Every year, I love day dreaming about what I would do as the NY Jets GM. Below is what I would do this off-season if I were John Idzik. My plan of attack would be, fill every major need in free agency other than #1 WR and trade the house for a franchise WR in Sammy Watkins.
Why Sammy? Sammy Watkins seems to be the crown jewel receiver of this class and is a born superstar. He was a top 5 star prospect coming out of high school when Clemson recruited him and made an instant impact as a top receiver in the nation his freshman year with 1219 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns and was the 4th true freshman to make the AP all american first team (in the company of Adrian Peterson, Herschel Walker and Marshall Faulk). This past season he surpassed that with 1464 yards and 12 touchdowns. This kid is an AJ Green type prospect, a franchise WR no matter where he goes and will be an elite WR that defenses will have to gameplan for. On his own, he will transform the Jets offense in finally giving them their much needed elite talent at the WR position. But building a team around him will put the Jets back on track to being a deep playoff team with Rex Ryan at helm.
First, let's look at our needs should we lose every free agent
#1 TE, #2 TE
#1 WR, #2 WR
Jets can easily fix some of these positions that would be pricey to shop for with some re-signings. I would immediately resign:
Calvin Pace, OLB - coming off his best season (although a bit on the ancient side),
Austin Howard, RT - who is coming along at RT and getting better every year,
Jeff Cumberland, TE - a solid #2 who proved this year that he could at least be a decent situational #1 TE. He is a good, cheap insurance policy at a position that we need personnel at.
The above players, I'd expect to have reasonable price tags that would barely hurt the Jets cap space. The Jets also seem prepared to cut Holmes, Sanchez and Cromartie which would free up a lot of cap and make us rich this free agency. This is how the Jets should consider spending:
Big money first -
Jairus Byrd, FS - This signing would hit 3 birds in one stone. First of all, he's the best player on Buffalo, they'd be losing him to a divisional rival. Our CBs will play better with excellent safety support (even Wilson was a good #2 cb with Laron Landry in) so pressure on our young CB, Milliner will be lifted just a bit as he continues to master the game. Third and most importantly, Rex Ryan said he wanted more turnovers from his defense. Byrd is a known turnover machine and can help facilitate this goal for Gang green D.
After doing the Byrd deal, the Jets should STILL have enough cap to make one more big signing and a few smaller signings in free agency. Let's take a look now at remaining positions that should be addressed this off season.
#1 WR, #2 WR
Since we're planning on trading the house for Watkins to take the #1 WR slot, we'll need to cover the other 4 players in free agency. I would look for discounted or under valued players at each of these positions, and spend on the position where the money will go to the best use. Here are my picks:
Scott Chandler, TE - He's a name we don't hear very often but produces for Buffalo. He's a decent #1 TE that could be consistent and provide Geno with a big red zone target. Also, with the FA TE class, he shouldn't be the most in demand guy on the board
Jeremy Maclin, WR - He's played at a consistent high level in Marty Mornhingweg's system already and should be at a discount coming off a season long injury. If the Eagles let him go, the Jets should try their hardest to keep him in a green jersey. If the Jets were able to pull this off and get Watkins, they'd have a pretty good receiving group in Watkins, Maclin and Kerley in the slot, especially with a big red zone target TE like Chandler if they additionally locked him down in FA.
Richie Incognito, G - A former pro bowl guard that many teams will stay away from, even as evidence is coming out that's proving his whole scandal to be overblown. This might be a huge discount opportunity at guard for the Jets and would be quite the jab to Miami's struggling O line.
This just leaves the #1 WR which we plan to use on Watkins and a CB position.
The CB depends on how much faith you have in Milliner. Walls came in and played well situationally and will likely return for depth. Milliner finished the season on a high note and seemed to finally hit his stride in December after missing training camp and some game time due to injury. To be safe the Jets should sign an outside (#1 or #2 vet CB), but this position is seemingly expensive in free agency with a big drop off and not too many discounted players. My move here is match team offers to Antonio Cromartie, who has publicly stated that he'd prefer to return to gang green. If those offers go above what you'd pay Vontae Davis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brent Grimes or Aqib Talib, you go for one of those guys. But after Cro's season compared to previous seasons, I most likely see him back for less on gang green.
Now we have the dire needs filled with some pretty decent to excellent players, we can offer whatever it takes to trade up with (rams? bucs?) for Watkins. All the sudden gang green is looking like a playoff team and Geno can get a fair shot now that he has some weapons.