TOJ Roundtable – New York Jets Off-Season Priorities Edition

The TOJ Roundtable discuses the Jets off-season priorities and who they should target

The Turn On The Jets Roundtable is back to debate issues surrounding the New York Jets. Make sure to give all of the writers a follow on Twitter and if there is a question you want to see us debate, leave it in the comment section!

What are the top three off-season priorities for the New York Jets and who should the team target at each spot?

Joe Caporoso – 1) Add playmakers in the passing game

They need them at tight end and wide receiver. The days of rotating through substandard retreads at both positions needs to stop. This team should be adding at least three new targets for Geno Smith or whoever the quarterback is through free agency and the NFL Draft.

2) Get a pass rusher off the edge

Calvin Pace is a nice stopgap. Antwan Barnes is a good situational pass rusher. Quinton Coples is a defensive lineman listed as an outside linebacker. The Jets have ignored this need for long enough. Brian Orakpo and Jason Worilds should be free agency considerations and it wouldn’t be insane to consider an outside linebacker with a first or second round pick.

3) Upgrade Safety

Let’s do better than starting somebody cut by Jacksonville (Dawan Landry) and somebody cut by Houston (Ed Reed) – Go spend the money on TJ Ward or Jairus Byrd and bump Antonio Allen into the starting line-up.

Cole Patterson – The 2014 New York Jets: a flawed team with a chance to right the ship and build a winner. With one of the biggest budgets in the NFL and a king’s ransom of draft selections, the Jets can target their needs in free agency and comfortably use the “best player available” strategy in the draft. The team has numerous holes and weak spots but the top three are:

Wide Receiver: I don’t think I’m going out on a limb with this selection. In fact, I imagine the rest of the TOJ staff chose this as the position of priority. The Jets pass catching woes are no secret. The depth and overall skill of the position are deplorable. Luckily, free agency and the draft hold various remedies. I would attack the position by signing the reliable and dynamic Golden Tate and drafting Marquise Lee who, despite inconsistent quarterback play, has flashed.

Safety: The Jets defense has a chance to be dominant. The talent and depth of the defensive line is not in question. With a full bill of health, the tandem of Coples and Barnes should bring the pass rush to a new level. Harris and Davis proved to be dominant against the run. With Milliner trending in the right direction and Cromartie hopefully healthy and back on a reduced salary, the Jets achilles heel on defense has to be the saftey position. The trio of Landry, Allen, and Reed let up their fair share of big plays and failed to make many of their own. A consistent, ball hawking safety on the back end could make a world of difference. I expect John Idzik to spend money on at least one difference maker on defense and I hope its Jarius Byrd. Byrd has been the bane of Jets quarterbacks for years now and to have him in green and white could put this defense over the top.

GuardThis is probably an unpopular pick but I prioritize guard over tight end, outside linebacker, and cornerback. I believe the starting linebackers and cornerbacks of 2014 are already on the roster (Cro, Milliner, Wilson, Coples, Pace, Barnes). While Jason Worlids or Alterraun Verner would be nice luxury signings, I would be upset to see big money spent on them without solidifying the guard spot. Solid guard play makes the entire offensive unit function better. Good guards create bigger holes for running backs to hit, give the quarterback more time to throw, and allow the pass catchers more time to get open. Willie Colon and Brian Winters will likely be in consideration for the starting gigs this summer but I would bring in Jon Asamoah to provide competition. Asamoah is young and extremely talented. With a little more development he could become one of the better guards in the league. If he loses out to Colon and/or Winters, the worst case scenario is depth at the position or cutting him lose. 

Dalbin Osorio – The Jets have a chance to be major players in free agency this offseason, so it’s important that they come out of there with 3 starters. How they do in free agency, and how quick they fill up a few of their holes, will allow them to target the best player available with their 10-12 draft picks. Here’s what, and who, they should aim for:

1.  #1 WR. The Jets have had 1 number one WR in the last 10 years (Santonio Holmes in 2010). It’s time that changes this offseason, and the guy I would target to change that is Eric Decker. Decker is 6’3″, 206 pounds and a physical WR and good run blocker who will give Geno a big target opposite any of the draft’s WRs the Jets target in the second round (I believe Ebron or Amaro need to be the picks at 18). Some will argue that Decker won’t put up the same numbers away from Peyton Manning, but with Tim Tebow as his QB Decker put up 44 catches for 612 yards and 8 TDs. Decker is 26 years old, and is finishing up his 3rd full season as a starter in the NFL. He’s someone Geno can grow with, and who will help immediately. Plus, it weakens an AFC contender.

2. A Pass Rushing LB: The Jets have spent three first round picks on defensive linemen, and have yielded very good results. Coples ended his first season as an OLB strong, Mo Wilkerson cemented his place as one of the best defensive linemen in football, and Sheldon Richardson (who should be the defensive rookie of the year) had an impact year. It’s time the Jets added an edge rusher to the equation. Clemson’s Vic Beasley would make sense, but I stated above where I think the Jets should go in the first round. The player that will give a new dimension to the Jets defense is OLB Brian Orakpo. Orakpo is 27 years old and bounced back from an injury plagued 2012 season to notch 10 sacks in 2013 in 15 games. Orakpo has played 64 out of 80 possible games in his career, so it seems like the injury prone label is minor. Orakpo has notched at least 8.5 sacks in 4 out of his 5 seasons and he can, also, stop the run. With Orakpo and Coples bookending Wilkerson, Richardon, and Harrison, the Jets defense becomes that much more dangerous.

3. A #1 CB: The Jets are likely to release Antonio Cromartie due to his large cap hit. There’s a chance that Cromartie may be back, but there’s also a chance that his best days are behind him. In any event, the Jets need a number one corner to play opposite of Dee Milliner. Milliner ended his season strong as Rex threw him into the deep end of the ocean and let him learn how to play corner. Now, they need consistency from both corner positions. Who can they sign to fill the other corner position? The Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner. Verner, 26, has been the Titans starting CB for two full seasons now and has racked up 7 INTs and 32 passes defended (23 this past season). Adding Verner opposite Milliner gives you two young cornerbacks that can excel in Rex Ryan’s man to man scheme. The Jets secondary was atrocious this past season, and adding Verner goes a long way to fixing that.

Frank Giasone –  Take a look at the Jets’ 2013 roster and the needs of the team jump off the page. While the majority of issues can be found on the offensive side of the ball, the defense too, could use a tuneup. That’s why I’m looking to not only improve the Jets at their most publicized need (wide receiver) but also trying to get this defense back into form.

While the teams’ estimated 12 draft picks will certainly help cure many of their woes, there are a few free agent signings that I’d like to see John Idzik & Co. explore:

Julien Edelman, WR: It’s no secret that the Jets need help at wide receiver, and Edelman would provide the team with a quality receiver to pair with Jeremy Kerley and (hopefully) a top-tier rookie. Not only would Edelman offer help on the offense, but he’s also one of the best punt returners in recent history. That’s something the Jets could especially use.

Jason Worilds, OLB: Many have been beating the table for a pass rushing linebacker since Rex came to the Jets. This offseason, Worilds could be that guy. A New Jersey native, Worilds finished 2013 with 63 tackles and eight sacks, along with two forced fumbles. With Calvin Pace a free agent, the 25-year-old linebacker would be a tremendous replacement for this defense and would look great lined up opposite of Quinton Coples.

Alterraun Verner, CB: This one isn’t likely to happen…but we can hope, right? Verner is one of the top cover corners in football and would be a terrific replacement for Antonio Cromartie–if the team decides to part ways with him, which I’m assuming they will. Imagine Rex Ryan with his current cast on the defensive line and one of the best cornerbacks in football? Yeah, I think that defense would probably find its way back to being a top-five caliber unit in the NFL. 

Mike O’Connor1. Address Tight End
There aren’t any clear reasons to bring back any other tight end on the current roster other than second year man Zach Sudfeld.  With that said, Sudfeld absolutely needs a starter in front of him.  I’m in the boat that would rather see the Jets spend their top two picks elsewhere come May, so I see 2014 being another year for the team to sign another stop-gap type of veteran at the position, similar to what they did with Kellen Winslow this past off-season.  Some big names will be thrown into the mix in Jerimichael Finley and Brandon Pettigrew, but at the end of the day there you’re getting a slight upgrade from Jeff Cumberland but essentially a replica in terms of play style.  I’d rather see them take a stab at Anthony McCoy or Andrew Quarless, two younger guys who have a lot of unrefined skill.

If they do go the route of a younger, less refined tight end to take a chance on their development, I’d like to see a tight end get selected at some point between rounds three and five.  A prime target in that general area could be Iowa’s C.J Fiedorowicz or Georgia’s Arthur Lynch.  Oh and by the way, this team should not and will not enter the running for Jimmy Graham.

2. Address Wide Receiver
I think a wide receiver or two is just as necessary as everybody else does, but the Jets would survive more with David Nelson and Jeremy Kerley than a practically vacant tight end spot,  In terms of value, however, I think receiver is absolutely the top priority.

Though it’s early, I would guess the Jets will bite for a receiver in the first round if HaHa Clinton-Dix doesn’t make it to 18.  Whether it’s a dream scenario of Sammy Watkins testing positive for something and falling to the Jets, Marqiuse Lee, or a late riser, I think the position is talent deprived enough for the focus to be set on WR (my rankings are view-able here, by the way. They will be updated).

With the drastic need for talent at the position, I would bet on a free agent being brought in as well.  If the Jets are going to spend a lot of money somewhere this off-season, this may be the spot.  Personally, I’d rather see them draft high and sign an affordable free agent like Riley Cooper or James Jones.  Golden Tate has also become a popular option by Jets fans, and although I guess I’m not as high on him as most are, I wouldn’t mind the addition if they don’t have to break the bank for him.  If they spend wisely, they could take a shot elsewhere in free agency where franchise-changing players are available, like at FS with Jarius Byrd or corner with Alterraun Verner.

3. Add Offensive Line Depth
I would love to see free safety or outside linebacker add a superstar, believe me, but it’s a luxury regardless.  In terms of priorities to just stabilize the team heading into 2014, the team has to sign a stop-gap or two on what has become a relatively weak offensive line.  The Jets have been really lucky when it comes to injuries along the line recently.  Not to mention, Brian Winters has improved a bit since forced into a starting role, but he could be just as lost next season as he looked earlier this year.  D’Brickashaw Ferguson had a forgettable year, and Nick Mangold also looks to be declining, just not as rapidly.  Willie Colon is a stop-gap player, and nothing else.  Veterans who could be options are Jon Asammoah if they want to spend high, or Shawn Lauvao or Geoff Schwartz as dependable backups/spot starters.

Connor Rogers – 1) Upgrade skill positions on the offense

Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell did a real solid job at running back and Mike Goodson should be healthy for next year. I wouldn’t be opposed to adding a guy like Dexter McCluster in free agency or drafting a guy like De’anthony Thomas from Oregon, both players that can run the ball but are primarily pass catchers from the backfield and the slot.

At tight end, the only guy I see staying right now Zach Sudfeld. He is a young player that can hold down the third tight end spot to develop. The Jets can add a cap friendly pass blocker in free agency and use the draft to find a pass catcher.

At wide receiver, it is safe to say things will be blown up. Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson are most likely the respective 3rd and 4th wide receivers. Stephen Hill will be in camp fighting to take Nelson’s spot or the fifth wide receiver spot. Free agency and the draft can both be used to fill the two primary wide receiving spots.

2) Find a game changing safety

The Jets have filled the safety position with “hold the fort” players such as Yeremiah Bell and Dawan Landry the past few years. Both guys were solid but certainly not spectacular. I know a lot of people are not a fan of this, but if the Jets do not find this guy in free agency, drafting HaHa Clinton-Dix would not be a bad move at all.

3) Who fills Calvin Pace’s role?

Pace had a nice season considering he was brought back on the vet’s minimum. On the other hand, he was given 1 on 1 match ups week after week and was hardly an impact player. If the Jets can find a better option, it would really improve their pass rush. Antwan Barnes will be welcomed back with open arms as a third down pass rusher, but the Jets still need a guy to stop the run.

TJ Rosenthal –  The Jets need two playmaking receivers. They have to target one in free agency say a Jeremy Maclin and draft one high, but this time get it right. Will Mike Evans from Texas A&M be around at 18? I believe the Ravens pick right in front of the Jets and have the same need.

Secondly, for the love of god can we please get a viable backup QB here already? No 40 year olds. No Tim Tebows. No guys who have never played like Matt Simms. Target Josh McCown. He’s proven now. He can lead and win games. No more letting seasons go due to “developing” QB’s. If Geno is the guy, and the Jets attempt to build around him but he stumbles, let’s be able to turn to another guy please. It’s ridiculous already Rex. Five years now. C’mon.

The offense would also benefit from a modern day pass catching TE. Someone who can stretch the middle of the field a bit and be able to eat up catches certain days. Is Jeffa Cumberland really that guy? I say no, he’s a. Solid second TE but not a threat. Let’s get a threat to play the position.

Three needs. All on offense. Its time to finally load up and come out firing with the ball.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports