Every year NFL teams suffer major losses due to injuries. Last season, the New York Jets lost two key role players in Antwan Barnes and Mike Goodson to season ending knee injuries. Ironically, both were the Jets’ most notable free agent acquisitions just a few months before going down.
With the 2014 free agency period in full swing and the draft on the horizon, many have forgotten both of these players plan on returning to gang green for the 2014-2015 season.
Goodson was signed in the 2013 offseason to a three year contract worth $6.9 million. The Jets have lacked a dynamic threat in their backfield that could take it to the house on any type of play. During his time with the Panthers and Raiders, Goodson had flashed ability to do just that.
The Jets eventually traded for Chris Ivory during the 2013 NFL Draft and officially formed a speed/power duo between him and Goodson. While their cap space hindered them throughout free agency in 2013, the fans had a reason to be excited.
Things got off to a terrible start for Goodson in Florham Park. It was reported that he was found passed out in a car on I-80 in the center lane with friend Garrant Evans. Police claim to have found a .45 caliber pistol loaded with illegal hollow-point ammunition. The cops also found various narcotics at the scene. There is currently no proof that the gun or narcotics belonged to Goodson.
While Goodson faces a maximum of a 10 year sentence (the court case is still pending), he already served a four game suspension to begin the 2013 season. Upon his return, he had seven carries for 61 yards in two games (8.7 yards per carry). He also caught two passes for 19 yards.
Even more evident was the skill set Goodson brought to the Jets offense. He was the fastest playmaker on offense from the moment he stepped in. He possesses great cutting ability and Marty Mornhinweg seemed determined to get him into open space.
Unfortunately for Goodson, his troubles continued as he tore his ACL while attempting to make a tackle against the Steelers. His season had ended before he could even finish his second game of the year.
While I can not touch on his legal matters too much (that will play itself out), what can Goodson bring to the Jets in 2014? If he is fully recovered from his ACL tear, he could find a nice role in Marty Mornhinweg’s west coast offense.
He is a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield with top end speed. He is also on an extremely reasonable contract that has been restructured since he originally signed it. While Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell had very solid seasons in 2013, Geno Smith clearly suffered without a safety blanket.
After Mark Sanchez’s rookie season, the Jets signed LT to be their third down back. Although Sanchez is no longer with the team, he benefited greatly from having LT. Which leads to my next thought: How will the Jets let this play out? In my opinion, there are three very realistic options.
1) Pencil Goodson in as the 3rd RB
The Jets can cut Goodson outright if they want to, but that would not make sense due to his reasonable contract (barring his court case). While John Idzik preaches “competition”, Goodson was penciled in as the second running back on the depth chart until Bilal Powell found plenty of success early in the season. I do not think the Jets go this route, but you never know how things will play out.
2) Goodson vs. a draft pick for the 3rd RB spot
In my opinion, Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde is the only “complete back” in the 2014 draft class. Although the drop off is quite clear after hyde, the crop of running backs has a ton of day two candidates. If the Jets select a speedster such as Kent State’s Dri Archer or Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas, Goodson will find himself in a competition for his job come training camp.
3) Goodson vs. a free agent vs. Powell
Chris Ivory proved he is the real deal last season. Bilal Powell proved to be extremely reliable in spot duty (especially when Ivory is injured). I have seen recent reports that the Jets are interested in free agent running back Maurice Jones-Drew. I have also heard from various people (who are much closer to the team than myself) that the interest is genuine.
If the Jets bring in a runner such as MJD (although he has a lot of tread on his tires), Goodson would have to outplay that free agent or Powell by a wide margin. Powell have proven his worth and clearly John Idzik will want his latest free agent acquisition to look like the right choice. This will be a very interesting storyline come training camp.
The Jets signed Barnes to a three year contract in the 2013 offseason. He made $1.65 million in his first year with the Jets and is due to make $1.2 million the next two seasons. That $1.2 million can rise to $2 million, depending on how Barnes produces.
Under Rex Ryan, the Jets have clearly lacked a speed edge rushing presence at the outside linebacker position. In 2011 (Barnes last full season), he had 11 sacks with the Chargers. With Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples penciled in as the starters for the Jets, Barnes was brought in purely as a situational rusher (a perfect role for a player who is often hurt).
His impact was apparent from the opening week when the Jets played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Barnes flew off the edge multiple times, showing excellent momentum while swimming under blockers shoulders. He finished the game with a sack and 1.5 tackles on limited snaps.
After the first four games, Barnes had two sacks and plenty of quarterback hurries forced on passing downs. He was the rotational edge rusher Rex Ryan’s front seven had desperately needed. Then, disaster struck Barnes once again. After just 18 snaps verse the Atlanta Falcons, he had torn his ACL and was out for the season.
So what can Barnes bring to the Jets front seven in the 2014-2015 season? It might seem crazy, but Barnes job will be even easier. He will be playing alongside one of the best front sevens in football on limited snaps. Young players like Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, Kenrick Ellis, Sheldon Richardson, Demario Davis, and Quinton Coples will all have another year of experience under their belt.
If the Jets do not add another rusher in the draft, Barnes will be used on passing downs to get after the quarterback once again. He showed a ton of promise in this role although he was only available for a quarter of the season. Having him back should help the Jets defense get off the field much faster.
ESPN gave Goodson an “F” grade and Barnes a “D” in their free agency review. I understand the low scores but I think grading free agents after one season is quite questionable.
Both are signed to extremely reasonable deals and could end up being contributors for the Jets in 2014.
It will be a warm welcome back for both of these players as we look forward to seeing what they can contribute for Gang Green in 2014.