New York Jets Free Agency Primer (Linebackers)

21

With approximately $30-40 million in cap space, the New York Jets are pegged to be players when the new league year begins on March 3rd, 2014. Today, we look at free agent Linebackers. Check out our look at Defensive Linemen from last week here.

While the Jets defensive line received all the attention this season, the Jets linebackers put together a solid season that contributed to their 3rd ranked rush defense. David Harris bounced back from a subpar 2012 season to rack up 70 tackles and 2 sacks and coupled with Demario Davis (63 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 INT) to provide much improved inside linebacker play. This made Calvin Pace’s job easier as, in tandem with the excellent defensive play, he was able to clean up ALOT of plays and pile up 10 sacks. Pace is set to become a free agent, Harris may be a cap casualty (if not, he’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this coming season), and Davis did struggle during parts of the season. The Jets may choose to use some of their ample cap space to finally add an edge rusher in Free Agency. Here’s who they may target:

1. OLB Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins

2013 Stats: 34 tackles, 10 sacks, 4 passes defended, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries
Analysis: Orakpo bounced back from a season cut short by injury in 2012 to collect his fourth season with at least 8.5 sacks (second double digit sack season overall). He, also, had a pick 6 and showed that he had recovered from his injury. Orakpo continued to display his versatility by playing with both his hand in the ground and standing up. Orakpo, also, showed that he can play zone adequately from the OLB position.
Likelihood: The Redskins have two weeks to decide if they’re going to franchise tag Orakpo (a designation that would pay him $11M next season), but Orakpo may be looking for a longer contract. He’s a better player than Paul Kruger, and Kruger got a 5 year, $40M deal last year, so Orakpo should get $10M per. I’ll put this as a 6 because the Jets will have the cap space to sign Orakpo, but Idzik might deem the price too steep.

2. OLB Jason Worilds, Pittsburgh Steelers

2013 Stats: 43 Tackles, 8 Sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass defended
Analysis: The former second round pick finally received an extended opportunity to start this past year and he rewarded the Steelers with his best season as a pro. Worilds was a force as an edge rusher and as a run stopper, and he now has 18 sacks in 21 games started.
Likelihood: Worilds has said that he won’t resign with the Steelers unless he’s guaranteed a starting job. If the Jets sign him, he’d be penciled in as a starter at OLB. He could be a double digit sack guy in the Jets defense and will probably command a contract in the Paul Kruger or lower range. I put this as a 8 with the only thing stopping him from signing with the Jets being if some team tries to offer him more than $10M.

3. OLB O’Brien Schofield, Seattle Seahawks 

2013 Stats: 8 tackles, 1 sack
Analysis: You may wonder why Schofield, a backup OLB/DE, is on this list, but he’s actually one of the more intriguing names set to hit the market. Schofield was a college defensive end but transitioned smoothly to OLB when he became a pro. Schofield is very athletic, can drop back in coverage, and rushes the passer effortlessly. He’s had 11.5 sacks in 11 starts.
Likelihood: O’Brien Schofield seems like the perfect player John Idzik would try and sign; think Chris Ivory last year. Schofield is set to become an unrestricted free agent and will cost less than both Orakpo and Worilds. If the Jets choose to resign Calvin Pace and sign Schofield as competition, then i’ll put this as a 7. Schofield could be a potential bookend with Quinton Coples and the fact that he’s only 26 would make him a great signing by Idzik.

4. ILB/OLB Akeem Jordan, Kansas City Chiefs

2013 Stats: 54 Tackles, 2 Forced Fumbles
Analysis: Jordan followed Andy Reid from Philadelphia to Kansas City, where he started 10 games and had 54 tackles. Jordan is a bit undersized, but he has experience playing all four LB positions in the 3-4.  In his best season he was able to get 45 tackles, 6 passes defended, 2 INTs, and a sack.
Likelihood: Jordan played under former Jets Linebackers Coach Bob Sutton in KC, so his acclimation to the Jets defense wouldn’t be as difficult as some of the other free agents. I’ll put this as a 5, although Jordan isn’t the kind of signing Jets fans would get excited about seeing yet would be a low cost young player that can play all across the entire LB front.

5.  OLB Ernie Sims, Dallas Cowboys

2013 Stats: 31 Tackles, 1 Forced Fumble
Analysis: Sims, the former first round pick by the Detroit Lions, has battled injuries throughout his career and last year was no different. However, playing as a rotational player under Rob Ryan he collected 41 tackles, a pass defended, and a sack. Sims was thought to be undersized for the 3-4, but played well as a run stuffer.
Likelihood: The Jets have a better chance of signing Sims’s teammate Ware (who may be a cap casualty, but he’s not yet so that’s why he’s not on the list). Sims is undersized, similar to Jordan, and does have injury concerns. However, Sims would be a low risk/high reward signing because of his familiarity with the Ryan defense. I’ll put this as a 3.

  • Tony

    How does Antwan Barnes fit in here assuming he’s healthy?

  • Lidman

    Dalbin…

    Schofield made 900k last year, after Arizona let him go the year before. When you say he will ‘cost less than both Orakpo and Wordlis’, I ask how much less? You think he’d be a ‘great sigining by Idzik’? Based on what? Hey, maybe you’ve found a diamond in the rough. His size 6’3″/245, is more a 4-4 OLB, than a 3-4 OLB-expecially in Rex’ scheme. This is a guy who gets 2-3yr deal worth 4-6mm, max, and that is stretching it, IMO. I mean what did he do last year, that suggests he should be paid more?

  • Lidman

    ’4-3′ OLB…

  • KAsh

    I agree with Lidman. Schofield might make a good depth signing, but there is no indication that he will not wear out by being a starter for 16 games and he did not seize the opportunities given to him. He started nine games in 2012 and had four sacks. He started two games in 2013 and had one sack. His tackle totals are so low, they make you wonder just what he does on the field.

    By the way, if Worilds wants to start, there is no better place than the Jets! He will have zero competition for the side opposite Coples, as even all our backups LBs are free agents. After being stuck behind Harrison and Woodley for two years and then having to compete for a starting spot with first-round pick Jarvis Jones, Worilds’s job will be endangered by such fierce competition like Garett McIntyre and some mid-round draft pick.

  • John X

    Schofield could easily platoon with Barnes and by year’s end you’d know if you have something with either one.

  • Harold

    No to Worilds. He is a average player. I doubt (hope) Idzik will not overpay for this guy.

  • Harold

    Also if Orakpo is in the $9-$10 million APY range we should definitely look at him. That would make everyone on the defense better.

    Also our ILB were not very good last year if from awful to below average you that is improved, I guess that is accurate.

    They may have been the worst tandem of ILB in coverage in the entire NFL. Run stopping they were solid, but the NFL is a pass first league if you ILB cannot cover they are really valuable. That needs an upgrade before OLB.

    Pace got 10 sacks last year with this D-line. If Barnes is healthy he will have 10-12 sacks this year in all likelihood. The ILB are a much bigger issue, as you stated is not 100% safe by any means.

  • Harold

    As you stated Harris is not 100% safe…

  • Pingback: Today’s Jets Twit Directory Links February 18, 2014 | New York Jets Online Directory()

  • Kyle

    There’s a very little chance the jets sign Orakpo. It is definetly not idzik’s style to sign an OLB to 10m per season. I don’t think Washington will let him get to free agency.

  • John X

    Harold,

    I agree with your post. I think most fans and media are glossing over this position. Harris/Davis were among the worst ILB tandems in the entire league and this must be improved. Davis has the skill set to cover with continued coaching but Harris is done. We need someone quicker there otherwise teams will continue exposing us.

  • John X

    I know a lot of you are claiming to know and convey Idzik’s “style” or “way” but this is based on what exactly? The Jets had no cap space last year…he can’t be failry judged on that alone.
    And if you go back to Seattle, he was part of bold trades for Sidney Rice, Harvin and Lynch with aggressive FA moves for Avril and Bennett along with moving up in the draft to get Bruce Irvin. This isn’t a style of sitting back and waiting nor is one of pinching pennies. These were pro-active moves that didn’t simply place value before quality as many are suggesting. This offseason could surprise many of you.

    We’ll see who he is this offseason with 40-50M cap room and an owner who wants him to spend. Like all of you, I hope it isn’t poor usage of cash like Ireland/TBaum displayed. To suggest a happy medium between FA and drafting can’t exist is false. I love those who claim we should be like the Steelers who never go after FA’s. Were you aware that they’ve been in cap hell for years? They can’t keep their best players. But I digress.

  • Pingback: New York Jets Flight Connections 2-19-14 - Sports Latest()

  • Pingback: New York Jets Flight Connections 2-19-14 - Wired 4 Sports()

  • Pingback: New York Jets Flight Connections 2-19-14 - Break View()

  • Pingback: New York Jets Flight Connections 2-19-14 - Break View()

  • Pingback: New York Jets Flight Connections 2-19-14 - I Vote Sports()

  • KAsh

    @JX

    There is a difference between bold and reckless. The Seahawks have aggresively built their roster without getting into cap trouble or sacrificing flexibility. Idzik is going to do his homework on all FAs, his due diligence on all of the ones he might target, and move on the ones he wants, but he is not either smart or clear-headed if he tries to sign every top-tier FA available. He should already have factored in teams bidding up the price for the most valued FAs, so his plan should have just one or two of the best FAs available, the ones whose addition will make the most impact.

    But you are right that trades are probably a part of the plan. We have only discussed FAs.

  • Lidman

    A lot of the big FA signings, for Seattle, didn’t work: Rice, Zack Miller, Flynn, and the Harvin move is still an incomplete. Those moves get swept under the rug because of the late round finds they’ve had in the draft.

    Idzik had nothing to do with the Avril and Bennett signings. They were signed last year, after he was with the NYJ.

  • Pingback: Pittsburgh Jets? A Closer Look at Jason Worilds and Emmanuel Sanders()

  • Pingback: New York Jets Pre-Free Agency/Draft Roster Breakdown – Linebackers()