With free agency just about a week away, I thought I'd take a look at the Jets' major free agents. The number one free agent was Muhammad Wilkerson, but he has already been given the franchise tag and barring a surprising trade, he is going to be sticking around for 2016. The Jets still 3 of the top 100 free agents on the original list, all of whom are currently without deals. They also have a handful of role players set to hit free agency. Let's take a look:
Damon Harrison, NT - Estimated contract value $4-6M/year
Harrison is the kind of player that every GM hopes to find. After being signed as an undrafted free agent by Tanny, Harrison worked his way into the starting rotation over Kendrick Ellis, a player who entered the league with considerably more expectations. From there, Harrison never let go, becoming one of the NFL's best run defenders. The Jets really can't afford to bring Harrison back, especially considering the almost supererogatory talent on the defensive line. The unfortunate thing to consider with letting a player like Harrison walk is that due to the devaluation of traditional 3-4 nose tackles in today's passing league, these players are given relatively lower salaries and play a smaller percentage of the team's snaps. These are the major factors in determining compensatory pick value, meaning that the Jets will lose a very good player for a (presumably) reasonable salary, but get very little in terms of compensation compared to other positions. While this is never a good equation, it just doesn't seem feasible to bring back Harrison when the team has so much invested in the defensive line.
Chris Ivory, RB - Estimated contract value $4-6M/year
Ivory is a really difficult case to predict. When healthy and rested, Chris Ivory can make a case for being the hardest running back to stop in the NFL. Unfortunately, Ivory's voracious running style doesn't allow him to remain healthy and rested for an entire season. For all the hype that Ivory garnered this season (much of which is deserved), Ivory only had three 100 yard rushing performances for the entire season and barely broke 1,000 yards. Until this year, Ivory had never reached 200 carries or 900 yards in a season. Ivory provides very little as a receiver or blocker, making him a big liability on 3rd downs. As much as I love seeing Ivory bulldoze defenders in spectacular fashion, it would be hard for me to justify spending big money on a 27 year old back with career highs of 247 attempts and 1070 yards that isn't a 3 down back and has a riddled injury history. It's just too easy to replace running back production with mid round picks these days to spend money on an older back with so many concerns.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB - Estimated contract value $5-9M/year
It's hard to determine what Fitzpatrick's contract value would be coming into 2016. Despite all the praise heaped on Fitzpatrick this season, he ranked 24th in passer rating and completed below 60% of his passes while throwing to one of the NFL's best receiving tandems in Marshall and Decker. He had a solid season and does everything that you could ask for off the field, but is he good enough to get you to the playoffs? There probably isn't a better position for Fitzpatrick than with the Jets. His OC knows how to put him in the best position to win, his receivers are exceptional, there is really no other option at quarterback just yet, and he is well liked by his teammates and the fanbase. It's in everyone's best interest for the Jets to sign him for a few more years, but his value is pretty difficult to determine. He would likely command around $7-8M per year with (at least) a small amount of money guaranteed 2-3 years down the line. Frankly, the Jets can't afford to let Fitzpatrick walk. He is a good fit for Gailey's offense, he has great chemistry with his receivers, and his movement in the pocket helped to cover up a subpar offensive line.
Demario Davis, LB - Estimated contract value $2-4M/year
I'm not really sure what teams will be willing to offer Davis in terms of a contract. At best, Davis is a durable starter. At worst, he's a major liability in coverage who offers little in terms of a pass rush. Linebackers who can't rush the passer or cover tight ends/running backs aren't worth much in today's NFL, and Davis is an absolute disaster in coverage. The Jets are unlikely to bring Davis back and apparently see enough in Erin Henderson to believe that he should be prioritized over Davis moving forward. Davis is exactly the type of player that you let walk in free agency. He gave the Jets 4 years of cheap, mediocre play in exchange for a 3rd round pick. Now that he will start to cost millions, the Jets would be smart to let another team pay him and hopefully pick up a compensatory pick.
Bilal Powell, RB - Estimated contract value $1-3M/year
I'm not sure if Powell did enough last year to expect anything longer than another one or two year deal. While he showed some pop as a receiver out of the backfield, Powell is hardly irreplaceable. While he compiled over 700 total yards in 2015, he was hardly a dynamic threat. If Powell is looking for money in the $1.5-2M range, I could see the Jets bringing him back as a decent fit for Gailey's offense. Considering that the Jets are a cap-strapped team and that young, cheap running backs are always available later in the draft and produce in years 1-2, it would also make sense for the Jets to move on if they believe that they can replace Powell's production. Personally, I'd like to see the Jets invest multiple draft picks in running backs rather than handing out contracts they can't really afford. I can see them going either way, though.
Calvin Pace, LB - Estimated contract value $1M/year
I'd like to say that Calvin Pace is the ageless wonder, but it's really not the case. He's shown pretty considerable decline year after year, and it's about time that the Jets move on. At 35 years old, Pace may be inclined to retire this year as well. While he may have a bit more to give a team in a rotation, he really shouldn't be playing more than 20-25% of the snaps. I'd be all right with the Jets bringing Pace back into camp at the veteran minimum, but it's really time to find his replacement and he should not be getting considerable playing time anymore.
Erin Henderson, LB - Estimated contract value $1-2M/year
Henderson looked good when healthy for the Jets, eventually working his way into the starting lineup in somewhat of a timeshare with Demario Davis. As a cheaper alternative to Demario Davis, Henderson is pretty likely to return to the Jets at a reasonable price. Henderson didn't really show the NFL enough to redeem himself after losing his 2014 season to off the field problems, but he has plenty of value to the Jets, as he is familiar with the defense and players. He is also a better fit than Davis for Bowles' defense, which doesn't put nearly as much emphasis on the second interior linebacker.
Stevan Ridley, RB - Estimated contract value $1-2M/year
Ridley was one of Maccagnan's few free agency whiffs, providing very little after recovering from a serious knee injury that caused him to miss a large portion of the 2015 season. With 36 carries for 90 yards (2.5 YPA) and 4 receptions for -2 yards (-0.5YPR), it's hard to see any upside in bringing back Ridley. Yes, he was probably held back a bit by his recovery. Still, Ridley has never been a threat as a receiver and is an undersized power back with fumbling issues. There are better options in free agency and the draft.
Willie Colon, G - Estimated contract value $1-2M/year
While Colon has not been a good or consistent player over the last couple of seasons, there really isn't any harm in bringing him back at the veteran minimum every year to compete for a spot in camp. The Jets have yet to find a young guard who can take his place in the starting lineup, and until they do, I can't really see any reason to let him walk when he's so affordable. I'd love for someone to step up and take his place or for the Jets to sign a free agent G like Kelechi Osemele or Alex Boone, but the cap space really isn't there. The Jets would be wise to bring Colon back with no guaranteed money and see if he can squeeze out one more.
Leger Douzable, DL - Estimated contract value $1-2M/year
Douzable is a reliable backup on the defensive line who won't command much on the open market. The Jets would be well-served to bring him back as a low cost depth option if he's interested in sticking with the team. That said, he only tallied 10 tackles and no sacks in 2015, so he's hardly irreplaceable if the Jets choose to go in a different direction.
Minimum Salary Role Players
Ryan Quigley, P
Quigley will probably be back in camp to compete, but the Jets should move on. He regularly shanks punts or outkicks his coverage. It's impossible to convince me that the Jets can't find a better option on the scrap heap.
Kenbrell Thompkins, WR
Personally, I liked what I saw from Thompkins in Gailey's offense and I think he should come back at the minimum.
Antonio Allen, S
Though he's recovering from an injury, Allen seems like a good fit in Bowles' system. Due to his injury, we have no idea what Bowles' thinks of bringing Allen back, but I'd like to give him a shot in camp.
Darrin Walls, CB
Walls was pretty much a disaster in 2014 and not much better in 2015. I don't see any upside to bringing him back for 2016.
Jaiquawn Jarrett, S
I don't have a particularly strong opinion on Jarrett, but at the minimum, there's no downside to bringing him into camp. He flashed a bit in Bowles' system, so the Jets might as well bring him back for another year and see what they can get from him.
Stephen Bowen, DL
I really didn't see anything from Bowen in his one year stint with the Jets. He's not a terrible depth player, but I don't see the point in bringing him back after last season.
Chris Owusu, WR
While I really like Owusu's return ability and skill out of the slot, his concussion history makes continuing his NFL career too dangerous for me to get on board. Please retire.
Ben Ijalana, OT
I can't honestly say that I have any idea of what Ijalana brings to the table because he never gets to show us, so I tossed a coin. Just kidding: The Jets should try to avoid bringing back players they know will never be starters and that seems to be the case with Ijalana.
Zach Sudfeld, TE
Sudfeld is probably best known for being Baby Gronk and the player who ruined week 2 of 2014 for Jets fans. He's a very good special teams player, though. If he's recovered from his injury, I'd be happy to bring him back as a special teams ace.
Randy Bullock, K
Bullock did a pretty good job for a scrap heap kicker. I'm fine with bringing him back to compete for the position with the overpaid Nick Folk.
Jamari Lattimore, LB
He flashed a bit in preseason, but didn't do much during the season. I'd give him a shot to compete in camp.
Kellen Davis, TE
I wasn't impressed by Davis. I don't see any reason to bring him back for another year.