Morning Cup of Coffee: NFL Free Agency Thoughts

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The Super Bowl in New Jersey is approaching quickly, with a great match up between Denver and Seattle looming. The NFL’s wish as granted, as the two best regular season teams will be facing off in the championship. Storyline’s are aplenty from Richard Sherman’s post game interview to Peyton Manning chasing his second Super Bowl title. While the game is obviously the talk of the league, the Jets front office is currently dialing up a plan for free agency. Let’s run over a few different thoughts as the new league year gets closer and closer.

Super Free Agents

Players with big time postseason performances are often overpaid in the following free agency period. I noted last week to hold the phone on LaGarrette Blount receiving a big contract, as he was shut down by Denver’s run defense. Two big performances against bottom tier run defenses does not warrant a large contract.

Another example could be Denver wide receiver Eric Decker. The former Minnesota wide out is certainly a good player, but that does not mean he should command number one wide receiver money.

Demaryius Thomas is a top five wideout in the league and Wes Welker garners a lot of attention. Can Decker still succeed without two high profile targets playing alongside him? While that question has yet to be answered, it is one worth pondering before breaking the bank on him.

The Draft Effect

Using free agency to fill areas of “need” opens up the possibilities in the NFL Draft. While many are assuming the Jets must go wide receiver with their first overall pick, “not so fast!” If John Idzik feels the market is fair and can bring in two wideouts (such as Golden Tate and James Jones), the first pick can be used on the best player available.

I have never been a fan of drafting for need, especially in the first round when premier talent is all over the board. After cap cuts and extensions, the Jets would be wise to use their $30+ million of cap space on “black hole” areas (Certainly wide receiver).

Veteran Quarterback

I would be shocked if the Jets do not add a veteran quarterback in free agency this offseason. Obviously, Geno Smith will be ready to come into camp to hold down his starting job. Assuming the Jets also draft a quarterback on day two or three, that would leave three very young QB’s on the roster (Matt Simms).

Adding a veteran becomes a must. While Mike Vick has been brought up a lot in Jets land, I think the team will look for someone who controls the ball a little better.

Josh McCown was really impressive while filling in for Jay Cutler this past season. He threw 13 touchdowns and only one interception. If the price is right, he might be the perfect guy as he could come off the bench and take care of the football when/if needed.

22 thoughts on “Morning Cup of Coffee: NFL Free Agency Thoughts

  1. I am wary of Josh McCown. The guy has moved from team to team and has only had success in Chicago. His numbers in Chicago really stand out. Besides his two years (2011 and 2013) with the Bears, he completed over 60% of his passes just once in his career. He never had over 7 YPA until Chicago, where he jumped to 7.53 YPA in 2011 and 8.17 YPA in 2013. His first year with the Bears, he also threw two touchdowns and four interceptions, which is part of the reason the Bears cut him in training camp next year. McCown had success throwing to one group of receivers (and the Chicago receivers do stand out for their size) and only cleaned up his game for one year in “offensive guru” Marc Trestman’s new system. He has floundered everywhere else. His history shows that he probably owes a lot to the Bears offensive philosophy and Trestman for his successful year.

  2. Drafting is always the most important aspect of building the team, especially in a hard cap sport, like the NFL. However, when a team has excess cap space it can employ, to improve it’s team, I think you go after impact players, rather than guys to ‘fill black hole areas’. You want to make sure the FA you pay, give you commensurate production. Otherwise, they come back and bit you in the rear (hello Santonio Holmes).
    In that vain, I think the OLB, S and CB that are available all represent better FA values than the WR that are out there. I get the team needs weapons, but getting mediocre weapons isn’t going to improve this team that much, IMO. If you signifcantly fill a defensive need, I think it pays bigger dividends. Then you use your plethora of draft picks to address your offensive needs.

  3. I agree with everything Lidman said. The Jets should go after potential impact players albeit defense or offense. The biggest ones are on the defensive side of the ball. The WR free agency crop is a mediocre of potential #2 WRs. Getting 2 WRs would improve the receiving unit but will not scare anyone. This makes it more of a reason to go WR in the first round. The Jets need that potentionl game breaking #1 WR. The Jets would have better chance of finding that WR in the draft than in free agency.

  4. Not sure why you think getting a game-breaking WR is anywhere near a lock in the draft, especially with the 18th pick. The draft is a crap-shoot too. Jets need to add proven talent and production at pass catching positions, to completely ignore that in free agency would be foolish IMO. Decker/Tate/Jones are all capable of being very good/productive starting WRs in the NFL. Don’t get so wrapped up in pigeon-holing guys as “#1 WRs” – Just add good football players and WRs and go from there

  5. Blount and Decker are both solid players regardless where they play. Obviously having Manning as a QB will bloat his numbers, but anyone with eyes can see he’s talented.

    As for Blount, the guy got 5 carries on Sunday..geez! I think he’s proven he can be an everydown back

  6. Joe, I agree with you. The draft is a crap shoot. However, the new rookie wage scale makes ‘missing’ much less harsh than it used to be. However, in FA, it shouldn’t be that much of a crap shoot. You have 4-4+yr of NFL game tape to illustrate how well a FA has performed.

    This year, I simply think Orakpo, Byrd, Ward and Verner are all better risks, based on their previous performance, than all the WR available. The argument can be made that Decker’s last 2yr of production 86 rec/1176 yds/12TDs are top level. My own opinion is the combination of Manning and Thomas has done as much for Decker, as anything. I’m not suggesting he’s not worthy of chasing, but I wouldn’t pay him like a bona-fide number 1. I would pay Orakpo like a bona-fide, top level, 3-4 OLB, that’s all. I wouldn’t pay up to get Golden Tate here. Nothing..nothing in his 4yr career suggests to me he is anything more than Jeremy Kerley: a good player, not a difference maker. If he was so good, how come Seattle went after Percy Harvin? If he’s so good, how come he only caught 64 passes this year? Sure, some of it is scheme, but some of it has to be on him. Again, if you can get him here on decent deal, I get it. But, are you suggesting he’s worth a 7-8mm APY deal? If he is, what are they going to pay Kerley next year.

    While I understand your point of increasing the overall talent level. I disagree with your rationale. With 10+ draft picks, on top of the progress of last year’s draft class, the NYJ should be able to increase their talent level, at a bargain rate. If you’re going to commit sifnificant cap space to FA, I think you make that commitment to someone who makes an immediate impact, not just another ‘good player’. Super Bowl teams have top level talent, to go along with ‘good players’. The NYJ have a fair amount of ‘good players’, what they need is top level talent now, IMO.

  7. um do u really thing that we would have the wide reciever concerns addressed by bringing in james jones and golden tate come on we gotta draft a reciever in the first round and possibly the second round as well

  8. If you’re into numbers, this article is pretty interesing: http://goo.gl/34KOeJ

    According to this analysis, 2/3 of 1st round WR are ‘hits’, furthering the argument the NYJ should do all they can to get their top rated WR. There is also an interesting tidbit that relates to Stephen Hill, a WR taken with a high 2nd round pick…

  9. Maybe you forgot the last time a backup QB was brought in that “threatened” to take over the starting gig. Must I recall Tebow? You don’t threaten your young franchise QB with such distractions. Bring in a not-so-strong backup. Shaun Hill seems like a better move to me.

  10. Looks like the eagles will be bringing back maclin and letting Cooper test the waters. I bet Marty could use him effectively knowing him from Philly and he’d more than likely come at a good price.

  11. @Lidman

    When you read such articles, do you wonder if the author means by “hit” and “miss” the exact same thing as you? The fact of the matter is wide receivers have steep transitions from college to the pros. Now, that is just broadly. For the Jets, a rookie receiver is going to come in and be matched up against the opponent’s top cornerback every single game, sometimes with safety help. He is going to be abused every game and his confidence will be absolutely shot by year’s end, as these guys will know and counter everything he tries. You may not love the free agent WRs (I do not think you yourself understand what you mean by #1 receiver) but if you do not get some, you are guaranteed to draft a bust.

  12. Kash..

    I know what the author means by ‘hit’ and ‘miss’. It’s a fantasy football site. These guys use math to give them statistical probabilities of performance. Suffice to say, they use raw data to come to their conclusions. So, yes, Calvin Johnson is going to be a ‘hit’ and Stephen Hill a ‘miss’. The idea here is to use ‘the math’ to give you the best probability of success. In the end, these are all humans, so math can not account for everything.

    I understand your point that WR have ‘steep transitions’. When I ‘defend’ Hill I even point to this fact, illustrating how many top level WR need 3 years to develop-see Crabtree, Roddy White, Vincent Jackson and Reggie Wayne as examples.

    That said, I disagree with your assertion:
    “For the Jets, a rookie receiver is going to come in and be matched up against the opponent’s top cornerback every single game, sometimes with safety help. He is going to be abused every game and his confidence will be absolutely shot by year’s end, as these guys will know and counter everything he tries.”

    How can you be sure of this? AJ Green, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Keenan Allen, Hakeem Nicks, Mike Williams and Josh Gordon are all recent examples of rookie WR having success, of varying degrees. So, your they are destined to ‘be a bust’ is wrong, IMO.

    Sure, if your brought in a Sammy Watkins, and you had a true #1 option, and by #1 option I mean a guy the defense game plans for, and makes sure they know where he is at all times (in case you’re worried I don’t think I ‘understand what I (sic) mean by #1 WR). Generally these guys are in the top 10-15 in WR yards, Rec, Targets and RZ opps. They are also likely high on the TD list too, but that stat can be much more random.

    Finally, as it pertains to the 5 players Dalbin discussed, I don’t believe they fit the description, as I see it.

    Decker–supporters could make the claim that he’s averaged 86 rec/1176yds and 12 TDs over the past 2 seasons, which would qualify him. That is a good argument. I am not saying the NYJ shouldn’t look into Decker. However, the plethora of WR/TE talent, along with Manning’s ability to control the game, at the LOS, certainly has been a big positive for his last 2yrs. If he comes here, I think it’s fair to question whether he can continue to produce, at this level, with a 2nd yr, developing QB. On top of that, he will be the primary option opposing defenses focus on. Now, if that results in more chances for Kerley, Sudfeld, Hill and any WR they draft, great, he’s worth it. However, AJ Green, Calvin Johnson, and Dez Bryant all produce big numbers, even though they are the defenses primary target. If you pay Decker that kind of money, you need that kind of production.

    Golen Tate is Jeremy Kerley, just go look at the numbers. In fact, if S Rice and Harvin were healthy, he would have been the #3 WR on his own team, which would have likely lead to reduced production. Heck, even as the #1, how can anyone be excited about bringing in a guy, as a FA, who just had his best season and had 64 rec, 898yd and 5TDs. What can we really expect out of him? If you give him $5-6mm, what are you going to give Kerley?

    In 7yr, playing with Pro Bowl/All-Pro level QBing, James Jones never lead the Packers in receptions or rec yardage. This doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player, or could help the NYJ passing game. It just means you can’t pay him like an elite player, at his position. He’ll be 30 next season, he is who he is.

    Boldin is past his prime, but certainly worth a look. I don’t think he’ll be looking for ‘#1 money’. I think he wouldn’t take a pay cut, on principle. Baltimore signed him to a contract, he fulfilled his end, and he expected them to do the same. I’d love to see the NYJ get him here for 2yr $10mm. He’s better than any receiving TE option out there, not named Graham.

    I like Sanders, and he, like Kerley, has almost the same production as Tate does. So, if you can get him, at 75% of what Tate costs, I don’t see why you pay Tate (I think it’s pretty clear I don’t like Tate..apologies for the constant reminders).

    Finally, Hakeem Nicks is an interesting case for me. It would appear his thought process this year was simply to stay healthy going into FA. However, this lead to questions about his attitude. If the NYJ could get him on an incentive laden deal, he might be worth a shot. Yes, Joe has illustrated how his production has been in decline, so there is risk there. However, he has produced big numbers, and is only 25. I don’t think you give him a contract guaranteeing him big $, but if you allowed him to earn top level pay with top level production, it might work out.

    Either way, the NYJ need to draft a WR in round 1 and they have the draft ammunition to be able to move up and get the guy they believe is the best. Watkins and Evans get much of the top billing, but if you look at guys like Matthews and Allen Robinson, they posted much better ‘Dominator Ratio’ numbers (basically % of their teams Rec YDs and Rec TDs–meaning they consistently were open and targeted, all over the field, by their QB).
    The other guy to look at in this draft is Donte Moncrief. He had a monster sophomore season. Ole Miss brought in the naitons top WR recruit this year (Treadwell) who had more receptions, but Moncrief still had nearly as many yards (on 13 less rec). The guy has all the measurables, and has dominated, in the SEC. He will be a very good NFL WR.

    Apologies for the verbosity….

  13. Come on… Signing Jones and Tate would indeed put an end to the ridiculous mess at WR that has plagued this team for the last couple of seasons. Nobody remembers Schillens? Gilyard?

    How many healthy games has Holmes given this team? I know there are other variables, but two more Kerleys would not be bad at all. Maybe nobody’s scared, bit at least nobody’s laughing.

    If there are solid, functional guys out there next season at WR, G, TE, OLB, and a vet QB who won’t get you killed. it is a big upgrade… Jesus… Nelson was a big upgrade!!! How many more zero catch stat lines do we have to endure from our starting WRs?

    Just get some guys who can play. Then worry about the big money guys and the high draft picks. Fix the holes, then trim the sails. Not the other way around.

    The place to do that is FA. The draft is always a gamble. Two 64-catch capable guys would be a tremendous boost for this team. Sad, but true. And you can still draft a guy. And you can still keep your fingers crossed for Hill.

    And nobody said pay 7-8 million for Tate.

  14. If the price is right, a combination of Jones/Tate (just an example, very interchangeable) is an upgrade. How can we expect Geno (or any quarterback) to improve/develop/succeed with the current crop of WR’s we have?

    And as Geronimo pointed out, you can still draft a WR. Having three reliable guys (FA1/FA2/Kerley) along with Nelson as the 4th WR and Hill as the project at the 5th WR is a big upgrade.

  15. And as Lidman said, Nicks is actually intriguing because we have seen number one receiver production from him before.

    Obviously, nobody should break the bank for Nicks because he is injury prone and had a really bad year.

    If you can meet in the middle with him on a fair deal with limited guaranteed money, he may be worth the risk.

  16. Guys..I agree fully, if you can bring in Jones, Decker or even Tate at reasonable money, than you do it..no doubt. However, the NYJ are in a position where they likely have to overpay to get guys, and I just think that is a recipe for disaster.

    Let’s take Mike Wallace as an example. He received $27 guaranteed, which is 45% of the total value of his deal. He basically had the same numbers as Brian Hartline,last year. Hartlin’s entire deal is worth $30.775mm. Now, when you look at each deal, it’s likely both definitely get each player through the 2015 season. At that point, Miami will have paid Wallace $37mm, and Hartline roughly $18.7mm. Now, if either is All-Pro level after ’15, they’ll likely get an extension because their cap charges will be huge (cap should be about 10% higher than too).

    My belabored point is: GMs/Owners make dumb deals all the time. So, I don’t see any of these guys coming as cheaply as many of the commenters think. If you’re an owner, and you have money, you spend it to sell tickets. I just hope the NYJ don’t do this. If you pay for top level production, and you don’t get it, it’s a bad move.

    This is why I think, for this year’s FA class, the money should be spend on the defensive side of the ball. The available impact players there, make more sense IMO.

    The other tact the team could take, is not jumping in on any of the higher profile, likely bigger contract, guys and watch as good players get cut, because of cap concerns. This might put the NYJ in position to find a veteran player who could help them out…someone like DeMarcus Ware might fit that category.

    Bottom line, don’t just spend money to spend money. More to the point, don’t ‘guarantee’ too much money. Who cares about the entire value on the contract, it’s the guarantee that is important when you manage the cap, year to year.

  17. Geronimo

    I understand your point, but if you start bringing guys in, and they don’t produce, you put yourself in the position the NYJ were in the past 3yrs, where money/cap space have as much to say as ‘who do you keep’ v ‘who do you cut’, as talent/ability do. Faneca, Woody, TJones, TRich were all cut because they all took up too much cap space. Our WR corp stinks because you pay Holmes like a #1 guy, and even when he’s playing he’s not that guy. You pay David Harris like an All-Pro, and he’s not. Yet, you let Revis walk because you don’t think you can pay a CB, top defensive player in the league, money. So, sure, Tate/Jones may help the team improve, but if the goal is to win a Superbowl, I don’t think those 2 WR are what puts you in position to do so.

    Look at the 2 SB teams, they were builty 2 different ways:

    Denver-Manning takes up big cap space, but D Thomas, J Thomas, Decker and V Miller are all still on rookie deals. This allows them to pay Clady (who’s hurt), Bailey and Manning big money. Knowshown makes nothing, and Ball is a rookie. However, if they don’t stop the run, in the SB, they can blame paying Champ top level money, which doesn’t allow them to have solid DL players.

    Seattle: Russell Wilson is on rookie deal, and was a 3rd rounder. Sherman and Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner are All-Pros, and on rookie deals. This enables them to carry FA misses Rice, Harvin and Zack Miller-Zack Miller’s $11mm cap number is the highest on the team (I’ll bet not many know this, and give Marshawn $17mm guaranteed Check out their DL, that’s where all the money is.

    Both teams will have interesting decisions to make when their rookie contracts need to be extended.

    What this shows is drafting is the most important thing. If you draft well you can miss with FA. However, if you miss with FA, then you must draft well to compensate. So, overpaying on players you have tape on is, to me, much worse than missing on college players.

  18. John X, what exactly has Geno shown to say he is the “franchise” QB? If the right QB was brought in, I could see Geno being on the bench next year. Geno in large part is Mark Sanchez 2.

  19. if you are going to sign a free agent QB we might as well just restructure sanchez. he already knows the system, will have a chip on his shoulder to prove himself and is no better or worse than the crop of free agent QBs mentioned. plus, he is a jet.

  20. @Lidman

    Nothing in the draft is assured. You can use the draft to build a strong team, but you cannot draft needs and still build a strong team. The needs are endless because of the salary cap.

    You cited Jones, Green, Bryant, Allen, Nicks, Gordon, and Mike Williams as having strong rookie seasons. Jones and Green were the ultra-rare NFL-ready prospects. Out of the remaining five, only Gordon and Williams were starters for their teams in their rookie year. Allen, Nicks, and Bryant entered the year as the third receiver on the depth chart. Williams was across from another rookie receiver, Benn, who was supposed to be the #1 option and now is a backup for the Eagles. Williams himself is now a #2 option on the team behind Vincent Jackson. Gordon was the only true #1 threat (from what I could tell) and he was not the Brown’s leading receiver until the fifth game of the year.

    My point is not that a rookie cannot produce; my point is that you should not make a rookie receiver responsible for a weight he cannot carry. Part of Hill’s bad play has stemmed from being thrust into major roles that would have been assigned to more experienced players on a team with a better depth chart.

    Finally, the draftniks you cited don’t use data. They data-mine. They dig up all the data they can and try to find patterns. This obviously misses outliers and overemphasizes stereotypes. For example, if they were to data-mine quarterbacks in the same way, they would probably miss Brees and Wilson. If they look at soccer players, they would conclude that successful guys need to be tall, fast, athletic, with long limbs, and miss on Maradona, a chubby, stocky, short guy who was simply a god with a soccer ball. Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate I assume would both be “hits,” but you would roll out the red carpet for one and do not want the other. Likewise, their data does not show the guy who had a small DR and still developed into a great receiver or a guy that had a large DR and was a bust. Those cases tell you more about drafting and prospects than their entire database can in its entirety.

    If you want to use data, you have to first formulate a specific question and then see if the data confirms it. If you think DR is a major aspect of a good receiver, then it should also be correlated to a receiver’s ability, with big time receivers having huge DRs and busts having tiny ones. If not, then it is only a part od the equation and you need a regression analysis to discover how big of a role it plays in determining a prospect’s future.

  21. Johnny… I’ve had the same thought as well. Jet fans will hate the idea of Sanchez coming back, but he is probably the better option for FA QB’s out there right now. He knows the system, he’s had playoff experience, and he’s had success when he is surrounded with better talent.

    Idzik doesnt strike me as the type to spend risky money on questionable FA’s just for big headline splash. I think he will stick to “draft for talent; fill holes in free agency”. luckily this years draft sound deep in offense, so that should work out in their favor. I predict any FA signing will be a balance of talent and money. low risk high reward seems to be Idzik’s mantra.

  22. Kash is right and I’ve agreed with his line of thinking all along – Geno needs reliable WR’s. The kind who know the speed of the game, the strength of the CB’s and can find seams in the defense and be where they are supposed to be to ‘matriculate” his growth. I don’t believe the Jets need the flashiest, shiniest rookie WR as we all know there’s a large growing curve for rookies. How many WR’s were impactful as rookies? Not many. And don’t expect this class of WR’s to buck that trend.
    Geno needs reliable targets to develop and there are several such reliable targets in this FA class – Decker, Edelman, Jones, Cooper, Tate – they are all good hands, good route-running young veterans who can complement the strength of the offense which is the running game and go from there.
    Kash is right, placing all the pressure on a rookie WR to jump-start the offense is a bad plan – recipe for disaster IMO.

    Young veteran WR’s + young TE to attract attention to the middle + strong running game (and, BTW, a new LG and move Winters to RG) – there’s your offense. Pair that with a strong defense once the secondary gets FA help and they’ll be ready to roll. Oh, and sign Greg Hardy. We have the cash.

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