I would like to begin by stating the obvious: we all want the Jets to win the Superbowl. I will clarify my off-season strategy for the Jets by looking at trends between the Superbowl competitors in the last 10 years.
Super Bowl Winners: Patriots, Eagles, Patriots, Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks, Ravens, Giants, Packers, Saints
Super Bowl Losers: Rams, Patriots, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, Broncos, 49ers, Patriots, Steelers, Colts
All of these Superbowl teams fit neatly into 1 of 2 categories except the Giants in 2012, and the Broncos in 2016: They either had a Quarterback on their rookie contract or had a superstar (top 5 quarterback) quarterback or playing in an MVP season.
The Rams, Eagles, Seahawks, Ravens, and 49ers all had quarterbacks in their rookie contracts, and the Patriots, Falcons, Panthers (in 2015), Broncos (in 2014), Packers, Saints and Colts all had quarterbacks that were playing at a top-5 level in the league.
This correlation signifies two things to me: to win a Superbowl a quarterback needs to be on a rookie contract in which he will be playing at a high level for a reasonable price and a deep roster can be built in other positions, and for that quarterback to be worthy of extension, he needs to be a perennial top-flight MVP candidate.
The Jets clearly fall into the former category. I don't know whether Sam Darnold will turn into one of the best quarterbacks in football, and we don't need to know that know. What Sam Darnold proved in the last 4 games of last season is that he can be AT LEAST a capable quarterback that does not take too much up of the salary cap. With the insane amount of money quarterbacks are getting on second and third contracts, deals in which their performance doesn't justify eating up as significant amount of cap space that they do (see Kirk Cousins in Minnesota for example), it is imperative that the Jets do everything they can now to build a competitive roster, as Sam Darnold is on his rookie contract.
The way I see it is right now the Jets' superbowl window is 4 years, before Darnold's rookie contract is up and will need an extension, and the Jets have maybe the second least talented roster in the NFL, as presently constituted, so in my ideal Jets off-season I will be proposing SIGNIFICANT changes to this roster.
1. Moves the Jets Have already made
Cuts: Spencer Long, Mike Pennel, Terrence Brooks, Kevin Pierre-Louis
ERFA Tender: Davis Webb, Frankie Luvu, Doug Middleton, Anthony Wint, Jeremy Clark, Deontay Burnett, De'angelo Henderson, Ben Braden, Bronson Kaufusi
RFA Tender: Robby Anderson
Re-sign: Jonathan Harrison
Trade: 140th Pick to the Raiders for Kelechi Osemele and the 198th pick
Projected Cap Space: $82,248,082 (Source: OTC)
2. Additional Cuts
Brian Winters, RG, $6,500,000 saved: The o-line was a disaster for the Jets last year, and Brian Winters' massive inconsistency was a large contributor. Cutting him would cost them no dead money, and his "production" can be replaced for a cheaper cost.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, $3,000,00 saved: Another disappointing signing for Mac. 3 million dollars are saved by cutting an inconsistent and injury prone running back. Again, his production can be replaced with more efficient roster moves.
Rashard Robinson, CB, $2,025,000 saved: Why is he still on the roster?
Projected Cap Space: $93,973,082
Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB, 1 year $2 million: Good special teamer, and solid depth piece. Can re-sign him for cheaper this year after an injury riddled season and suspension.
Mike Pennel, NT, 1 year $1.2 million: Solid rotational defensive lineman. Jets didn't pick up his option which leads me to think they can bring him back for cheaper
Josh Martin, OLB, 1 year minimum: Showed a couple flashes a couple years ago. If concussions are not an issue, he could be a solid depth piece.
Brandon Copeland, OLB, 1 year $2 million: Probably the Jets best Edge rusher last year (albeit not a high bar). Should not be a starter next year but will be serviceable as a rotational EDGE piece.
Henry Anderson, DE, 3 years $18 milllion, $10 million guaranteed ($5.5 million cap hit): Had the best season of his career last year, with 7 sacks. One of the few Jets free agents that is deserving of a multi-year extension.
Jason Myers, K, 4 years $12 million, $6 million guaranteed ($3 million cap hit): Need to lock up your pro-bowl special teamer to a multi-year deal.
Andre Roberts, KR/PR/WR, 2 years $8 million ($4 million cap hit): see above
Projected Cap Room: $76,458,082
4. Free Agency
Le'veon Bell, RB, 4 years $67 million, $45 million guaranteed ($20 million cap hit): Bell is the big prize of the off-season, and the Jets have failed to acquire a homegrown superstar playmaker for as long as I can remember. For the Jets to succeed they have to surround Darnold with superstar talent. This contract is front loaded and the first two years of the contract are fully guaranteed. The Jets can cut bait with Bell after three years, without any cap ramifications after three years if Bell declines. Darnold will be on his rookie contract throughout the duration of this contract, so signing Bell makes sense on so many levels for the Jets.
Matt Paradis, C, 4 years $47 million, $18 million guaranteed ($10.5 million cap hit): Obviously after the Spencer long disaster, the Jets need to be serious about acquiring a top-tier center to anchor an incredibly weak 2018 unit. Paradis, although will be on the wrong side of 30 this year, is a top 5 center in the game when healthy.
John Miller, G, 2 years $5 million, $2 million guaranteed ($2.5 million cap hit): Played fairly well last year for the Bills(top 25 PFF guard), and he is still only 26 years old. I expect him to at least replicate Brian Winters' production for a much cheaper cost.
Adam Humphries, WR, 4 years $30 million, $11 million guaranteed ($6 million cap hit): Humphries had the best season of his career last year and is only 25. I can see him slotted in as a solid slot option for the Jets next year
Tyler Eifert, TE, 1 year $4 million: Obviously there is an injury risk with Eifert. But when healthy he is one of the best tight ends in the game. Eifert on a one year prove-it deal, paired up with Chris Herndon could make one of the most lethal tight end duos in the game.
Kareem Jackson, CB, 4 years $38 million, $19 million guaranteed ($9 million cap hit): With Claiborne and Skrine a free agent the Jets should dip into probably the best corner free-agent in a week corner free-agent class. Though I am not thrilled with using this much cap room on one position (along with Trumaine Johnson's massive contract), cornerback is too important a position to neglect, especially since the Jets haven't addressed this position internally.
Travis Swanson, C, 1 year minimum: Played ok for Miami last year, under Gase. Can be a decent depth signing.
Sam Shields,CB, 1 year $2 million: Veteran depth. Can compete with Parry Nickerson for the slot corner job.
Kwon Alexander, ILB, 3 years $11 million, $4 million guaranteed ($3 million cap hit): Young solid inside linebacker depth.
Projected Cap Room: $19,640,082
Round 1, Pick 3 Jets Select Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky: I know the arguments that support the Jets trading down from this pick, but I believe Josh Allen will become an elite pass rusher in the NFL. He has the combination of athleticism, college production, versatility, and skills that indicate he is an elite prospect in one of the most valuable positions in the NFL, and fits a Jets need. This scenario would take place assuming Kyler Murray goes number 1 to the Cardinals and Nick Bosa goes number 2 to the 49ers.
Round 3, Pick 68 Jets Select Bryce Love, RB, Stanford: There are durability concerns but when healthy Love was one of the best backs in college football. This is a risk, but if it succeeds, he will make a lethal duo with Bell
Round 3, Pick 93 Jets Select David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin: After the 2017 season Edwards was projected to be a sure-fire first round pick, but a weak season last year will drop him down to day 2. I still think Edwards has the skills and strength to be a plus run-blocker in the NFL, and this would give the Jets some more O-line depth that is desperately needed.
Round 4, Pick 105 Jets Select David Stills, WR, West Virginia: Stills is an intriguing prospect as he hasn't been a Wide Receiver for very long, yet still put up elite production last year. He will be an excellent red-zone threat and is good at getting 50/50 balls. He is a bit of a raw route runner but if he gets more experience, I think he can turn out to be a really good NFL wide receiver.
Round 6, Pick 198 Jets Select Albert Huggins, NT, Clemson: Huggins didn't get much playing time at Clemson, playing behind the best defensive line in the country, so this pick would be a project. But, Huggins certainly has the measurables and athleticism to be a rotational defensive lineman in the NFL.
Round 7, Pick 217 Jets Select Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State: McSorley doesn't have the arm or size to be a full-time starter in the NFL, but has had the college production to possibly be a good backup in the league. He can compete with Davis Webb for the backup job behind Darnold, or be a practice squad candidate.
Total Rookie Cap Pool: $9,149,167 (OTA estimate)
Final Projected Cap Room: $10,490,015
6. Projected Final Roster
note: starters in bold
QB: Sam Darnold, Davis Webb
RB: Le'veon Bell, Bryce Love, Elijah Mcguire, Trenton Cannon
WR: Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Adam Humphries (slot), David Stills, Andre Roberts, Deontay Burnett, Charone Peake
TE: Chris Herndon, Tyler Eifert, Jordan Leggett
LT: Kelvin Beachum, Ben Braden
LG: Kelechi Osmele, Jonathan Harrison
C: Matt Pardis, Travis Swanson
RG: John Miller
RT: Brandon Shell, David Edwards
DE: Leonard Williams, Henry Anderson, Folorunso Fatukasi, Nathan Shepherd
DT: Mike Pennel, Albert Huggins
OLB: Josh Allen, Jordan Jenkins, Brandon Copeland, Josh Martin, Frankie Luvu
ILB: Avery Williamson, Darron Lee, Kwon Alexander, Kevin Pierre-Louis
CB: Trumaine Johnson, Kareem Jackson, Sam Shields (slot), Derrick Jones, Parry Nickerson (slot), Jeremy Clark
S: Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Doug Middleton, UDFA
K: Jason Myers
P: Lac Edwards
LS: Thomas Hennessy