Free agency opens March 13th but that doesn’t mean it is too early to start breaking down potential options for the New York Jets, who have some work to do. Regardless of what one of the Mike’s (Lombardi, Florio, Francesa) in the mainstream media would like you to believe the Jets aren’t that far away from being a playoff contender. And in this day and age, when you are a playoff contender, you are a Super Bowl contender because once you get into that tournament anything can happen.
For today, I am going to work off Pete Prisco’s top 50 free agent rankings, despite strongly disagreeing with his ordering it still provides a good overview of who is available. I will also include a few other players that could interest the Jets who aren’t listed there. Let’s go through their positional needs –
Wide Receiver – Without question the Jets need a new starter opposite Santonio Holmes but don’t expect them to make a splash here by pursuing one of the big name players like Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, or Dwayne Bowe. If the Jets were smart they’d focus their attention on a less pricey speedster like Pierre Garcon or Robert Meachem. Laurent Robinson could be another intriguing option, coming off a very strong year in Dallas. Wanting Braylon Edwards back is a good sentiment but I highly doubt it happens.
Tight End – Look for the Jets to add a blocking tight end to pair with Dustin Keller. Anthony Fasano isn’t a free agent yet but there is chatter he could be released if he doesn’t take a pay cut. If he does hit the open market, don’t be surprised to see Tony Sparano encourage the Jets to pounce on him.
Running Back – The Jets could use another back to provide depth and push Shonn Greene. Ryan Grant is an option with high potential but he could be out of their price range. Tashard Choice and Derrick Ward are cheaper options who have been productive in the past.
Backup Quarterback – Chad Henne makes the most sense here. He knows Sparano’s system, is talented enough to push Sanchez, while still not having enough success in his career yet to have a problem being a backup.
Right Tackle – Demetrius Bell is the best option out there but I have tough time seeing Buffalo letting him walk. Vernon Carey could receive a look because of his history with Sparano. Beyond that, you are looking at a collection of mostly scrap heap veterans or taking a risk on a player like Jared Gaither, who has looked great at times but has injury and attitude questions surrounding him.
Linebacker – Most people feel the Jets will address their need for a pass rusher at outside linebacker through the draft. If they go the free agency route, I don’t see them throwing a big money offer at Mario Williams as some people have suggested. Anthony Spencer is a cheaper option with some upside. Jarrett Johnson and Jameel McClain are Ravens who could receive a look from Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine. Manny Lawson is also a free agent who the Jets were rumored to have some interest in last off-season.
Safety – Considering the Jets could very well need not just one but two safeties, they should take a long look at a very intriguing safety market. LaRon Landry is a big name but is inconsistent in coverage and injury prone. Tyvon Branch would be a better option if he hits the open market, which is a big if. Reggie Nelson and Michael Griffin are good mid-level options who would be an upgrade over Eric Smith, Jim Leonhard, or Brodney Pool.