Throughout the New York Jets off-season TOJ will be discussing their ongoing free agency and draft situation with various other writers. Today we talked with Donald Lappe from Jets 101 on a number of different topics -
NYJ101 – There is a lot of different things floating around about the Jets’ salary cap issues. Putting the salary cap craziness aside, what should be their first order of business when free agency opens?
TOJ - The Jets need to take care of their own first, which means bringing back Sione Pouha. This team has made a bad habit of letting leaders…and productive leaders at that walk away from the team. They need him back both as an anchor to their run defense in the 3-4 and one of the few people worthy of a “C” on his chest in the locker room.
NYJ101 – The guaranteed salary jump for Wayne Hunter basically means he’ll be on the roster this season. Are the Jets going to ride with him as their starter on the right side? Do you expect a new face to be brought in or will the competition be between him and some lesser-knowns(Howard, Ducasse, Rob Turner if he’s back)?
TOJ – I expect the Jets to bring in a mid-level free agent, maybe somebody like Vernon Carey and to spend a middle round pick on a right tackle. In camp, there should be an open competition for the job. Ideally, Hunter settles into a backup role and only plays in their “big” packages.
NYJ101 – The Jets are in the market for younger, somewhat cheap wide receiver to play across from Santonio Holmes. Any names that jump out at you?
TOJ – There are three that jump out: Robert Meachem, Laurent Robinson, and Pierre Garcon. Meachem in particular has the speed and upside to be a potentially great fit opposite of Holmes. I don’t think Indy is going to let Garcon walk but if they do, the Jets should take a long at him.
TOJ – A pass rushing outside linebacker. This problem has been ignored for far too long by the Jets front office. They need somebody who can get after the quarterback without Rex Ryan having to dial up a blitz.
NYJ101 – The Jets have shown a willingness to trade up and get their guy(Sanchez, Revis). They have a good amount of needs. Are you trading up for an impact guy or are you stockpiling picks?
TOJ – They haven’t had a high amount of draft picks in recent years, which has hurt their depth. However, after the compensatory picks are handed out the Jets should have 8-9 total picks this time around. While I would like to see them leave the draft with about that many players, I wouldn’t object to making a move to acquire Courtney Upshaw or another pass rusher.
NYJ101 – It’s pick No. 16 and Courtney Upshaw, Mark Barron and Melvin Ingram are all available. Who are you taking?
TOJ – Upshaw. He is somebody who played on a championship defense in college and can make an immediate impact getting after the quarterback.
TOJ – Are you confident in Shonn Greene as the Jets lead back? What kind of potential do you think Joe McKnight has in this offense going forward?
NYJ101 – I really am confident in Greene to be the main guy. There’s a lot of different opinions on Greene and I think that comes from his running style. He’s a plodder, but he wears on the defense as the game goes along. Early on in the season the Jets were quick to move away from him when the early returns in individual games were 2-3 yard per carry. I think a great example of the strength of Shonn Greene is the Redskins game. Before his 25-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter he only had 63 yards on 21 carries, but he helped the Jets control the pace of the game, chew up the clock and when the Redskins defense was tired at the end of the game he delivered the knockout blow.
McKnight has a great chance to grow in this offense. It’s an interesting parallel for him in his career with Tony Sparano coming in because he was supposed to be the next Reggie Bush at USC and now Sparano comes to the Jets after Bush was his feature back in Miami. He’s not going to see anywhere near the carries Bush did last season, but 5-10 carries a game and more of an emphasis on him in the screen game would be a nice step this season. On a team that is desperate for speed and big plays, McKnight has to get more touches on offense this season.
NYJ101 – Seems like the smart move. The injuries were really freak occurrences and the coverage issues with him and Eric Smith are a product of the pair more than any one player. While it’s easy to say the team needs an upgrade at safety, it’s a completely different thing to find an available one at a price that works. I think the best way the Jets can address their safety issues is with an improved pass rush. Leonhard is smart, tough and should be cheap.
NYJ101 – This is a tough one. The problem becomes eating that salary and then finding a replacement that is legitimately better and doesn’t sabotage addressing the other needs the team has. I don’t think the team believes in Josh Mauga as an every-down linebacker. You have to keep Scott and hope that he has a bit of a bounce back season. He showed some flashes of the old Bart late in the season. He’s not going to be the player he was a few years ago, but getting one more season out of him is the way to go.