In one regard, the New York Jets salary cap situation isn’t as awful as it is made out to be. It is true they will be roughly 20 million under the cap when they take care of expected moves like releasing Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, Eric Smith, Jason Smith and probably Sione Po’uha, along with restructure a handful of deals. Yet, 20 million dollars under the cap isn’t that much money when you consider the following reality when looking at the Jets under contract (reminder Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, Brandon Moore, Matt Slauson, LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Mike DeVito, and Braylon Edwards are all unrestricted free agents) -
- There is not a single guard on the roster who has started a NFL game.
- There is not a single safety on the roster who has started a NFL game.
- There is not a single running back on the roster who started a NFL game.
- The quarterbacks are still Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy which will inevitably be changed in some way.
- The top tight end on the roster is Jeff Cumberland.
- After the cutting of Pace, Scott and Bryan Thomas likely retires the Jets will only have two linebackers on the roster who have started NFL games (David Harris and Garret McIntyre).
- Their top three receivers are Santonio Holmes coming off serious foot surgery, Stephen Hill coming off leg surgery and Jeremy Kerley.
So when you look at a reasonable checklist for what the Jets need, it goes something like this -
- Strong veteran quarterback competition for Mark Sanchez
- A starting caliber running back to compliment Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight.
- A starting tight end.
- Two starting guards (we will give the Jets the benefit of the doubt in bringing RFA Austin Howard back at tackle)
- A little more stability at wide receiver.
- An inside linebacker.
- Two outside linebackers.
- Two starting safeties.
Well then…how does one go about filling so many holes? Recognizing that this will be more than a one year process, let’s look at what options the Jets have -
Keep Your Own
The New York Jets have a few of their own unrestricted free agents who make sense to bring back. Dustin Keller will likely receive the franchise tag because he is a strong fit in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense. Yeremiah Bell should be relatively easy to retain on a low-cost one year deal, same with Braylon Edwards. The team would be wise to make a strong push to bring both Mike DeVito and Brandon Moore back. DeVito is a key, versatile cog on the defensive line and Moore should be able to be brought back on 2-3 year deal. It will be too difficult to replace two starters at guard in one off-season and Matt Slauson is a goner. Shonn Greene is also going to walk because he can’t function in the team’s new offense and shouldn’t get paid like a starter anyway. LaRon Landry is also going to be extremely difficult to keep because of the price tag he will demand after a Pro-Bowl season.
Seattle was active in the trade market when John Idzik was there and it stands to reason the Jets will be making a few calls about dumping some of their unfavorable contracts. Yet, good luck to finding any takers for Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, Tim Tebow, or David Harris. We have talked endlessly about the pros and cons of trading Darrelle Revis and that will be an option which is considered. If Revis is not moved, Antonio Cromartie likely will be. This is part of the process of rebuilding such a depleted roster.
Don’t look for the Jets to be overly active in free agency. They will likely focus on a few second tier players at positions they are thin, like guard, running back and linebacker. There are a few intriguing 3-4 outside linebackers in particular, but with the financial situation getting a guy like Paul Kruger or Anthony Spencer could be out of reach. Regardless, the Jets could improve themselves with a few shrewd low-cost signings.
Obviously the most important element in rebuilding this team is drafting successfully. The Jets have seven picks heading into the 2013 Draft but look for that number to increase. The Jets need to leave with both quality and quantity, as their lack of depth over the past few years has been a result of only drafting 3-6 players in multiple years. There will be mid-round selections this season who will immediately be thrust into starting or major contributing roles. Early round picks need to be impact players, not Kyle Wilson or Vladimir Ducasse. This is a deep draft at many positions the Jets most desperately need help at, namely pass rusher, guard and running back. Don’t be surprised to see the Jets trade back in a few different situations to acquire more picks and hopefully gain some picks before April via trading their own players.