At this point of the NFL season, it is still very hard to project exactly what type of direction the eliminated New York Jets will go in during the off-season. There are too many variables at play.
In terms of players, it is easy to throw around names off of free agency lists and throw darts at the board to come up with draft picks but it will take a little more time for real options to come into focus. There will be conflicting reports in the coming months about the Jets cap situation. I find a reliable source to be NYJetsCap.com, which is consistent in painting an accurate picture of where they truly stand.
As of right now, let’s look at what we know about the Jets needs in the off-season -
Right Tackle/Offensive Line Depth – The Jets depth will receive a boost if they get a healthy Robert Turner back. However, we all know they can’t get through another season with Wayne Hunter at right tackle. Based on the structure of his contract, it would be shocker if he wasn’t released. His play wasn’t up to par this year and cutting him will give the Jets some needed cap space. There are no reliable in house options as a replacement and the list of free agents isn’t particularly impressive. The Jets may be wise to bring in a stop gap veteran and draft a tackle in the second or third round to learn behind him and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. They should also bring other bargain basement free agent to provide additional depth, especially if Turner doesn’t come back.
Wide Receiver – Santonio Holmes isn’t going anywhere. It would be too much of a cap hit. He will be back as the Jets number one receiver and promising second year player Jeremy Kerley will be back as the number three. What the Jets need is a split end who can take some pressure off Holmes and create separation between the 20s, which Plaxico Burress couldn’t do. The exciting names on the market are Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, and Brandon Lloyd. I don’t think the Jets will spend that kind of money however. A second tier receiver with potential to grow like Robert Meachem or Laurent Robinson could be a smarter buy, especially if he is paired with a speedy receiver in the fourth or fifth round to develop behind him.
Running Back – I don’t think anybody should be fully confident in a trio of Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight, and Bilal Powell leading the Jets run heavy, Tony Sparano approach. Matt Forte and Maurice Jones-Drew are probably pipe dreams at best but there are some other intriguing veteran options, namely Ryan Grant, Jason Snelling, Tashard Choice, Derrick Ward, and Steve Slaton. I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Jets considered adding Ronnie Brown on a veteran’s minimum deal, with Sparano now heading the offense. Mike Tannenbaum has also drafted four running backs in the past three years, so expect another one.
Quarterback – The Jets need a competent number two to push Mark Sanchez. Chad Henne is the name you will hear the most (outside of Peyton Manning, which I still say has about a 5% chance of happening), but Jason Campbell, Brady Quinn, and Dennis Dixon could be other good veteran options.
Tight End – The Jets will likely use Jeff Cumberland and Josh Baker more after they cut Matthew Mulligan but Tony Sparano may want to bring another blocking option in house.
Defensive Line – I don’t see the Jets doing much here outside of resigning Sione Pouha. There have been some rumblings about Mike DeVito potentially being cut to save money but I have hard time seeing that happen, considering how well he fits in Rex Ryan’s scheme.
Linebacker – Nobody would argue with Bart Scott or Calvin Pace being cut but the cap hit could be too much to eat. I still wouldn’t be shocked if Scott was cut regardless, but that means the Jets need an inside linebacker along with the outside linebacker they already need. I would expect the Jets first round pick to have a high probability of being an outside linebacker and maybe they can talk Bryan Thomas to coming back on a cheap deal to hold the spot while he develops. Aaron Maybin should be brought back and Jamaal Westerman is on the bubble.
Safety – The Jets probably need two new starting safeties but with all the other previously mentioned needs, how realistic is that? A few early mock drafts have them taking Mark Barron but who knows at this point? If they don’t take an outside linebacker in round one, it will likely be a safety and if they don’t take a safety in round one, they better take one in round two and then another one later in the draft. Have you seen New England’s tight ends lately? Cutting Eric Smith makes sense financially and on the field. Jim Leonhard could come back cheap to provide some veteran stability. LaRon Landry is the most exciting name on the free agent list but he could be too pricey.