Following Rex Ryan’s decision to replace the embattled Mark Sanchez with third string quarterback Greg McElroy this past Tuesday, multiple reports have surfaced citing unnamed sources within the organization claiming that the powers that be in Florham Park will decide to part ways with both Sanchez, and second string quarterback Tim Tebow, following the conclusion of the 2012 season. However, much like the Mayan Calendar, the script for the New York Jets has not yet been written beyond 2012. While the said powers that be may be in favor of moving both Sanchez and Tebow, there is a very good chance that they are no longer the powers that be following the week 17 season finale in Buffalo. Regardless of what sources are claiming, or what reports are emerging, there is simply no way that a front office and coaching staff, seemingly walking on eggshells trying desperately to save their jobs within these final two weeks, have had the time to sit down and discuss monumental decisions like the ones mentioned above.
Following New York’s disastrous, playoff ending loss to Tennessee on Monday night, Rex Ryan supposedly made the decision to bench Sanchez as his team shamefully strolled into the locker room. On Tuesday afternoon, Ryan announced his decision to the media, and by Wednesday night, the Jets had apparently decided to not only move on from both Sanchez and Tebow, but to pursue Michael Vick in free agency this offseason. So, let’s think about this, chronologically for a minute.
Monday 12/17/2012, roughly 11:00 PM EST: Ryan notifies Sanchez he will not be the starting quarterback for the Jets week 16 matchup against San Diego.
Tuesday 12/18/2012, 3:52 PM EST: The New York Jets official twitter account announces that Greg McElroy will be the starting quarterback for the Jets final home game of 2012 season.
Wednesday 12/19/2012, 9:44 PM EST: Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports via Twitter that the New York Jets will try to trade Mark Sanchez following the conclusion of the season.
Wednesday 12/19/2012, 9:58 PM EST: Mehta tweets the link to the full story on the Jets apparent decision to move Sanchez after the season. Included in that story is another unnamed source confirming that the Jets do have interest in soon to be free agent Michael Vick, citing Rex Ryan’s “love” for Vick as the “X-Factor” in the veteran signal caller coming to New York this offseason.
Thursday 12/20/2012, 12:02 PM EST: The Daily News reports the Jets will look to trade or release Tim Tebow following the conclusion of the season.
So, according to Mehta and other various reports, in just over a day after naming McElroy the starting quarterback for this week, the Jets also decided that they will not only be parting ways with a former top 5 draft pick, whom they traded up to obtain, but have already had discussions about bringing in another high profile veteran to replace him.
Hmm. 24 hours is surely a long time, particularly in the NFL where sleep is relatively scarce during the season. However, for a front office and coaching staff desperately scrambling to find a way to somehow save their jobs, after another miserable performance that ultimately ended their season, it does not seem logical that they’d be using what little time they have to muster up a .500 record by discussing trading two of their highest profile players, and acquiring another, within 48 hours, on a 6 day week.
We also aren’t just talking about making mindless releases, trades, and additions to the roster. We are talking about a concluded plan on how to deal with a player who was once viewed as the face of the franchise, is owed over $8 million in guarantees next season, counts for $17 million against the salary cap if released, and is someone that both the head coach and general manager have pledged their undying loyalty to. We are also talking about moving one of the most polarizing figures in all of professional sports. Then, we are talking about acquiring one of the most controversial, yet dynamic players the NFL has ever seen. Do you honestly think all of this was decided between 11 PM on Monday night and Thursday at noon?
Well, with the Jets, anything is certainly possible. Woody Johnson has become known as one of the greatest knee-jerk reactors in the entire community of professional sports ownership. Could Johnson have muttered some things like this out of extreme frustration, causing someone to overhear him and leak his statements to the News? Sure. But these reports are suggesting that these are organizational decisions, meaning internal discussions between the front office, ownership, and even the coaching staff. As Rex Ryan stated earlier in the week, he is involved in every decision that is made with this team. Whether or not that is true, certainly remains to be seen, but the reality of the fact is that Woody Johnson does not posses nearly the amount of football knowledge that it would take to devise a plan like this in under three days, without consulting with the people he pays to run his team. You can rest assured Ryan did not partake in any such discussion this week, considering he is likely coaching to save his job in these final two games. Do you honestly think he’s sitting in a meeting room with Mike Tannenbaum mapping out their future, when the future of both men is insanely unclear?
What I am alluding to here is obvious. However, for the sake of argument, let’s say that Tannenbaum has met with his staff and these discussions were, in fact, had, and these decisions were, in fact, made. Let’s assume all of this speculation is one hundred percent true. Now let’s assume that the Jets lose their final two games, finish 6-10 and everyone, including Rex Ryan and Tannenbaum, are relieved of their duties. Now all of a sudden the roster is frozen. No moves will be made until a new regime – GM, front office, and coaching staff – is installed.
Now, we suddenly have a General Manager and head coach who come in and take a long look at the roster on day one, considering the play of each person on the team, as well as contract terms and conditions. This imaginary GM looks down at his roster, studying it closely. He sees the name Mark Sanchez. He then looks to his salary figures, noticing the guaranteed money, and potential cap trouble if Sanchez is outright released. This GM now has a massive decision to make. Does he give Sanchez one more chance to compete to be the starting quarterback for the Jets, or does he begin his reign as General Manager by releasing Sanchez and crippling himself with a $17 million cap hit?
Then that same General Manager continues to look over the roster and sees the name Tim Tebow. He consults with his new coach about the player. For the sake of argument, let’s say that coach is Jon Gruden, a red hot name on the list of potential NFL head coach replacements for 2013. Gruden then begins to gush to his new GM about how he has spent time at Oregon with Chip Kelly learning the spread offense, and how he thinks he can make it work at the professional level. He then tells his general manager that the only person on the current roster to make that system effective, is Tim Tebow. Now, all of a sudden Tebow goes from being thrown out of town, to the foundation of this team’s rebuilding process.
Are either of these situations going to happen? No one knows at this particular point in time, but that’s just the point. If the regime that is in place now is replaced, all supposed roster decisions that you have heard in the last few days are suddenly meaningless. While it is still unlikely that the current regime has made these decisions already, it is even more unlikely that the majority of the decision makers within the front office will be with the organization next year, rendering any apparent decisions for 2013 completely obsolete. Basically, we know very little about what this team will look like in 2013.
So what do we know? Well, the Jets have several key players under contract that will surely be on the team next season. They also have very inexpensive role players that will likely stick around as well. Then, there are a surplus of players who have underperformed and will be released to create cap relief, as well as players whose contracts will expire after this season, many of whom will not be brought back.
Then comes the interesting portion of the roster. Outside of Sanchez and Tebow, there are several players whose respective fates remain up in the air depending on what happens with the powers that be of the New York Jets. Below is a chart of what you can expect to become of every player currently under contract with the Jets, including a list of those players whose fortunes have yet to be decided, regardless of what you may hear or read, for the reasons aforementioned.
Let’s start with who will remain on the team beyond 2012. In the secondary, Antonio Allen and Josh Bush are two rookies who have each contributed in relatively small roles this season. Allen has impressed the coaching staff enough to earn rare public praise from Special Teams Coordinator Mike Westhoff, while Bush has chipped in sporadically on defense and special teams throughout the year. Both Allen and Bush are very young, inexpensive players, who will see their roles grow in the coming years. Kyle Wilson is Kyle Wilson, but will make just over $2 million next season. While he hasn’t performed to the level of where he was drafted yet, there is no reason for him to be moved. Ellis Lankster certainly isn’t Deion Sanders, but at $630,000, he has played beyond his pay grade this season.
At linebacker, DeMario Davis was drafted to replace Bart Scott, a role he will likely step into next year, barring any unforeseen additions to the position this offseason. Garrett McIntyre shouldn’t be asked to start, but has played well in his time as a reserve this season, and will likely be the only returning outside linebacker on the roster. Nick Bellore is a solid special teams player who makes just over a half a million dollars per year. These players will all be Jets in 2013.
Along the defensive line, Wilkerson, Coples, and Ellis are primed to become one of the most dominant units in the league, with youngster Damon Harrison providing a much cheaper alternative to spell Ellis at NT than anyone else currently on the roster.
The offensive line has cornerstones in Ferguson and Mangold, while Austin Howard has certainly played well enough to come into camp as the starting right tackle next season. Vlad Ducasse hasn’t been nearly as horrible as he has looked in the past, and at under a million dollars in salary next season, he provides inexpensive experience on the interior of the offensive line.
Jeremy Kerley has played tremendously all season, and he should be a big part of this team’s plans moving forward. Although Stephen Hill had his troubles this season, he is still an extremely bright prospect with tremendous upside. Considering this, and the fact that the organization used a 2nd round pick to obtain him, expect him around for the long run.
At running back, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight remain under contract at low costs. Powell has played well this season, and should be the team’s 1B back next year, with McKnight playing his usual role on special teams, while still trying to find some type of niche in the offense.
The specialists Folk, Malone, and Purdum have all performed well this season, and there is no reason to fix what isn’t broken.
To the far right of the chart lies the list of names that you can all but certainly rule out for a return to Gang Green in 2013. Eric Smith has been nothing more than a role player this season, a role that will likely be filled by Antonio Allen next season. The longest tenured Jet among the safeties becomes the first salary cap casualty, allowing New York to save $3 million upon his release.
Calvin Pace and Bart Scott have been solid players for this team in the past, but neither have performed to their pay grade over the past two seasons. Both would have been cut following 2011 if not for having guaranteed money due to them in 2012. This year, New York can save about $15 million in cap space with a release of both players. Their days with the Jets are all but finished. Bryan Thomas played his heart out this season after being cut and resigned before the year, but he is on a one year contract and will likely retire.
Sione Pouha has been fantastic for this organization, but unfortunately back injuries have taken their toll and diminished his play. With the emergence of Ellis, the Jets can save about $1.5 million i cap space by releasing Pouha.
At running back, Shonn Greene was a monumental part of the two AFC Championship game runs, but he has proved he is not a lead back at the NFL level. Greene is still a very capable 1B option, but the Jets need a true 1A at the position. With how Powell has played this season, the Jets will be wise to insert him into the 1B role, while spending the money saved by allowing Greene to leave to get a true lead back via free agency. Lex Hilliard was average at times, and awful at other times. The team needs a real solution at fullback, rather than an emergency signing to cover for the botched John Conner pick.
At wide receiver, Gates, Gilyard and Schilens were all brought here out of panic in an effort to assemble a last minute receiving corps for Mark Sanchez, but all are free agents at the end of the year, and not one of them has earned the chance to receive a new contract. Dedrick Epps, to my surprise, is still on the injured reserve, but there’s no reason for him to be back next season in what will likely be an entirely revamped group of tight ends. Josh Baker showed promise early in his career, but injuries and an overall lack of production have worn out his time in New York.
Now we get to the interesting part. In the middle of the chart above is a list of players whose fates with the Jets will ultimately be decided by a number of factors, none of which are apparent at the present moment. The most eye popping names are Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Revis has been the best player on this team for 3 years, but his future hinges on the GM situation. If Tannenbaum remains in charge, expect Revis to be gone. Tannenbaum and Revis’s agents have a poor relationship, have failed to come to a long term agreement in the past, and likely have little interest in working with each other on a new deal. If Tannenbaum is the GM of the Jets, look for him to try to move his All-Pro CB to alleviate some of the cap trouble that he created, while obtaining some much needed draft picks in return.
Cromartie’s situation really depends on what happens with Revis. If Tannenbaum is fired, there is a good chance that the new General Manager comes in and makes signing Revis to a long term deal his first priority. If that becomes the case, look for that GM to move Cromartie, who is coming off of a career year with trade value likely higher than it will ever be. The Jets are a team in dire need of cap relief, and when you don’t have the luxury of being flexible with your salary cap, it is not feasible to have two highly paid cornerbacks on your roster.
Yeremiah Bell stated that he would like to be back with the Jets, but this again depends on the GM. A new hire may want youth at the position. Personally, I see Bell coming back either way on a one year, inexpensive contract, but his situation can certainly go one way or the other. LaRon Landry has played very well this season, but will look to cash in and will likely command more money than the Jets can give him. A return is not completely out of the question, but as of now it looks highly unlikely.
Aaron Berry, Donnie Fletcher, Darrin Walls, and Isaiah Trufant are all inexpensive, but none have contributed much of anything due to injury or other circumstances.
Josh Mauga is a restricted free agent, and after missing a year to injury, his situation will likely depend on how well the regime in place feels he can come back. Ricky Sapp has been on and off the practice squad all season, while struggling through injuries, but could stick around through mini-camps and training camp due to the overhaul of the position.
Mike DeVito is a fundamental piece to the defensive line, but his situation remains as unclear as any. Tannenbaum has a history of letting players like DeVito leave rather than paying them their market value, and having drafted Quinton Coples last year, you have to wonder how much any GM will be willing to pay for DeVito, who will likely end up as a reserve/situational player if he remains with the team next season.
On the offensive line, it is mind boggling that Caleb Schlauderaff still has a spot on this team. Any competent GM will likely release him simply to regain his roster spot, but for some reason, Mike Tannenbaum is infatuated with him, convinced he will become the next Victor Cruz. So, if Tannenbaum sticks around, expect more Schlauderaff in 2013. Matt Slauson has played relatively well this season but his status also depends on the front office. Slauson will be an unrestricted free agent this year, and will likely be seeking a decent contract. If the Jets are confident with Ducasse and a rookie or cheaper free agent occupying the guard spots, they will let Slauson walk. If they see him as valuable, the price will need to be right.
Wide Receiver and Tight End are also very intriguing. Santonio Holmes, like Mark Sanchez, is due a surplus of guaranteed money next year, however unlike Sanchez, he may hold some type of trade value. It is difficult to gauge exactly what that value would be considering he has missed the majority of the season due to injury and has been known to be a headache in the locker room. If the Jets wish to move Holmes, they will likely have to pay part of his salary as well. This is very unlikely, but if a new GM with a no-nonsense attitude comes in, he could make a clean break with Holmes before developing any type of relationship with him.
Braylon Edwards will probably be back on a one year, inexpensive deal, but again, this depends on what happens with the front office and coaching staff. A new GM with no history with Edwards may be indifferent toward signing him. Conversely, if Rex Ryan is fired, and Mark Sanchez is released or traded, Edwards may look to go to a more stable quarterback situation (or wherever Sanchez ends up).
Jordan White has potential to be a solid contributor, but he was a seventh round pick, and if a new GM is brought in, he certainly isn’t guaranteed anything. Royce Adams will not see a down on the active roster next year, but could hang around on the practice squad for another season.
Dustin Keller is likely going to leave via free agency, however if a new offensive coordinator, someone like Norv Turner, is brought in, perhaps the Jets and Keller regain interest in one another with the implementation of a pass heavy offense, with a relatively large role for the tight end. Jeff Cumberland and Konrad Reuland have been average at best, but one of them could hang around as the third tight end, assuming two are added either by draft or free agency, or one is added and Keller is retained. Aussie Hayden Smith should be back for the offseason, and will likely get another crack at making the active roster in training camp.
The quarterbacks, as described above, are both likely to be gone under the current regime. However, as we have explained, a new General Manager and coach could come in and have a different vision for either of these two, whether it be potential cap ramifications or judgment of their actual ability. While all signs surely point to both not being here next season, there are far too many factors that will play into that decision, making their futures unrealistic to predict at this point in time. Tebow has apparently expressed displeasure with the organization for choosing to start Greg McElroy over him, but what if Tebow gets a chance to start in week 17 for some reason? Or what if a coach comes in with a vision to build around him? The same goes for Sanchez. While it is certainly fair to speculate on their futures based on how things have played out so far, it is still too early to predict what will happen after the season.
By now, you’re probably asking yourself how the Jets will address all of the positions that will be vacated next season. Be sure to check back later in the week for an exploration of the best possible Free Agent options for the Jets by position, as well as an introductory draft piece that will kick start our draft coverage here at Turn On The Jets.
**All New York Jets salary cap information courtesy of www.nyjetscap.com**