Tomorrow at 4PM the money is going to start flying in the NFL. By this point the New York Jets have been linked to seemingly every available free agent in the league. What should Jets fans be on the lookout for tomorrow when the opening bell sounds? Let’s take a closer look…
1. The Big Spend? – This is the season of smokescreens but the chatter around the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans corner Alterraun Verner is hard to ignore at this point. The Jets won’t be the only team anxious to throw a big contract to the ascending 25 year old All-Pro, as New England, Minnesota and a few other teams are expected to heavily pursue him. How much are they willing to spend? The tone around Antonio Cromartie’s release makes it sound like he is very unlikely to return on a new, more cost efficient contract. Considering Rex Ryan’s history and ongoing love affair with the cornerback position, it hard to imagine the Jets cut bait with Cromartie without a strong plan for free agency in place. If they miss out Verner, keep an eye on Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who will come cheaper and could immediately step into the Jets starting lineup opposite of Dee MIlliner.
At safety, Jairus Byrd’s price tag is rumored to be dropping into the 8 million per year range. There hasn’t been any rumors about the Jets and Byrd which might be worth noting in itself, considering how tight of a lid John Idzik has kept on everything since taking over. Remember there was zero chatter about the Jets and WIllie Colon, Mike Goodson, David Garrard and Kellen Winslow Jr before they were all signed. I’m not saying Byrd is a likely target but I am saying to write it off 100% is premature. Another safety to watch is Chris Clemons, who would provide some needed range in coverage and be an upgrade over Dawan Landry. The Jets are flush with enough cap space where a signing of Verner and Clemons is not out of the question.
2. Austin Howard? – The Jets are working furiously to prevent Howard from hitting the open market tomorrow. All it takes is one team like the Raiders to throw him a ludicrous contract to potentially end his tenure in New York. The last thing the Jets need to is let a young, ascending talent on their already limited offense to walk. It will be a major win if they can lock him up within the next 24 hours. Most signs point toward Howard returning to New York but nothing is concrete yet.
3. Quarterbacks – Mark Sanchez isn’t due his roster bonus until March 25th. Many believe the Jets will see how the first two weeks of free agency shake out before making a decision on his future and that is a sensible theory. However, the building perception that Sanchez is likely be in New York for 2014 is misguided. Look for the Jets to make a strong push for Mike Vick or Matt Schaub (when he is officially cut) and also give consideration to Josh McCown. Shaun Hill is another player likely to receive consideration if they cannot get one of those three. It would not be crazy to think the Jets will add a veteran at quarterback and release Sanchez by the end of the week.
4. The Rest – Don’t count on Willie Colon being back with the team in 2014…he will hit the open market and likely receive a strong amount of interest eventually ending in a contract the Jets will be unwilling to match or exceed. Jon Asamoah is a name to keep an eye on and maybe Geoff Schwartz as well. The Jets have been very quiet when it comes to their preference at wide receiver. There has been a high amount of discussion about a potential pursuit of Andrew Hawkins but the interest level has been overstated. With both Golden Tate and Dexter McCluster primed to hit the open market, rumors swirling of DeSean Jackson, Steve Smith and Miles Austin becoming available and Eric Decker now expected to command a little less money than expected, the Jets will have no shortage of options. They may let the market settle a little bit before making a signing or two at receiver. At tight end, keep your eyes on Brandon Pettigrew and Andrew Quarless. The Jets are far from done at the position despite bringing Jeff Cumberland back.
Lamar Woodley is going to be released by the Pittsburgh Steelers and despite the Jets history of not spending at outside linebacker under Rex Ryan, I’d have to imagine they will at least kick the tires on him. Calvin Pace is still more likely to come back but if the Jets can get Woodley in the fold at the right price, it would be a nice upgrade.
One last thing to remember, Darrelle Revis needs to be on the Tampa Bay Bucs past March 13th for the Jets to receive a 3rd round pick…not a 4th round pick. It isn’t 100% that Revis will be on the Bucs roster by week’s end.
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