-play safety that has been missing from our defense for years. Other potential corners would include Altreuean Verner (Titans) and Walter Thurmond (Seahawks). Thurmond, in particular, would come cheaper than both Verner and Davis and could be a nice add.
The other two positions where depth will be needed is Guard and OLB. I actually don't think either position is in true need of being addressed via a big-name free agent, especially if we are able to re-sign Colon and Pace to short-term, low-end deals (which is likely). Next year we will get OLB Antawan Barnes back as well, as he flashed as a pass-rusher in his limited playing time this year. On the O-line, Idzik drafted G Will Campbell and G/T Oday Abushay last year specifically to promote O-line depth during last year's draft.
Provided that Revis is not cut by the Bucs (in which case the Jets would receive a 4th Rd pick instead of a 3rd rounder from the Bucs) the Jets draft selections will look like below, once compensatory picks are included
First round – one pick 18th
Second round – one pick 17th – estimated 49th overall
Third round – two picks 5th and 16th – estimated 69th and 80th overall
Fourth round – two picks 15th and at the end of the round – estimated 114th and 134th overall
Fifth round – two picks 14th and at the end of the round – estimated 149th and 169th overall
Sixth round – one pick 19th – estimated 189th overall
Seventh round – three picks 18th and two at the end of the round – estimated 226th, 246th, 251st
Overall – 12 picks
Idzik seems to be more conservative than Tannebaum when it comes to the draft, which is a good thing, so I don't anticipate any trades up or down. Given the extra compensatory picks, Idzik should be in a position to take some valuable chances in the later rounds.
1st Round - TE, Eric Ebron, UNC...a stud offensive talent who will be able to add an element to the offense and be the security blanket Geno needs. While I'm not usually a fan of drafting TEs in the first round given their positional value, I think Ebron has the talent to be a real difference maker and the next level and the WR class will be deep. I'm not a huge fan of Jace Amaro out of Texas Tech as most of his work is done out of the slot instead of in-line in a wide-open pass offense that will be much different from the NFL offense he might join. One thing I want to throw out is the possibility of an elite QB dropping to the Jets in round 1. Of the potential 1st round QBs, I actually like UCLA QB Brett Hundley the most. He's big, physically gifted, has a strong arm and is mobile. In addition, he's been a leader for UCLA as a two-year starter and the team dealt with some notable adversity this year with the loss of a teammate. Immediately after this tragedy, they traveled to Nebraska and trounced the Cornhuskers at home. If Hundley falls to the Jets in the first round, I think the Jets should take him without hesitation.
2nd Round - WR, Jordan Matthews, Vandy/WR Odell Beckham Jr, LSU/WR Kelvin Benjamin, FSU. I don't think Sammy Watkins will be available to the Jets in the first round, as I think he is a top-5 talent and on the same level as Julio Jones and AJ Green. There's something off about Mike Evans to me and I think he will be a bust in the NFL -- his 40 time will be crucial indication of whether he will truly be able to get separation in the NFL. I don't think there's an appreciable difference between Beckham and Marquese Lee of USC and the above three are some of my favorite prospects. Matthews, in my mind, is uderrated in the same way that Zac Stacy was at Vandy last year. Matthews it the all-time SEC leader in Receiving yards, runs crisp routes, hands good hands and is exactly the kind of dependable target that Geno could use. Benjamin is a physical freak and, if developed correctly, will end up as the best or second-best WR in this class behind Watkins, but he is still raw. Beckham is just a burner and a play-maker. I like all three in the second round and would be happy if the Jets took either one of them if available in the second round.
Third Round - This round will depend a lot of what happens in Free Agency, particulalry on defense. If the Jets are able to sign both CB Davis and S. Byrd, they should look at Guard, OLB and more TE/WR help. From history, it seems like Rex is weary to bring in rookie Safeties due to the complexity of his defense and the steep learning curve for his secondary players. Kenny Vaccaro from Texas last year, for example, was about as talented of a Safety prospect as I've seen in the past few years and the Jets passed him up for Sheldon Richardson, which turned out pretty well actually.
As it stands, I think the Jets should look at DE/OLB Ron Powell (Florida), DE/OLB Aaron Lynch (S. Florida), Gs David Yankey (Stanford) and Tre Jackson (FSU). Personally, I think the Jets should double-dip in Round 3 at OLB and move Q. Coples back to the D-Line where he will be more effective and increase our depth. In addition to Powell and Lynch noted above, a player like Jeremiah Attachou (DE/OLB Ga. Tech) Kyle Van Noy (OLB, BYU, may drop to top of Rd 3), Trent Murphy (DE/OLB Stanford), Michael Sam (DE/OLB Mizzou, bit of a tweener) and Adrian Hubbard (DE/OLB, Bama) might also be good fits. DE/OLB Powell (Florida) was the No. 1 rated high school prospect when he went to Florida, plays hard, and has nice pass-rushing abilities. I think he played a little out-of-position at Florida and would have the opportunity to shine in Rex's defense.
With a deep CB class this year, the Jets would also be able to find a quality player in Round 3 who could develop into a starter a year or two down the road as well. A player like CB EJ Gaines (Mizzou), CB Andre Hal (Vandy), Quadre Diggs (Teaxas), Kyle Fuller (Va. Tech) and A. Colvin (Okla) are all quality college corners who could be valuable mid-round additions.
Round 4 - in this round, I think the Jets should look at QB Aaron Murray (Georgia, injured will fall into at least the 3rd round). Given the extra compensatory picks, I think Idzik should take a chance here as well and take RB. Isiah Crowell. Crowell was kicked out of Georgia but was SEC Freshman of the year when he did play for them two years ago. I think Crowell is the most talented RB in this class and if he ever gets his head on straight, he'd be a steal. The Honey Badger was a third round risk for the Cardinals last draft and he's turned out to be quite the player for them thus far. Crowell, unlike, Mathieu, has the build of an NFL player and is worth the late-round risk.
Round 5 - 7 - the Jets will have a lot of flexibilty here after having early picks and some money to spend in Free Agency. A few of the players I like in the late rounds would be: Devin Street, WR, Pitt; Shaq Evans, WR, UCLA, Dri Archer RB/WR/KR, Kent State (a Danny Woodhead/Julian Edelman type player), Kenny Ladler, FS, Vandy, Justin Britt, LT, Mizzou, Dennicos Allen, OLB, Mich St (while undersized, we've seen small linebackers become valuable in the NFL like Lavonte David, and I think Allen fits the same mold, could be great addition to special teams and our nickel packages); Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan (Jeremy Kerley 2.0), Xavier Grimble, TE, USC (a big-time recruit who struggled to produce, largely because of bad QB play), Antonine Exum CB/S, Va Tech, Bennet Jackson, CB, ND.
In general, I think the late rounds should be used to build depth, add special team players, and perhaps most importantly for Idzik's purposes, the Jets should take at least two chances in Rounds 4-7 on talents who have a red flag or two, like Crowell. A year with lots of draft ammo is the perfect year to do this, as our lack of overall picks in past year's really precluded the Jets from taking such chances.
What does everyone think of the above?