The New York Jets current level of roster talent and salary cap situation makes rebuilding an inevitable necessity. Rebuilding is the type of word people don’t hesitate to throw around when they are watching their team get Butt-Fumbled on National Television to their “biggest rivals” but when it comes to the actual practice, teams and fans get squeamish about it. Make no mistake, the New York Jets best approach to building a sustainable long term contender is cleaning house and making roster decisions with an eye towards 2014 and beyond, not 2013.
There has been chatter this off-season about restructuring Mark Sanchez’s contract. For some reason, this chatter intensified yesterday when reports came out about Tom Brady restructuring his contract despite the two situations being completely different and unrelated. Brady took an overall raise and a ton of long term guaranteed money to redo his deal. Tom Brady is a first ballot Hall of Fame player who New England is happy to have spend the next five seasons on their team despite him being over 40 years old at the end of the contract. When you get past trying to make a snarky Tweet, there is no comparison at all between the two situations.
The Jets shouldn’t guarantee Mark Sanchez 1 cent of 2014 salary in order to save money this upcoming season, which is what a restructure would require. One of the few positives about Sanchez’s contract extension is that it was set-up as basically a 2 year audition. He flagrantly failed in the first year of that audition and now the Jets are on pace for a clean financial break after this upcoming season. They’d be beyond foolish and shortsighted to mess with that clean break, particularly right now when Sanchez hasn’t shown a thing on the field to make you think he will turn around his play. Don’t jeopardize your 2014 financial and positional flexibility to improve your 2013 roster.
At linebacker, many were suggesting the Jets should bring back either Calvin Pace or Bart Scott at a reduced rate after releasing them. Why? You drafted Demario Davis in the third round last year to take over the inside linebacker position for Scott. Let him take over the position. He has all the veteran mentorship (in the form of an overpriced 2-down linebacker) he needs from David Harris. Find out if he can be a starting linebacker by letting him be a starting linebacker. He had his one year apprenticeship under Scott. At outside linebacker, it’d be wise to assume the Jets will be drafting multiple players at the position and likely one in the first or second round. Let the draft pick play. Let him take his lumps and make sure he is ready to hit the ground running in 2014. Muhammad Wilkerson started immediately as a rookie and look how he performed in his second year. If you want a veteran at outside linebacker, you can find an equally efficient player to Pace at a similar price tag in free agency. There isn’t even that much of a fall off if you when with Garret McIntyre and you’d be saving money.
Wide receiver is another position under the microscope with Santonio Holmes recently approached for a restructure, which he has apparently balked at. The fact that the Jets are even thinking of restructuring his deal instead of cutting him outright shows they believe he could have a future with the team beyond 2013 and he might. Holmes is less likely to be a lost cause than Sanchez and plays at a less consequential position that will require less of a financial commitment long term. Yet, if Holmes won’t budge on the restructure and there is a feeling they can’t work with him beyond 2013. Cut him now. If he isn’t going to be here in 2014, there is no reason for a hobbled Holmes coming back from injury to take reps from Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, Jordan White and whatever draft picks the Jets add. If you want a veteran around, sign Braylon Edwards back on a minimum contract. He’ll take it. Who cares if your depth chart looks weaker on paper in 2013? For 2014 and beyond, your roster will be better for it.
This thinking needs to go across every position, including how the Jets handle Darrelle Revis. If you cannot sign Revis long term, he must be traded before he walks for nothing in free agency. You need return for your roster in 2014 and beyond. This is a harsh reality and it doesn’t mean the Jets should be actively trying to lose games next year or should just throw in the towel but perspective is necessary. Are you building your long term offense around Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller or have we seen that movie and know how it ends? If you are moving on, move on and give the reps to the next guy. On defense, you are ready to build around Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Demario Davis and hopefully Darrelle Revis if you can sign him…if you can’t, then you are using what you receive back and Antonio Cromartie to build around.
Every decision John Idzik makes should be with the following question in mind – “Is this going to make us more competitive from 2014-2017?” – He shouldn’t be scheming on how to pinch together enough pennies for the 2013 roster that will cost the Jets long term. No future guaranteed money to Mark Sanchez. No hesitance to trade Darrelle Revis if you can’t sign him long term. No hesitance to cut Santonio Holmes if you know he won’t stay after this season. Rebuild the roster for the long term. Acquire draft picks, build depth and start a new day for this organization.