ESPN’s Mike Sando released a ranking of NFL teams in the order by which they will overhaul their roster. The Jets were number one, ahead of all other teams.
Coach Todd Bowles has never been one for hyperbole, but when his Jets surprisingly won 10 games in 2015, some might have gotten the impression that this team was close to contending. The 5-11 record that followed this season cleared the way, politically, for a roster overhaul that has been a long time coming.
Center Nick Mangold, cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker David Harris have provided excellent production at various points of their Jets tenures, but all are in their 30s and declining. The team could save more than $22 million in 2017 by releasing them.
There is much more work to be done. The Jets' divorce from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is all but final. The team could also move on from both starting tackles (Ryan Clady, Breno Giacomini) and both starting receivers (Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker). Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be another logical subtraction.
The Jets are No. 1 on this list, not just for the volume of expected change but also because so many "name" players at key positions could depart.
The ideal roster is young, inexpensive, and talented. The Jets’ roster in many places is old, expensive, and bad. That combination lends itself to an overhaul.
Sometimes I think analysts get themselves caught up in simplistic two-dimensional thinking about whether a team is “win now” or “building for the future.” Almost the entire league is trying to do both.
When the Jets went on a free agent spending spree two years ago, they were attempting to up their talent level. What they essentially did was build a two year window for the team they built. They largely locked in their roster for 2015 and 2016 with a bunch of contracts that amounted to two (or in some cases one) year deals with options for the Jets to keep players for longer if they succeeded. The deals almost all had escape hatches that would allow the Jets to get out from them after two years if they did not work out.
There wasn’t necessarily anything magical or exceptionally smart. That’s just the way most NFL contracts are. On most of the deals, the Jets got their money’s worth in 2015 but not in 2016 so they are moving on.
The big issue on this roster isn’t the weight they will be shedding. It is that they are entering a third year of a regime, and the team’s expectations still seem low.
Free agent moves not panning out certainly hurts, but the bigger problem has been the lack of promising young talent. Leonard Williams is the only young player added in the last two years who is a plus starter right now.
They also seem no closer to finding the quarterback who will be so essential to building a winner. There are two young quarterbacks under contract, and neither has shown much of the field to merit optimism.
An overhaul is essential. Have no doubt about that. This team won’t become a winner, however, by just overhauling free agents. The front office needs to do a better job procuring young talent, and the coaching staff needs to develop the young guys who are already there.