When John Idzik was hired as the New York Jets general manager, local beat writers and national analysts painted him in a dull fashion. Seattle’s “cap guy” was everyone’s favorite description, which completely neglected his vast resume as a former VP of football administration. He was Seattle’s representative at league meetings, oversaw player negotiations and transactions, along with day to day football operations, all for a franchise that has nearly perfected the “rebuilding” phase.
With hopes he could develop a plan to elevate the Jets back into the AFC contender they once were, Woody Johnson hired the “cap guy.” What many have failed to recognize is that the Jets have brought in an architect who is ready to execute his blueprint.
Cut the “dead weight”; keep the cap flexible:
As the Jets searched for a new GM throughout the offseason, they were known to be in one of the worst salary cap situations in the entire NFL. Mike Tannenbaum had left the roster littered with terrible contracts. The Jets had made the classic mistake of having single digit players eating up a large majority of the cap, leaving no space for depth.
John Idzik came in and immediately went to work. Sione Pouha, Eric Smith, and Tim Tebow were no-brainer eliminations. After trading Darrelle Revis and the potential (looming) cuts of Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, and Antonio Cromartie, the Jets will have nearly $50 million in cap space to work with in the 2014 offseason.
While many Jets fans are excited for the potential future cap space to sign top tier free agents, Idzik will most likely not hand out bloated contracts for stars. Muhammad Wilkerson has established himself as a superstar and will receive a well deserved contract extension. With a well established nucleus in place and about twelve draft picks (I will touch on this in detail) , Idzik will most likely use what I call the “Boston Red Sox” approach in free agency.
For those not familiar with the 2013 World Series Champion Red Sox, they signed a couple of middle tier free agents to reasonable contracts in the offseason, adding to an already well established nucleus. Plugging in these holes and developing a well rounded roster helped the Red Sox win a championship, while also not being handicapped in the upcoming seasons by absurd contracts. Idzik will not be afraid to spend big dollars on homegrown talent such as Wilkerson, but will not pay a receiver 10-12 million dollars per year much like Miami did with Mike Wallace this offseason.
Stockpile draft picks; consistently add young talent:
The best analogy I’ve seen describing the NFL draft is that it can be compared to the lottery. Even “safe picks” are no longer a sure thing. How do you better your chances when playing the lottery? It is quite simple actually: stockpile draft selections.
During the trade deadline fans were clamoring for Idzik to bring in a wide receiver to aid Geno Smith. While players like Josh Gordon were available, the Browns were demanding a second round pick AND a player in return. While Gordon is talented, he is one violation away from a year long NFL suspension. Idzik does not part ways with his draft selections, especially high selections for a player filled with character concerns.
Back to the Jets draft picks, they could potentially have twelve draft choices come May 2014. They have all seven of their original picks, a third round pick from the Buccaneers for Darrelle Revis (becomes a fourth round pick if he is cut – highly unlikely), and four potential compensatory picks.
As it stands Yeremiah Bell and Matt Slauson will most likely qualify as seventh round selections. Mike DeVito is highly likely to qualify as a fifth round pick, while LaRon Landry could qualify as a fourth rounder depending on how many more games he plays. Shonn Greene is also a potential qualifier as a 6th round pick, but much like Landry, he has missed a few games. A team can ultimately be rewarded up to four compensatory draft selections.
With twelve selections in the draft and six of them possibly being in the first four rounds, the Jets have a lot of firepower to work with. If they see a player they covet they can move up to get him, or fill the roster out with depth and playmakers the offense has severely lacked the past few years.
Use free agency to round out the team; not to add overpaid “stars”
We have seen this strategy backfire on many teams, dating all the way back to when the Redskins gave Albert Haynseworth a $100 million dollar deal. The Buccaneers currently have $16 million dollars tied up on a cornerback which they gave up a first and third round pick for. While Darrelle Revis is an all world talent, are the Bucs getting an equal return on their investment as a team who is currently 1-8?
While this is a small example, the overall point is that this is not how John Idzik operates. If he is giving up assets such as draft selections, it will be for a highly talented player that is playing on a cheap contract. If the Jets need a middle tier player to plug in a hole, they will go out and sign one but not give up valuable assets to another team.
Dawan Landry, Antwan Barnes, Mike Goodson, and Willie Colon were all excellent high value signings. Landry and Colon have been sturdy along with bringing a veteran presence to a team in desperate need. Barnes and Goodson flashed high impact potential before season ending knee injuries, but will return next season on relatively bargain deals.
In-season signees Josh Cribbs and David Nelson have been near life savers. Cribbs have rejuvenated the special teams while Nelson is the big possession target rookie quarterback Geno Smith has needed. As Kellen Winslow comes back from suspension, he will also look to prove himself as a bargain steal, much like he did earlier in the season.
The finishing touches
The “putting all your eggs in one basket” approach has set back many teams in the past. John Idzik is all about value. Taking Geno Smith with the 39th overall pick, who was the highest rated quarterback on a majority of big boards, is receiving excellent value.
The Jets currently have five players from John Idzik’s first draft as the Jets general manager starting on a team that is 5-4. While some of these player’s impacts have been minimal (Dee Milliner, Tommy Bohanon), others have been vital to the success of the team (Geno Smith, Sheldon Richardson, Brian Winters).
John Idzik has kept a low-profile image throughout his short tenure as the Jets general manager, a much needed characteristic after the Tannenbaum circus era. A quiet architect with a blueprint of a master piece sits in the Jets front office, carefully placing each piece to the puzzle day by day. John Idzik is the man behind this layout, a layout that he will not stray from no matter how loud the surrounding voices become. After all, his surprising foundation and stoic appeal have even silenced the most highly regarded critics in the brightest of lights, the big apple.
Follow Connor Rogers @Real_CR3