Preliminary Look At Jets Off-Season

Photobucket 

First a few updates:

1. Rex Ryan ruffled some feathers yesterday by saying the Jets were going to be the best show in town next season. I listened to the press conference and think most people are taking it the wrong way as some big time shot at the Giants. Basically, Ryan said when the Jets were playing at home it was going to be Jets Stadium and when they were playing at home, they were going to be the biggest show in town. Giants fans really got their panties in a bunch yesterday on the local radio shows after hearing the press conference, which was pretty laughable. If they are so confident they are still the number one team in town (which they are until the Jets win or at least get to a Super Bowl) why are they so insecure about what a Jets coach says in a press conference? Maybe it is because their team quit on them the last two weeks of the year, has one of the NFL’s worst defenses, and is heading into 2010 as the third best team in their own division.

2. I am surprised the line is so high on the Super Bowl…the last I saw it was at 5.5 in favor of the Colts. I would imagine the Saints will be able to exploit the Colts secondary. However, I guess Peyton Manning is playing so well right now that nobody wants to bet against them. I will be pulling for the Saints, not out of bitterness but because they have never won one before and the Colts just got one in 2006.

3. I am still trying to find out where all the Jets draft picks are for April. Unless what I have read online is wrong (which is a definite possibility) the Jets only have a 1st round (#29 overall), 2nd, round, 6th round, and 7th round pick. They lost their 3, 4, and 5 from the Braylon Edwards and Lito Sheppard trades. This might be a year to trade down and stockpile some more picks.

4. Non-Jets Related Off-Season Talk – LOST premieres in a week and yes i am very excited about that, you want to fill your free time in the off-season go rent the DVDs and catch up…I was watching the Knicks before the AFC Championship Game and not only were they wearing ridiculously ugly orange socks, they also lost by 50 freakin’ points, it was like watching Marist play Syracuse, I mean c’mon now, we aren’t convincing LeBron to come play for a team that bad…Has anybody had a worse off-season in baseball than the Mets? Even though the Yankees won the World Series, they still did much more to improve their team. Have you seen their line-up and pitching rotation for 2010? Wow.

Preliminary Look At Jets Off-Season

There is nothing like the dead period from when your team is eliminated from the playoffs until the start of free agency (March 5th, my birthday by the way), plenty of time to enjoy mid-season NBA and NHL, and college basketball and off course look at all the potential things the Jets could do to improve in 2010. Make no mistake, the Jets have work to do this off-season. The playoff run was terrific. They found their identity. The future is bright. However, they only won nine games in the regular season. It is time to take the next step, which means becoming a 11-12 win division winner who is hosting playoff games and hopefully getting a bye. What are the issues facing the Jets this off-season and where could they improve? Let’s take a look:

Defense

PhotobucketThe early reports coming from the organization is that the Jets will be looking to revamp their secondary after it was torn to shreds by Peyton Manning. Rex Ryan didn’t sound too confident in Kerry Rhodes coming back in his press conference yesterday. Basically, he said he wasn’t going to beg anybody to come back who didn’t really want to be here and that he wants committed players on his defense. Ryan refused to give details about a discussion him and Rhodes had considering his future with the team. Personally, I think Rhodes improved after his benching and would be crazy to want to leave New York. I am not sure if a guy like him wants to move out of the biggest market in the country and what defensive player wouldn’t want to play for Rex Ryan? The Jets owe Rhodes a roster bonus in March and will likely explore trade options but I am not sure how big the market is going to be for him. Obviously, the Jets minor league team (Cleveland) will be interested but unless the Jets are getting good value back and have plan to replace him, I don’t want to see Rhodes go. The secondary isn’t improving by trading Rhodes for a 5th round pick and then having James Ihedigbo and Eric Smith split reps at safety.

Lito Sheppard is a goner. There is no way the Jets are paying him a roster bonus in March. It is also being reported that Jets are likely going to part ways with nickel back Donald Strickland, who was productive when healthy this past year but always seemed to be banged up. I’d also be shocked to see Drew Coleman back next year.

Remember the Jets are limited in free agency because of the rules under the old CBA. They can only sign the same number of free agents that they lose. Regardless, Mike Tannenbaum is a creative guy with trades and with Strickland, Sheppard, and potentially Rhodes all likely ending up with new teams the Jets will have some room to operate.

Remember the Jets spent all three draft picks on offense last year, so you can bet Rex Ryan will be pushing for defensive help in the first two rounds of the draft. The Jets need a corner to pair with Darrelle Revis and a guy to compete for nickel reps. You have to expect at least one of their draft picks to be on a defensive back and trade options to be explored. The cornerback market isn’t loaded with talent although there are some quality guys (Richard Marshall, Carlos Rogers, Fabian Washington). If the Jets get rid of Rhodes, Roman Harper, Nick Collins, and Antoine Bethea are all free agents.

Outside of the secondary, the Jets need a pass rusher. Everybody knows this but finding a big time pass rusher isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. If the Jets don’t spend their first round pick on a corner, it will be on on outside linebacker/defensive end pass rushing prospect. Vernon Gholston will likely be cut this year and even if he isn’t, he has proven to be a bust. The Jets are pretty old along the defensive front, so don’t be surprised to see more than one new face added through the draft, free agency, or a trade.

Offense

PhotobucketDespite the defense carrying the Jets this past season, it needs more help than the offense does. The Jets are young at key positions and have a talented core to build around (Sanchez, Greene, Washington, Edwards, Keller, Mangold, Ferguson, Cotchery, Smith). Braylon Edwards is going to be given the highest tender as a restricted free agent, so he will be back. Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, and Dustin Keller are a pretty good trio of targets for Sanchez to grow with. However, the Jets could still use a slot receiver. Brad Smith is a valuable offensive weapon but isn’t a wide receiver and David Clowney is no better than a number 4/5. Chansi Stuckey would really be the perfect guy to fill this role but unfortunately the Jets had to give him up to acquire Edwards. The Jets could also use a better #2 tight end. Ben Hartsock is a good blocker but is no threat as a receiver and has too many costly penalties called on him.

On the offensive line, the Jets need to start thinking about their long term replacements for Alan Faneca and Damien Woody. I am confident the Jets will pay Faneca his roster bonus in February because he has started every game since signing his contract and maintained a high level of play. Yet, the Jets could really only bank on one or maybe if they are lucky two more seasons from the Faneca/Woody combination before they break down or their level of play falls off. Hopefully, guys like Matt Slauson, Robert Turner, and Wayne Hunter are developing into potential starters but it wouldn’t hurt to spend another late round pick on an offensive lineman.

Running back will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on. Will Tony Richardson want to come back for another year? If not, the Jets will have a big hole to fill at fullback. I think it is the right call to bring Thomas Jones back for the final year of his contract. You don’t know how Leon Washington is going to respond from his injury and Shonn Greene was banged up alot this year. With the way the Jets run their offense, there is no problem with having three backs getting carries. Hopefully, Jones can accept becoming option 1B, since Greene should clearly be the Jets 1A option at running back next year. Despite having a great regular season, there won’t be a huge market for Jones because of his age and because of how his production fell off in the playoffs so it makes sense for both sides to have Jones return.

The Jets also need a veteran backup at quarterback. Kellen Clemens is gone and they would be crazy to go into the year with Erik Ainge and Kevin O’Connell as their top backups. How about Chad Pennington? Seriously, who would be a better mentor for Sanchez and be better equipped to manage the Jets ground and pound if Sanchez was hurt?

Overall

If I had to list the Jets off-season needs as right of now it would look something like this:

  1. Secondary (#2 and #3 corner, potentially safety to replace Rhodes)
  2. Defensive Line/Outside Linebacker (Pass Rusher, Youth on defensive line)
  3. Veteran Backup Quarterback
  4. Offensive Line (Eventual replacements for Faneca/Woody)
  5. #3 Receiver
  6. #2 Tight End

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports