I do not know John Idzik. I could be completely wrong about his plan. But from what I have read about him and the things I have heard him say, I think that this is likely his strategy for building a contender in New York. The idea that he is too "cheap" to spend in free agency doesn’t hold much weight. He is being paid to spend Woody’s money, and there is a salary cap floor. The Jets are not like the Mets, because football is not like baseball. More specifically, the NFL is not like MLB, because there is a salary cap. In baseball, owners can literally pocket the money they don’t spend, and even receive more money from other teams due to the tax penalties and revenue sharing. That is not the case here. The most the Jets can have is about $14-15 mil in cap space, and it would be rolled over to the next season. Woody is rich as hell anyway, so I can guarantee he isn’t preventing Idzik from spending money on free agents. I can promise you that Idzik isn’t missing out on players because he is sleeping. He has a strategy. What that strategy is, nobody can say with any certainty. This is my best guess.
1st Year (Past)
I remember someone mentioning on twitter that Idzik has a 3-year plan. This got me thinking about his approach to free agency over the past few seasons. When he took over last January, the Jets were strapped for cash. He made his first big splash by trading Darrelle Revis, in what has since turned out to be a great move for this franchise, despite Revis bolting for the Patriots.
Idzik was forced to settle for cheaper options such as Colon, Landry, Barnes, Winslow Jr., Pace, and Goodson. Some of these moves worked out very well, and others didn’t work out great. But it allowed us to enter the draft and take the highest players on our board, regardless of the position. Idzik’s strategy was to find value in free agency, and add talent in the draft, regardless of the position.
Idzik had very little to work with last off-season. I think he did a pretty decent job, finding bargain bin starters like Colon, Landry, Ivory, and Winslow Jr. Its still too early to make any final judgments on the draft, but Richardson, Milliner, Winters, Geno, and Bohanon all were forced into starting roles, so 8-8 was pretty impressive all things considered.
2nd Year (Present)
This was supposed to be our big off-season. Or was it? Idzik made a pretty big splash on day 2 by signing the top WR on the market. With no capable starters on the roster, it makes sense to invest long-term in a quality wide receiver like Decker. Maybe he isn’t a true #1 (not even sure what that means) but he would start on almost any team so 6 mil per with only 2 years guaranteed is very reasonable. I think the Jets are trying to build a capable offense for cheap so they can go BPA in the draft. There are still plenty of starting options available at QB, RB, WR, and TE.
Unfortunately, this roster is still not very close to being complete. Our defensive line is great, but pretty much every other part of our roster is a big question mark. This team exceeded expectations and finished with an 8-8 record. But that doesn’t mean we are suddenly going to enter "win at all costs" mode. This is very much still a work in progress. Mediocre teams that try to build through free agency and draft for need usually remain mediocre. Idzik is being hesistant to commit large contracts to free agents, because we still don’t know what we have on our roster yet.
We also don’t know who will be available in the draft. With so many holes on the roster and so many picks and unproven young players, we simply can’t afford to commit large portions of our salary cap to most positions yet. That means looking for value in free agency, and primarily building through the draft. However, that doesn’t mean that I think we are done in free agency. I expect us to make sign some more players that can contribute immediately and will give us a chance to make the playoffs if we can find some hidden gems.
3rd Year (Future)
This is when I expect us to start committing more cap space to free agents. We will likely have a better picture of a lot of the younger players on the roster. This will make it easier to decide where to allocate cap space. We have a lot of young players on the roster who are still unproven, so I don’t think Idzik wants to commit to where he wants to spend the money.
Idzik isn’t being cheap, because he has no way of benefiting from that. He doesn’t want to hurt this team in the future by wasting cap space on the wrong positions. For example, if Milliner and Coples have breakout seasons, we might regret spending 10 mil on a CB or OLB. If Geno shows a lot of improvement, we don’t need to worry about finding a replacement, and we can spend that money or use those picks to improve other areas of our roster. We also don’t know what moves won’t work out.
Next off-season, I suspect that we will know a lot more about our team than we do right now. We will have a better idea of what our strengths and weaknesses are, and we can decide with more certainty where we want to allocate our cap space. This will allow us to target players more aggressively, without having to look for bargains. I expect next year to be the off-season that many of us were hoping for this year.