Since there are no games this weekend (sorry Pro-Bowl), we are going to pass on our regular 12 Pack and do a quick overview on the Jets off-season approach instead. The 12 Pack will be back next Sunday with Super Bowl predictions and Jets observations.
For the first time since the off-season heading into the 2008 season, the New York Jets are flush with cap space (likely in the excess of 40+ million) and draft picks (8-12). This is both an exciting and encouraging thing for the further development of a young, ascending team who posted a relatively surprising 8-8 record in 2013. However, this type of financial and roster flexibility doesn’t need to lead into foolish overspending and shouldn’t have fans focused on “name” players who aren’t likely or smart targets.
Let’s start at the top. Jimmy Graham isn’t leaving New Orleans. Don’t waste your time or energy coming up with an elaborate way for the Jets to pursue him because it isn’t happening. Whether it is being franchised as a tight end, signing a new contract or being franchised as a receiver, the Saints aren’t letting him walk.
When shifting to the draft, Sammy Watkins more than likely isn’t happening either. Unless something dramatically changes, he will be a top 5 pick and the Jets would foolish to trade up that far for a wide receiver. Johnny Manziel? He is very unlikely to be on the board at #18 and again, don’t look for the Jets to trade up high enough to land him. Hakeem Nicks? Big name…particularly in this market but the Jets can do better for the themselves with other free agent receiver options.
There is too much of a focus among Jets fans on who is a “number one,” “number two” and “number three” receiver. This is an archaic way to think about the position. It is similar to people who think the Jets cannot pursue a receiver under 6 foot because they have Jeremy Kerley. Receivers in the Jets offense and in most other NFL offenses are moved all over the formation and play more than one role. The Jets are devoid of talent at the pass catching positions. Collect good players and go from there.
Why do we keep talking about a player like Golden Tate here in comparison to Hakeem Nicks? Tate is younger and his numbers are ascending over each of the past three seasons. Nicks’ numbers are in steady decline the past three seasons, nevermind his lingering injury and attitude issues. Tate is 5’10 but is built like a running back and runs like one after the catch. In Marty Mornhinweg’s offense, you need players who can do just that…take a quick screen or slant, make somebody miss and pick up extra, tough yards. You always want to spend on players who are improving in recent years, not players who are declining.
This isn’t limited to Tate. Eric Decker has an intriguing skill-set but his numbers from the past few years are likely going to lead to him being overpaid. Can you spend 3-5 million per year less on Tate or James Jones and get similar production? Most likely.
A similar line of thinking can be applied to the NFL Draft. The Jets have worked hard to finally accumulate a substantial amount of picks, after being short on them over the past few years. Part of the reason they let so many free agents walk was to accumulate compensatory picks and part of the reason they traded Darrelle Revis was to receive that additional 3rd rounder this year. They held on to all their original picks as well…for a reason. Don’t be fooled by the 8-8 record, this team has a ton of holes and is in desperate need of improved depth across the board. You improve for the long term by using your accumulated draft picks.
Why are you going to sacrifice multiple picks to draft Sammy Watkins when you may be able to grab an Allen Robinson or Jordan Matthews and potentially get similar production? Is Johnny Manziel that “sure” of a thing, that you are going to move up for him, go through the entire process with a rookie quarterback again, instead of putting weapons around the second year quarterback you just invested a year in?
Defensively, Brian Orakpo is a popular name at outside linebacker but could the Jets spend half the money on Jason Worilds and get the same production, allowing them to better address other areas of need? Worilds is another player who has ascended each of the past three years, is entering his prime and doesn’t have a troubling injury history.
Realistically, the Jets need upgrades to the following positions: WR, TE, QB, OG, OLB, CB, S…that is plenty for one off-season and you can only have so many “big money” spends. It makes sense to spread the money and draft picks across these positions in a pragmatic, sensible way. Don’t get caught up in “names,” get caught up in “fits.” This is part of the reason, Jets fans should let go of the idea of Mark Sanchez coming back. Can you make a logical case that he is the right type of veteran to keep behind Geno? Sure. Our TJ Rosenthal has a piece on the way in the coming days doing just that, but from another perspective…the relationship is over on both ends. Cut the cord and move on.
The NY Post article you saw last week about “Sanchez walking in the door as a starter” is a story the stinks of being placed by the Jets or a front office friendly to them. Why? The Jets are trying to create some type of trade value for Sanchez before they inevitably release him. We saw the exact same thing last season when the Jets were leaking stories about Tebow “impressing them around the facility” and being a viable competitor for the starting job. It was an attempt to find some type of trade value before an inevitable cut. This is the same situation. People seem to forget, Sanchez was average in the pre-season, missed the entire regular season and the year before was arguably the worst quarterback in football. There are better options out there, who will come at an equal or less price and provide less of an overall distraction.
Hopefully as the Jets enter this off-season, they target players ascending into their primes and focus on prioritizing “fits” over “names.”