New York Jets Free Agency Primer (Safeties)

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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. Today, we look at free agent safeties. Check out cornerbacks here:

1. Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills

2013 Stats: 37 Tackles, 4 INTs, 6 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble

Analysis: Arguably the best defensive player on the market, Byrd battled injuries during last season as he only played in 10 games. This was the second time in his career that his season was cut short due to injuries, but before this past season he played all 16 games in three consecutive seasons. Byrd has tremendous athletic ability, has thrived playing Cover 1, and is a playmaker in the back end of a defense. He, also, has great closing speed which helps him supply more than adequate run support.

Likelihood: The familiarity with new Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine, along with the fact that Byrd is a three time Pro Bowler, gives the Jets A LOT of competition for Byrd, so I will put this as a 5. The Jets haven’t spent on safeties during Rex Ryan’s tenure, but Byrd isn’t just a normal safety; in his five seasons he has more interceptions than all of the Jets safeties under Rex Ryan combined. His price will be steep, but so will his production.

2. TJ Ward, S, Cleveland Browns

2013 Stats: 75 tackles, 2 INTs, 1.5 sacks, 7 Passes Defended, 2 Defensive TDs

Analysis: The 27 year old Ward made his first Pro Bowl this past season after posting his finest season as a pro. Ward is much more of a strong safety than Byrd and plays much closer to the line of scrimmage. Ward is excellent against the run and he has improved against the pass from his rookie season when he was allowing one reception per 17 passing snaps.

Likelihood: The Browns decided to not franchise tag Ward and have seemingly made center Alex Mack a priority. The Browns may, also, opt to replace Ward with Byrd since Byrd is the better fit for the man to man schemes Pettine will most likely employ as Head Coach. I’ll put this as a 6, because Rex hasn’t cared much for free safeties during his tenure but he has coveted strong safeties that can play the run and can cover (e.g. Jim Leonhard). Plus, Ward’s price may be substantially less than Byrd.

3. Antoine Bethea, S, Indianapolis Colts

2013 Stats: 89 Tackles, 2 INTs, 8 Passes Defended, 1 Fumble Recovery

Analysis: If the Jets choose to eschew the youth movement at safety and would instead prefer a veteran patrolling centerfield, they could do a lot worse than Bethea. Bethea has been one of the more durable players in the league, as he has played in all 16 games for six straight seasons. He is more of a prototypical free safety, but flashes good run support. Bethea, also, has experience playing cornerback and strong safety, which would allow Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman to deploy him all over the defense.

Likelihood: I’ll put this as a 6, as Bethea is one of the players Rex has admired over the last couple of years. In fact, when the Colts were going to play the Jets, Ryan mentioned Bathea along with Peyton Manning and the rest of the Colts stars as guys that he wanted Jim Caldwell to sit. Bethea would come a lot cheaper than Byrd and Ward and would help solidify the safety position for the Jets.

4. Louis Delmas, S, Detroit Lions

2013 Stats: 49 Tackles, 3 INTs, 2 Sacks, 9 Passes Defended

Analysis: Delmas, the former second round pick from the University of Miami, had never played a full NFL season until this past year. He made the most out of it as he put together his best season since his rookie year. Delmas is an excellent free safety, and has shown the ability to cover tight ends in man to man coverage. Delmas is smart and has great instincts, and was used by former coach Jim Schwartz to cover wide receivers last year at times. Delmas is a natural ballhawk, but he isn’t very athletic, and is more quick than fast.

Likelihood: At 26 years old and coming off as good a season as Delmas did, teams should be lining up to sign him. However, the injury concerns are real. Delmas missed 15 games his first 4 seasons, which is a lot for a player that isn’t particularly physical. I’ll put this as a 4; this would be very similar to the Jets signing two injury prone guys in Laron Landry and Willie Colon to one year “show me” deals. Delmas could bring some competition to the Jets safety position without the Jets having to break the bank.

5. Malcolm Jenkins, S, New Orleans Saints

2013 Stats: 48 Tackles, 2 INTs, 2.5 Sacks, 5 Passes Defended, 2 Forced Fumbles

Analysis: A former cornerback turned safety, Malcolm Jenkins put together a solid season for Rob Ryan’s defense down in New Orleans. Jenkins, like Delmas, has battled some injuries although not to the same extent as Delmas; Jenkins has played in at least 13 games in every year he’s been in the league. Jenkins is 6’1” and 201 pounds, which makes him one of the bigger free safeties in the game. Jenkins struggled during his rookie year in man coverage, which prompted the move to safety by the Saints. However, Jenkins did show marked improvement when Ryan moved him up to the line of scrimmage to cover wide receivers. Jenkins has good technique and, while he doesn’t possess rare speed, he utilizes good instincts to patrol deep zones.

Likelihood: I’ll put this as an 8, due to the familiarity with a Ryan-led defense as well as how highly Jenkins spoke of Rex during the week leading up to the Saints versus Jets contest. Jenkins would give Rex the same versatility he gave Rob, but would come at a higher cost than Delmas or Bathea.

15 thoughts on “New York Jets Free Agency Primer (Safeties)

  1. Looks like you forgot Chris Clemons who can cover with the best of them and won’t be expensive which would allow them to spend more freely at CB & WR.
    Whitner is also out there as a real force on the field although I’m not so sure these physical strong-safety types aren’t becoming extinct with the league changes. I think this team badly needs safeties that can cover, like Clemons. The ILB’s need a lot of help as they’re currently structured.

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  6. I think it is important to remember that Idzik, not Rex, is the one who assembles the team. Sheldon Richardson, for example, was Idzik improving the roster in the best way possible and relying on Rex to figure out how to work Richardson into the game plan. Rex may have a preference for strong safeties, but it is pretty obvious that the greatest weakness of our secondary is that no Jets safety can cover the whole field. I think Byrd would address our issues more than Ward, so Idzik might prefer the ballhawk over the enforcer. We also are very deep at strong safety.

    I would also argue that Rex’s preference is not for strong safeties, but that he likes safeties that are capable of doing several tasks like a utility knife. Strong safeties are just more willing to assist in run support, blitz, or go into man coverage, so Rex keeps more of them around than he does free safeties.

  7. Every team has holes..every one. The strong teams simply overcome those more effectively. The swap of Milliner, for Revis, coupled with Cro’s dramatic drop in performance, simply put more pressure on that FS position.

    We can all say/surmise that ‘Rex’ scheme doesn’t place an importance on Safeties and is more focused on CBs. But, when he was in Baltimore, he had an Ed Reed, in his prime and average CBs. Here, it’s been the opposite. Right now though they are average, with a healthy Cro, at CB and sub par at FS. Any good coach, and I think Rex is a good coach, adjusts based on his personnel. So, if Rex, Idzik and the scouting dept determine they don’t have the CBs to consistently be succesful, in his scheme, and the available talent, at the FS position, is superior to what’s available at CB, you adjust your system, no?

    Joe C’s biggest point, on any WR he writes up, is always upgrading the talent at the position. While we can all debate individual players, I don’t think anyone disputes the theory (does anyone?). If bringing in a Byrd, or drafting a 1st round FS, upgrades the entire defense, then shouldn’t you do it?

    One other point, anyone who thinks the coaching staff, which is led by Rex, doesn’t have a big say on who gets drafted, is misguided, IMO. Go read Collision Low Crossers. It details how involved everyone is at evaluating the available talent. Yes, Idzik is charged with running the process, but to think he alone makes the picks, or that Rex alone makes the is picks is naive.
    Sure, there are disagreements, no doubt. But, I find it hard to believe if Idzik, alone, is for drafting ‘player X’, but the consensus is for another player/position, he trumps that..especially as a 2nd yr GM, with no prior history of success, to rely on. If Bill Polian were here, OK, I could see him saying ‘F-Off, we’re doing this my way’. I don’t see Idzik having that type of power.

  8. It is not about having or not having the power – and I think Idzik clearly was given full authority over the roster – rather that Idzik is not that type of guy. But this also means that if Rex is harping on about strong safeties and Idzik’s evaluators are pointing at free safety, Idzik will side with his evaluators, especially if they make a more convincing case.

  9. I think that’s the point I was making, no? You just put Rex in the position of trying to trump the consensus, and I put Idzik.

    When you look back at this time last year, was the team any better off offensively then it is now? Would you say Rex’ position was weaker than it has been at any other time in his tenure here (I would)? Yet, with 2 1st round picks, the team took a CB and 3rd consecutive 1st rd DLman. You think Rex had no say on those picks? The team had a need at Guard, WR, TE, and QB, but they took 2 defensive players. I’m sure Idzik was fully on board with those picks. I’m also sure Rex had influence on them as well.

  10. Kash..I’m simply responding to your statement: “I think it is important to remember that Idzik, not Rex, is the one who assembles the team. Sheldon Richardson, for example, was Idzik improving the roster in the best way possible and relying on Rex to figure out how to work Richardson into the game plan.”

    I’m not talking about who has more power. Again, Idzik is in charge of the entire organization, and scouting is a huge part of it. If I owned a team, I certainly wouldn’t want my coaching staff focusing on anything but the players on the team from right after the draft until the last game of the season. However, from the last game until draft day, the entire unit is building a consensus for the draft. To think the HC isnt’ deeply involved with those decisions seems very naive, to me. However, I can’t say I have intimate knowledge of the situation.

  11. Lidman,

    You contradict yourself five times over. You don’t know and neither does anyone else know to what extent Rex has decision-making. So let’s leave it at that.

  12. I don’t contradict myself. I simply give an opinion. I think Kash’s original statement suggests he knows what’s what.

    You’re on record as saying every organization needs 1 strong leader. Do you really believe Idzik, alone, decided on those 2 first round picks last year?

  13. I think John is also on record saying that Idzik did unilaterally decide those picks. But my memory is not perfect.

    The HC should be involved in all decisions. But his views should be from an evaluation viewpoint. They should also be argumentative, as in a rational, argument-based take on specific players. There will be evaluations fom the entire staff. And the GM will make his own similar evaluations, but he is the only one with the final authority to make a decision from all those arguments. I think this is a view everyone can agree on.

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