Free Agency is coming. The buzz around the NFL grows by the day and intrepid writers hypothesize the potential moves to be made. These hypotheses are educated guesses based on need, fit, and market value. With that in mind, TOJ presents the Free Agent Power Rankings as tailored to the New York Jets.
Why Not? – Reclamation Projects
27-30. Nate Allen (S), Fred Davis (TE), Hakeem Nicks (WR), Malcom Jenkins (S): All four have either failed to live up to their draft status or been derailed by injury (or both Mr. Davis!). Each among them would be worth a cheap (operative word) flier to see what they have to contribute. Each plays a position of need for the Jets and could, at the very least, provide competition.
Role Players and Potential Starters
26. Louis Delmas (S): Delmas was solid last year but making too much money for an injury riddled safety. If he passes his physicals, Delmas would provide an upgrade to the Jets defensive backfield. He would be their most capable free safety and likely compete with Dawan Landry for snaps.
25. Everson Griffen (DE): Griffen was a pass rushing DE in Minnesota and did so admirably. On the Jets, he would be a nickel pass rushing DE/OLB in the vein of Antwan Barnes. He would likely see similar (if not greater) success to Calvin Pace as his age and athleticism would put him in a position to see the one-on-one match-ups that come with playing on the Jets defensive line.
24. Chad Henne (QB): The Jets need a QB that can truly push Smith and start for him if need be. Henne has shown he can start when need be in Jacksonville. Obviously not a long term solution, Henne would be a good fit with the Jets until a more permanent solution can be found.
23. O’Brien Schofield (OLB): Quinton Coples is an outside linebacker only in name. The Jets are looking at Antwan Barnes and Calvin Pace (if he resigns) platooning opposite him. Schofield could come in and start immediately. Though buried in an unfathomably deep front seven in Seattle, Schofield is stout against the run and has a developed array of pass rushing moves. He won’t blow you away but he would be a solid contributor and, at least, fill a gap.
22. Andre Roberts (WR): The Jets need pass catchers (duh). Roberts, though not a starter, would provide quality depth and play making ability. Lost behind Fitzgerald and Floyd in Arizona, Roberts has shown explosiveness and put his dropping issues behind him. As long as he is not expected to see a bulk of the receptions, Roberts would be a good fit.
Older Models With Some Gas Left in the Tank
Brent Grimes (CB): The only way Grimes is wearing Green and White come September is if Cromartie is not. Grimes will look to be a starter somewhere and with Cromartie and Milliner on the same squad, Grimes would see few snaps. That being said, he had a major bounce back from ACL surgery and would be an upgrade over last season’s Cromartie. (NOTE, MIAMI just resigned Grimes).
20. Jared Allen (DE): Allen could likely start somewhere but would find himself some favorable match-ups on a line with Wilkerson, Richardson, Harrison, and Coples. Imagine the looks Ryan and Dunbar could concoct with those five. Granted, Allen would not “start” but the Jets defense is so scheme versatile he would still see his snaps.
19. Michael Vick (QB): Yes, he is controversial. Yes, he is turnover prone. No, he cannot read defenses. Yet, he is the best free agent quarterback. At this stage in his career, Vick is looking for a chance to start and the Jets may provide him with the best opportunity. Other quarterback needy teams (e.g. Cleveland, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Houston, Oakland) will likely look to the draft for their signal caller. Rookie QBs don’t have the luxury of riding the pine in today’s NFL and Vick must know that. The Jets and Titans both have young signal callers that they are not one hundred percent committed to. A matured Vick (as he displayed during last year’s Philadelphia QB controversy) could mentor Smith should he fail to win the job and spot start if Smith does poorly or gets injured.
Next Up – Young(ish), Talented Starters
18. Stevie Brown (S): Brown and the Giants have already begun talks and the team likes him in three safety looks with Antrel Rolle and Will Hill. If the Giants let him slip away, however, he would be a great fit for the Jets. He would be the Jets immediate starter at free safety and would provide coverage skills the Jets have missed at the position since Kerry Rhodes.
17. Zane Beadles (G): Some may argue he should be the number one guard on this list. Others will argue that he is rated too highly for a guard in the first place. I would argue that the later group undervalues the position and the first group did not watch his 2013 tape. Beadles is still young and has had a good career. Injuries hampered him early in 2013 and he never returned to form. However, he would still provide an upgrade and some competition to the Jets fluctuating guard spot.
16. Julian Edleman (WR): The Patriots have surprisingly left Edleman hanging. Their philosophy has always been of the “next man up variety” but Edleman provided so much for that team. Shame on them if they let him go. He would fit well in Mornhinweg’s scheme as he is versatile enough to be moved all around the formation, as the OC is wont to do.
15. Brandon Pettigrew (TE): The Jets look to enter the season with Zach Sudfeld and Chris Pantale as their only tight ends under contract. An upgrade is obviously needed but this free agent does not provide many viable options. Pettigrew was a first round pick with all the tangibles in the world. He just has not been able to put it together in Detroit. Perhaps a change of scenery and a new QB is just what the doctor ordered.
14. Jon Asamoah (G): Asamoah is young and athletic, a grinder in the run game and a passable pass protector. He would at least provide legitimate competition for Winters and Colon (should he return).
13. Jeff Schwartz (G): Schwartz replaced Asamoah on the Chiefs line half way through the season. Not because Asamoah was bad but because Schwartz was just that much better. Should Schwartz come to the Jets, he would surely take over a starting role.
12. James Jones (WR): Jones (30) is still relatively young. He has shared snaps with numerous talented recievers in Green Bay and has not been hit with the injury bug. Though he struggled with drops early in his career, Jones has now made his mark as a consistent hands catcher who will win contested balls. He would come in and immediately start for the team.
11. Walter Thurmond III (DB): Thurmond would be a great addition to the Jets, regardless of Cromartie’s future. Having Cromartie, Milliner, Thurmond, and Wilson all competing for starting snaps could either provide outstanding depth or weed out a week link. Thurmond, though arguably the most versatile defensive back in Seattle, won’t break the bank and could solidify a Jets secondary that looked shaky at times in 2013.
Wishful Thinking – Overpriced or Getting Resigned
*Note: I was hesitant to even rank the players in this category but extenuating factors could drive their prices down and keep their current team from resigning them.
10. Sam Shields (CB): A young, talented cover corner is a piece that could fit in any puzzle. Green Bay knows this and has made Shields their top in-house priority. However, if he hits the market, he would provide an upgrade for the Jets. If Cromartie sticks around, it may not be worth paying Sheilds’ asking price. However, should Cromartie depart, Sheilds and Milliner would make a deadly combo.
9. Aqib Talib (CB): Essentially, Talib and Shields are in the same spot regarding their availability and fit for the Jets. Talib only gets the nod because he is more athletic and had a better 2013. However, he also has two years on Shields and less long term viability.
8. Jason Worlids (OLB): Worlids had a solid eight sacks in Pittsburgh last year and proved to be a solid starting outside linebacker. The Jets need at the position and likelihood that he returns to the Steelers put him in this category.
7. Anquan Boldin (WR): Though aging, Boldin has proven he is still a threat in the passing game and extremely productive in the right scenario. Though his leadership and reliability would be a boon to the young Geno Smith, Boldin is not leaving the bay.
6. Eric Decker (WR): Decker is widely regarded as the best free agent receiver on the market. However, his ability to be a “true number one receiver” is in question. We at TOJ debate the validity of that qualifier and I would argue that Decker is one of the best pass catching options on the market. Decker makes hay on intermediate routes but can take the top off a defense when necessary. Though it looks like he will be leaving Denver, Decker will be grossly over paid.
Brian Orakpo (OLB): The Redskins have made Orakpo their priority and Daniel Snyder is not afraid to spend a buku bucks. Orakpo is already a pass rushing dynamo but, with the rest of the Jets front seven by his side, he could elevate his game. Unfortunately for Jets fans, Orakpo will likely be tagged if a long term contract cannot be reached. (UPDATE: Franchised by Redskins)
Top Tier – Needed Upgrade and Solid Fit:
4. TJ Ward (S): In all likelyhood Ward should be in the above category as I doubt Cleveland lets him slip away. However, the time to franchise the safety is dwindling and once Ward hits the open market, who knows what will happen. Ward would be an immediate upgrade over Dawan Landry and bring hard hits, decent coverage, and intelligence to the defensive backfield.
3. Alterraun Verner (CB): If Antonio Cromartie resigns then the need for a corner drops and Verner falls into the previous category (as paying what Verner will command for a second or third corner is ludicrous). However, if Cromartie is not in the Jets plans, Verner’s man coverage ability would help him excel as the #1 man in Rex Ryan’s scheme.
2. Golden Tate (WR): Many will think Tate, at number two, is too high on this list. People will point out his perceived flaws and lack of statistical production. However, I would counter that his numbers have steadily increased every season. He has gone through numerous quarterbacks. He has consistent hands and playmaking ability. He is scheme diverse and could be moved all over the formation by Marty Mornhinweg. What better for a sophomore QB than a player that can catch the uncatchable and make something happen with it.
1. Jarius Byrd (S): Most would imagine a list discussing the top free agent options for the Jets would begin and end with a wide receiver. But bear with me. One could (key word) argue that Byrd is the best active safety in the NFL and therefore the best free agent available. Byrd excels in both man and zone coverage and is good for a few turnovers per season. With a dominant front four and decent cornerbacks, Byrd could take his game and the defense as a whole to the next level.
Disagree with my rankings? Did I miss your favorite free agent to be? Sound off in the comments!