New York Jets Free Agency Primer (Offensive Line)

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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 offensive linemen. Check out our look at Tight Ends from last week here.

The New York Jets offensive line struggled mightily in 2013 to protect rookie QB Geno Smith. However, Austin Howard turned in a solid season, Willie Colon brought a much needed nastiness, and Nick Mangold bounced back from a subpar 2012 season to put together a solid all-around season this past year. The weakness of the Jets offensive line stemmed from LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson and the Vlad Ducasse/Brian Winters tandem.

Now, WInters ended the season on a strong note (similar to all of the Jets rookies) and he will most likely be the starter Week 1 at one of the guard positions. It’s possible that the Jets ask Ferguson to restructure his contract or try to move him if he doesn’t agree to the restructure. Colon may be gone as well. Austin Howard will most likely be retained with a new deal as he has blossomed in the last two years as the Jets starting RT. The Jets will be in the market for an offensive lineman to replace Colon and to possibly replace Ferguson and Howard so here are the top 5 that the Jets could target.

1. Jon Asamoah 

Analysis: Jon Asamoah is 6’4″, 305 pounds, and can play both LG and RG positions. He is only 25 years old and set to become an unrestricted free agent. Asamoah is a very athletic player for a man his size, and he is solid in both run blocking and pass blocking. He’s very good at maintaining his balance at the point of attack and he has consistently displayed really good positioning. Asamoah, also, displayed great strength despite being only 305 pounds. Last year, Jamaal Charles averaged 5.0 yards a carry behind Asamoah.

Likelihood: I’ll put this as a 7 because Asamoah seems entrenched behind Geoff Schwartz (another free agent that the Chiefs seem to be prioritizing). Asamoah would be an excellent fit at RG next to Austin Howard, and he has the experience at LG (he replaced Brian Waters) where he could start there and still remain effective if the Jets felt that Brian Winters wasn’t ready. He’d be a great signing.

2. Zane Beadles 

Analysis: Beadles, one of the many culprits in the Broncos Super Bowl loss to the Seahawks, is now set to become a free agent. At 6’4, 310 pounds Beadles has played his entire NFL career inside although he was a tackle in college. Beadles has solid speed for a guard (a trait needed for stretch and sweep plays, as well as screens) and this speed allows him to shed his initial block and reach the second level. Beadles did struggle this year with larger defensive tackles (think Brandon Mebane) but what he lacked in pure strength he more than made up for it with natural football instincts. He was, also, the leader of the Broncos offensive line.

Likelihood: Beadles, who has started 62 consecutive games, is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Beadles is 27 and is coming off back to back Pro Bowls. He’s about to get paid, either by Denver or someone else, so we’ll put this as a 1.

3. Jared Veldheer 

Analysis: Jared Veldheer possesses a rare mix of size and speed. Veldheer is able to get out of his stance quickly, which gives him leverage when engaging defenders. At 6’8″, 312 pounds Veldheer is a massive player manning the LT position. The Raiders played Veldheer a bit at RT this year too, as well as on rotation with Khalif Barnes at LT. He’s started 48 games after being drafted in the 3rd round.

Likelihood: I’ll put this as a 2 but that number increases if the Jets lose Austin Howard or end up releasing D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Veldheer can play on the left side or on the right. He battled some injuries last year, so there are concerns, but he’d be a good signing should the Jets need a tackle.

4. Wade Smith 

Analysis: Wade Smith made the Pro Bowl in 2012 for the Texans, and played all 16 games in 2013. During his time in Houston, he’s played at Center, Guard, and Tackle. He’s a bit undersized at 6’4 and 295 pounds, but he has been durable as he’s played 16 games in four straight seasons. Smith was a bright spot on an otherwise dismal Texans season.

Likelihood: Smith is 32 years old and there was talk that he would be retiring at the end of the season. However, he is set to become a free agent and a team that signs him gets a guy one year removed from the Pro Bowl. I’ll put this as an 5 based off of him being a former Jet and because he has the versatility that Idzik would like to target to either replace Colon or as insurance for Howard.

5. Chad Rinehart 

Analysis: Rinehart spent a week on the New York Jets practice squad in 2010 before being signed by the Bills. He spent the past season in San Diego, where he helped pave the way for Ryan Matthews’s best year as a pro. Rinehart is great in run blocking and has experience playing tackle. He, also, excels in pass blocking and is able to use his large frame to protect the QB from bigger defensive linemen. Rinehart displayed good straight line quickness and great trap blocking skills.

Likelihood: This is a 5, due to his past ties to the Jets. Rinehart, like Wade Smith, has experience at both tackle and guard positions, and would be a great value signing for John Idzik.

  • John X

    I’m a little surprised you didn’t include Geoff Schwartz who placed Asamoah on the bench this season taking over RG. I’m surprised Beadles made the pro bowl. I think he graded out pretty average overall. But he does bring LG experience which is what I think the Jets need with Winters really struggling there. Rhinehart sounds intriguing.

  • Lidman

    “I’ll put this as a 2 but that number increases if the Jets lose Austin Howard or end up releasing D’Brickashaw Ferguson.”

    If the NYJ release Ferguson there is a ‘dead money’ charge of 13+mm-that’s not happening. Heck, if they wanted to do it following 2014, it would cost them 9+mm, in cap space.
    Outside of an injury, there is no chance ‘Brick isn’t starting at LT, next year. I also don’t see them asking him to restructure, because that would entail guaranteeing him more money, making next year’s cap charge even higher. If Winters improves, I bet Ferguson returns to the level of play NYJ fans have come to expect.

    Joe has mentioned them keeping both Aboushi and Campbell on the 53 man, all year. You’d think this would indicate they believe in them, and so I would expect these guys to be in their plans for this year. I’d be surprised if they made a big FA aquisition on the OL.

  • DSeeka

    what about incognito? Born in NJ, 30 years old but still has a few years left and would come at a reduced price, given the off the field issues. Not sure Idzik would want that media attention but from a football perspective hes one of the best free agent guards out there in the run and pass game.

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  • John X

    DSeeka,

    I could see that – he plays LG pretty well and has a few good years in the tank remaining. I remember his earliest tweets (when this scandal began) included that he would be with the Jets.

  • KAsh

    @Lidman

    Brick’s dead money for releasing him this year would be $13 million (all numbers courtersy of overthecap.com) but his cap number is $11.7 million, so cutting him this year would only cost $1.3 million. Next year, Brick’s cap number is still $11.7 million, but his dead money would be $9 million, and cutting him would save $2.7 million. Ferguson has a little security this year, but if someone clearly better than him comes along, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he gets cut. Dead money is like debt: it is only bad if you are not profiting from it.

  • Harold

    If I am Idzik after seeing this list:

    I Draft Gabe Jackson in the second or top of the 3rd, save my money, for a CB, ILB and one or two WR’s.

  • Lidman

    Kash..you’re reading that table, at ;’Over the Cap’ incorrectly. ‘Brick has all the leverage. Using the Jets 2014 page: the ‘cap number’ column’ is what his cap charge will be in 2014-$11,698,666. The ‘dead money’ column is what would hit your cap, if you released him, today-$13,011,366. The final column, ‘cap savings’, is what teams are looking at when cutting players. For ‘Brick it’s ($1,312,670). Brackets mean it carries a negative value, an increased cap hit to the team. Hence, you add the absolute value of that figure to his cap charge and you come up with the ‘dead money’ number-$13,011,366. If you look at Cro or Sanchez’ ‘cap savings’ number they are positive, more cap friendly, which is why their ‘cap number’ is greater than their ‘dead money’ number. ‘Brick’s cap number is lower than his ‘dead money’ number. Based on his performance last year, if the NYJ could cut him, and only lose 1.7mm in cap space, you would have see a number of articles about that.

  • Dalbin

    Thanks for the replies guys; really glad to see the conversation going on.
    @John: I think the Chiefs won’t let Schwartz hit the open market for exactly that reason. I was surprised by Beadles’s Pro Bowl selection too. Rinehart seems like an Idzik signing.
    @Lidman: I think you may be right, but I do think Brick’s level of play dipped this season. It’s something worth monitoring.
    @DSeeka: I actually liked the idea of the Jets adding Incognito last offseason. I think the whole “scandal” may force them to pass this offseason.
    @Harold: that may be Idzik’s course of action. It depends on if he thinks a 3rd round OG can give more to the Jets than, say, Asamoah or Rinehart.

  • Lidman

    because the NYJ would certainly not be paying him $11+mm, and they’d be looking to restructure/cut his pay. They have no leverage here, or next year, for that matter.

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  • Lidman

    Dalbin..I agree his level dipped. I simply think the lack of consistency, at LG, had as much to do with it as anything. More than any other unit, the OL, has to ‘fully trust’ one another to have total succes. On top of that, the team was breaking in a new QB, prone to holding onto the ball. If both of those improve, as we’d expect from the 2 rising ‘sophomores’, I think ‘Brick benefits.

    We’ll see…

  • Dalbin

    @Lidman: That’s a great point. I agree that having Winters/Vlad next to him (players he didn’t really trust) impacted his play. And, his play increased during the last 4 games (coincidentally when Winters’s play increased.)

  • Lidman

    Right. So, is it a ‘coincidence’ or a is it a ‘direct result’? I see it as the latter. Here is a guy who just turned 30-which isn’t old for that position. He’s never missed a game. I don’t believe he’s ever had surgery, let alone a major injury. There is always a chance I’m a ‘homer’, but LT is not something I believe to be a big concern for this team.

  • Dan in RI

    Ferguson has one poor year, and suddenly we should cut him, regardless of the cap charge? Am I reading that right? Chances are pretty good that his off year was the result of either undisclosed injuries, the sorry state of the LG position, or he just plain had a sub-par year. You know, it happens–these guys are human, not machines. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t bounce back.

    And I think Lidman is right–the coaches and front office must have seen something they liked from Campbell and Aboushi to keep them on the roster for the full season.

    I expect them to do more or less what they did last year–keep Mangold & Ferguson, most likely re-sign Howard, pick up some inexpensive FA (s), and draft a couple mid-round & late round linemen. I wouldn’t count on them spending major bucks on the OL, or using a high draft pick.

  • Lidman

    Credit where credit is due: Joe C has consistently pointed out the Campbell and Aboushi points.

  • KAsh

    @Lidman

    First, I am not making any points about Ferguson’s performance.

    I did not misread his contract details. Dead money to the team is what the player still has guaranteed to him by his contract. The $13 million is money the Jets cannot get back. Even if Ferguson signed a new, restructured contract that guaranteed him less money, clinical insanity could be argued because he would be giving up his own money for no gain.

    In economics, money that has been spent and cannot be recouped, known as a sunk cost, never factors in future decisions. You have Ferguson and there is no way to get back the $13 million, so all decisions stem from there. His cap charge for 2014, or what he costs this upcoming year, is $11.7 million, which is made up of $4 million guaranteed and $7.7 million in base salary and bonuses. If you cut him before this year, you would increase your his cap charge in 2014 by $1.3 million, which is all it would cost to have Ferguson not be on your team. If you cut him before 2015, when he has the same cap charge, but has only $9 million guaranteed left, you would be gaining $2.7 million to not have Ferguson on your team.

    So, this year, your choice is between keeping Ferguson or letting him leave for an extra $1.3 million in 2014 (this would also save you Ferguson’s base salary and bonuses for the remainder of his contract, which, for example, is $7.7 million in 2015). Next year, your choice is between keeping Ferguson or getting an extra $2.7 million that year (as well as his base and bonuses for 2016 and 2017).

    You can cut Brick this year – it makes little sense unless you think he really cannot play anymore – but you can cut him when you have $40+ million to spend. If someone beats him out for his starting spot in camp, it makes more sense to have Brick as a backup than to cut him outright. Beyond this year, it looks worse and worse for Brick. Even for this year, a new GM may value the $7.7 million in savings in 2015 more than Brick’s performance this coming year.

    You are right about Brick having some leverage, but he does not have all of it, and his contract details contain benefits to cutting him in every year up until the end of it.

  • Lidman

    Kash…

    The ‘dead money’ charge, for 2014, of $13,011,336 is the sunk cost. That’s what was paid to him in signing bonuses, when the NYJ restructured his contract the past 2 off seasons. In each year, they converted the majority of his base salary to a signing bonus, allowing them to prorate that money over the remaining years of his original contract. I think it can be argued the reason the team went to ‘Brick, the past 2 years, to restructure, is because they knew pushing out his cap costs, basically insured they wouldn’t cut him, and they felt he was worth taking that risk on.

    Technically the don’t owe him another dime. He has no guarantees left in his contract. I see how you’re looking at it, I just don’t think it’s the way the NYJ look at it. The issue they would have, if they cut or even traded him, would be carrying that ‘dead money’ charge, and still having to go out and find a new LT. This would mean an additional cap hit directed a the LT position, this year. This is why he has the leverage, essentially guaranteeing he’ll receive his 5.95mm salary and 1.75mm in bonuses. Cutting him, while saving the team ‘real money’, would cost them valuable ‘cap money’ (which is the more important figure). Paying him more money, in salary and bonuses, actually benefits the team, by lowering his cap number.

    Bottom line, whether you and I disagree on how to look at this, there is virtually zero chance the NYJ cut ‘Brick this year, and unless his play really falls off a cliff, it’s very unlikely they cut him next year either. It simply doesn’t make ‘cap’ sense.

  • KAsh

    Our differences are as follows: you see Brick as hard to cut this year and not worth cutting next year. I see Brick as a costly cut this year and an obvious cut or restructure candidate next year. That is what we have to bridge.

    Sunk costs are all past investments. What the team has invested in LT should never weigh in on improving the position. And if Brick is cut, the money owed him should not count toward the LT position anyway. As long as there is a better player than Brick as a starter and as a backup tackle, Brick’s cap charge will doom him. It is similar to how people were talking about cutting Sanchez last offseason and eating his cap charge, except it would have taken an additional $9 million to cut Sanchez when we were right up against the cap and it will take only $1.3 million to cut Brick when we should have close to $50 million of room. The chances of us finding both a better starter and a better backup than Brick are low, so this path is possible but unlikely.

    Next year, Brick will still have a cap charge like a top-5 OT. If he wants to keep his contract, that is the level he must return to. Otherwise, unless Brick restructures next year when he has much less leverage, the Jets will likely take the remaining $9 million hit, cut Brick, and use the $2.7 million saved towards a replacement (if the replacement is still not on the team).

    Brick can restructure. In 2015, the Jets would probably forcefully reduce his salary in a restructure up to the $2.7 million saved if he is cut. If Brick wants to restructure this year – a possibility I raised several months ago – he can guarantee himself more job security at the same guaranteed pay, while saving the team something like $2.5 million this year. Thos would be for the best of both parties: Brick’s cap charges would start to come down and he would no longer be overpaid, giving him more stability and more years with the team.

  • Lidman

    As I said, if ‘Brick’s play were to really come off, this season, I could see an argument to bite the bullet, next year. However, unless they get one, in the next 2 drafts, they’d have to spend a lot more than $2.7mm, in both the cap space they would save, and real money, to replace ‘Brick. I simply think he’ll prove to be their best option. I think when Idzik went to him last year, to restructure, he thought the same thing. He’s a ‘capologist’, so he fully understood the ramifications of spreading more of ‘Brick’s money, out over the longer period. Taking a a 9+mm cap hit, to get back 2.6mm is bad cap management, and it was Idzik who made that happen. Brick will be the starting LT, in 2015, more than likely making $7.7mm.

    I’m done. You can continue to theorize, but it’s simply not that difficult to see how this situation unfolds.

  • Harold

    Kash:

    It make no sense to extend Brick before next season at the earliest. You still woulkd have to spread his remaining dollars over the additional years. This makes little sense.

    Next year at a lower sunk cost as you refer to it we then would be able to spread fewer dollars w/ an extension creating a larger overall dcrease in his cap number moving forward.

    I think this is a sounder approach.

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