We are going to have an in-depth look through the entire New York Jets roster from our staff, supported by film breakdown from Steve Bateman and draft coverage from Chris Gross, along with roundtables featuring Mike Donnelly, TJ Rosenthal, Chris Celletti and Rob Celletti. However, today I wanted to start off with a general overview of where the roster stands…and it ain’t pretty. This team will not be an easy sell to any GM candidate.
Quarterback – An unmitigated disaster. Currently you have Mark Sanchez who is currently incompetent as a starting quarterback in the NFL and doesn’t look like he can realistically play another down in New York. Unfortunately he is owed over 8 million dollars next year. The new GM must see if there is a team willing to take him for a low draft pick if the Jets agree to pay the overwhelmingly majority of the contract. If there is not, he has to decide whether to release him and take the cap hit or keep him on the roster to let him compete for a starting job. Yet, what veteran is going to believe they have a fair crack at starting with Sanchez likely making nearly four times what he is? The best move is to cut your losses with Sanchez and move on.
Beyond that, you have Tim Tebow who will either be released or traded to Jacksonville, which is more dead money you are eating nevermind the two draft picks you wasted last year. Greg McElroy looks like a number three quarterback/practice arm and cannot be a serious contender for a starting job in this league. There is no easy solutions here. The best answer is probably signing a low-cost veteran like Matt Moore and hoping he could hold the fort until a long term starter is found.
Running Back – Shonn Greene is heading into free agency and should not be brought back. He is a thoroughly average back who lacks explosiveness and cannot get yards that are not blocked up for him, while also struggling in the passing game. Bilal Powell has a better all-around skill set and is under contract for barely any money next year. He has the ability to be a very capable 1B option. Joe McKnight still has never received a fair chance here on offense. Yet, considering his durability issues it is hard to expect him to take on a major role in 2013. It would be nice to see the Jets think outside the box here and take a look at restricted free agent Chris Ivory who is buried on the New Orleans depth chart but would be an upgrade over Greene. There is also a good amount of mid-round talent at the position in the draft. Lex Hilliard was below average at fullback and won’t be back.
Tight End – Dustin Keller is heading into free agency and is another player the Jets should strongly consider letting walk. Why not pay half the money to Delanie Walker or Anthony Fasano and get a more capable all-around tight end? Keller is only going to thrive in a pass-happy offense as a H-Back. He cannot be relied on for blocking. Jeff Cumberland is basically a poor man’s version of Keller and shouldn’t be more than a situational player that utilizes his pass catching ability. Konrad Reuland is average at best and can’t be relied on as a 20-25 snap per game guy. Hayden Smith remains a developmental project and it is doubtful that he will be a major contributor next year.
Wide Receiver – The big decision will be how to handle Santonio Holmes. Do you release him or see if you could find a partner willing to take him in a trade if you eat some of the contract? It remains to be seen how effective of a player he will be coming off major surgery, even at 100% he isn’t a true number one receiver. Outside of Holmes, the depth should be solid. Jeremy Kerley is coming off a very good year where he made immense strides. Braylon Edwards showed he has something left in the final three games and can be brought back on the cheap and Stephen Hill should improve in year two if not forced into extended reps. The physical tools are all there for Hill but he still has a ways to go in terms of development. Chaz Schilens and Clyde Gates probably will not be back. Jordan White will have a tough time making the roster next year.
Offensive Line – Tough decisions need to be made, with Brandon Moore, Matt Slauson and Austin Howard all free agents. Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson aren’t going anywhere. Ferguson had a very good 2012 and was a borderline Pro-Bowl player. Mangold’s play has been down the last two years but he has been banged up. Ideally, the Jets will find a better long term answer at right tackle than Howard but that is easier said than done. At guard, the sensible thing to do would be to pay Slauson and then find a replacement for Moore who is likely nearing retirement. The Jets are going to have to address offensive line early in the draft and in free agency.
Defensive Line – One of the few spots on the roster to feel good about. Muhammad Wilkerson is a stud and is coming off a terrific second year. Quinton Coples had an encouraging rookie season, leading the team with 5.5 sacks. When the Jets actually get some edge rushers, watch out for these two upfront. Kenrick Ellis flashed at times but was banged up over the second half of the season. Regardless, he looks like the long term answer at nose tackle. Mike DeVito is a versatile, valuable player upfront who the team should bring back. You can’t have enough guys like DeVito. Sione Pouha is likely to be cut in a cap savings move. Damon Harrison can provide some long term depth.
Linebacker – Another disaster position that needs to be completely remade. Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas are all gone next year and all struggled mightily this past season. David Harris is the most overpaid linebacker in football, getting paid 10.9 million dollars in 2013 coming off a below average season in the middle. Hopefully he bounces back next year. 2012 3rd round pick Demario Davis is likely to start alongside him at inside linebacker. The team must address the gaping holes at both outside linebacker spots through the draft and free agency. Garret McIntyre is a capable backup/situational player and Josh Mauga should be back next year to provide depth at inside linebacker.
Secondary – A strength in 2012 that could be in flux next season. LaRon Landry will be difficult to bring back at the salary he commands, whether Jets fans want to hear it or not. Yeremiah Bell will likely be brought back on a one year contract. Darrelle Revis will be back and looking to receive a long term contract. Antonio Cromartie is coming off a career year, which makes him an enticing trade piece. When you have as many holes as the Jets, keeping two of the league’s five best cornerbacks may not be a sensible approach.
Kyle Wilson showed no ability to be a starting cornerback this year and is a borderline 3rd corner at best. Darrin Walls, Aaron Berry and Isaiah Trufant all have long term potential, particularly Berry if he can stay healthy. Ellis Lankser is best suited strictly as a special teams player. Antonio Allen flashed as an in the box safety and should be a capable situational player in 2013. Josh Bush didn’t do much as a rookie and may not be around for long.
Special Teams – There is no reason to change the kicker, punter or kick returner. Nick Folk, Robert Malone and Joe McKnight were all good this year. It would be nice to find a reliable punt returner next season, somebody in the Jim Leonhard or Jerricho Cotchery mold who is going to catch everything no matter what. Mike Westhoff is retiring but probably a year too late. This unit had way too many mistakes in 2012 and must clean itself up next season.