New York Jets Pre-Free Agency/Draft Roster Breakdown – Linebackers

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Before you know it, your favorite NFL team will undergo a dramatic facelift and hypothetically improve their prospects for the 2014 season. Don’t forget, however, the 2013 rosters are still set and old faces will play just as important roles as the new ones. As of today there are seven days until NFL Free Agency and the start of the new league year. So, each day, we at TOJ will address a new position group and where there will be change. Today, linebackers.

 

2013 New York Jets Depth Chart:

  • Quinton Coples - Under contract through 2015
  • David Harris - Under contract for 2014
  • Demario Davis - Under contract through 2015
  • Antwan Barnes - Injured Reserve, Under contract through 2015
  • Calvin Pace - Unrestricted Free Agent
  • Garret McIntyre – Restricted Free Agent
  • Jermaine Cunningham - Under contract for 2014
  • Josh Mauga - Injured Reserve, Unrestricted Free Agent
  • Nick Bellore - Restricted Free Agent
  • Troy Davis - Injured Reserve, Under contract through 2015

As Currently Constituted:

Troy Davis, Mauga, and Barnes all ended the season on Injured Reserve – making the linebacker corps seem more depleted than at the beginning of the season. However, a quick glance at the current depth chart reveals some glaring holes entering 2014. Quinton Coples is a linebacker only in name and there is an open roster spot opposite him (should Calvin Pace depart via free agency). There is ZERO depth as key backups/special teamers – McIntryre, Mauga, and Bellore – have yet to be resigned. If left untouched, there will be a mere six linebackers on the roster next season.

Keeping it In House:

Pace played admirably this season and racked up a career high 10 sacks with much of the offensive attention going to his line-mates. The Jets have expressed interest in bringing Pace back but have yet to reach out to the 34 year old. Pace’s inflated sack numbers could drive up his demand around the league. An aging linebacker whose most effective year came in tandem with a dominant supporting cast should not be overpaid. If the asking price is too much, it may be time to say goodbye.

McIntryre, Mauga, and Bellore (the rest of the free agent linebackers) played key roles as rotational players and special teamers. Their contributions largely went unnoticed but they are all very valuable players and the kind that help you fill out a roster. At the right price, all three should certainly return. That being said, the Jets will be implementing an entirely new system under new Special Teams Coordinator, Thomas McGaughey. These old stalwarts and their potential replacements will be on the same page, as far as the playbook is concerned.

The Market:

With Orakpo franchised and Worlids’ likely outrageous asking price, the options for the Jets are limited (as far as starters go). O’Brien Schofield is a back up on a Seattle team where there is a log jam of starting quality players. Schofield has shown more than enough to earn a chance at a starting gig. Everson Griffin is an intriguing situational pass rusher from Minnesota that would technically be considered a nickel, rush OLB in the Jets scheme.

Speaking of the Jets scheme, because it is so varied, the need for true “starters” at any position is less vital. Ryan mixes and matches his players to put them in the best position to win (wether that be out of necessity or preference is another conversation entirely). Right now (with Wilkerson, Richardson, Coples, Harrison, Barnes, Harris, and Davis) the Jets have seven guys that can get the job done. However, clearly, more depth is needed and there are upgrades to be made.

For more on the FA LBs see:

  • Mark Phelan

    The conversation I would enjoy is about the role of the Jets LB’s in pass situations. What needs to be done to improve defense against quick-release QB’s.

  • John X

    You’re right, Mark. While a pass rush is always in need of improvement, the rush defense isn’t and this is going to lead to teams picking apart our LB coverage, especially those of the quick-release variety. This seems to be glossed over by most here but I doubt Idzik will do the same. Davis and Harris were both at the bottom of the league in terms of coverage. And when/if the Jets improve their talent in the secondary, where do you think teams will attack the Jets?
    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Harris gone and replaced in FA and another ILB drafted to compete with Davis unless they feel like they can coach him into better coverage awareness.
    ILB is a huge question mark IMO at starter and depth.

  • Lidman

    It seems to me, the consensus among both the TOJ staff, and the ‘regulars’ on these comment boards, believe Idzik will be calcualted and not be ‘in’ on any big $ FA.

    Now, we know in Seattle, they did sign some big $ contracts, but Idzik was more the ‘cap guy’ there. So, while I’m sure he had ‘some say’, I don’t necessarily know whether we can really take anything from that.

    With the cap going higher than originally thought, and teams franchising the biggest impact guys (Graham, Orakpo, Folk!), I’m beginning to wonder/believe that the top FA…I mean the top FA available, come 3/11, will be getting larger than expected contracts.

    With that in mind, I think the NYJ should certainly be targeting the best impact guys, to fill their holes. To me, J Byrd would clearly be the #1 guy (following keeping A Howard).

    After that, I think keeping some powder dry for a possible DeMarcus Ware like cut, is something they should be focusing on. I know the team needs WR help, and they should investigate, but me..I’d rather see them draft 2-3 WR/TE with their first 4 picks, and fill the holes on their D, in FA.

    With Orakpo gone, Worlids could get as much as $9mm-$10mm APY. Is that a good risk? I’d rather give Nicks $10mm for a year, and guarantee Byrd $15-$18mm for 4yrs and then go after D Ware, when he gets released, as a short term fix.

    Thoughts?

  • KAsh

    This is the second time a writer on this site has said Coples is a linebacker in name only. First, if I remember correctly, by the defensive snap breakdowns of your own Mike O’Connor, Coples lined up as a traditional OLB most of the time. How is he a linebacker in name only? Second, if he is a linebacker in name only, why does it matter and what effect does such a designation have? Coples almost never gets off the field, so there is almost no need for a backup that specializes in Coples’s weaknesses.

  • Lidman

    John X,

    Would I like to have Bobby Wagner, or someone like him at ILB: yes. However, if the NYJ sure up the FS position, and allow AA to move to the SS position, where he’ll be in ‘the box’ more. That alone will improve the coverage. However, I’m happy to go with Harris/Davis this year and force opposing offenses to consistently go 10+ plays to score. This team went 8-8 and gave up as many big plays, as any team in the NFL. If they can eliminate those, I think you’ll notice the deficiency, in coverage, of the ILBs more than you think.

    Anything is possible, but I would be shocked if Harris isn’t the starter next year.

  • KAsh

    @Lidman

    Objectively, what has Nicks done to even see $10 million? But Ware on a 2-3 year contract would be great. (No guarantees that he will be cheap, though.)

  • Lidman

    Kash

    Nicks’ performance has been below the standards he set. However, he’s 26. For all the talk about him being brittle, he’s never played in fewer than 13 games in any year. Finally, while he’s had 2 down years, his history suggests he can be an impact player.

    Sure, you can look at Nicks and say his 56 catch/896 yard no TD year was bad. That would have looked great on the NYJ. Second, how much of Nicks poor performance is on the NYG offense, as a whole?

    Again, my point here is there is a lot of money to be spent and very few players out there who have truly made an impact. As a fan, I’d rather see them spend short term money, on a guy like Nicks-who’s 56/896 would have looked great on the NYJ last year, while they draft/develop receiving talent. I also favor ‘big’ over ‘little’, especially at the WR position.

  • Lidman

    Well..Worilds just signed his tender, so he’s a non issue…another player the market identified, as an impact player, gone…DeMarcus Ware must be praying he gets cut now.

  • KAsh

    @Lidman

    I’m not asking if Nicks is a good receiver. I’m asking if a guy that has had two down seasons in a row, never played 16 games in a single year, has had an injury history, complained about his contract, and then missed offseason workouts that resulted in the weakest season he has ever had besides his rookie year is worth $10 million. Especially after Cooper gets $5 million and Maclin gets $6 million.

  • Cole Patterson

    @KA$h

    Actually, In OC’s snap counts he said that Coples responsibilities were more similar to those asked of him his rookie year and was in a three point stance more often than not. Here is a quote from a mid season article by our Frank Giansone:

    “No. 2: What Impact Does the Position Change Have?
    This is bit overblown, in my opinion, as Coples assignment as Rex’s “Rush Linebacker” since returning from injury has been very similar to Coples original designation in his rookie year on the defensive line. Yes, Rex has asked QC to help in coverage slightly more often this year. And yes, Coples has struggled to adapt to that part of the position change. But if you take a closer look, it’s pretty evident that Coples’ responsibilities the past few weeks have been that of a DE, not an OLB.

    Against Pittsburgh, Coples only played one snap at OLB (thanks once again to Mike O’Connor for his snap count stats), compared to 37 snaps at the three/five technique. This has been the case for a few weeks now, which basically makes the “Can Coples play OLB” question futile.”

    And here is a quote from our Mike OC himself:

    “The controversy of Quinton Coples and his position is an interesting one, but this game offered little reassurance to whether Rex Ryan will use him more as a true outside linebacker or a defensive lineman in the future. Aside from two stray snaps that he split as a 3-tech rusher and a true outside linebacker (standing up on the edge), he saw all of his snaps from the perspective as a rusher with a hand in the dirt, rushing from the 5-tech or even further out. This does little to help the case of where he stands position wise, because all we can do is label him as an edge defender. When he gets healthier and starts to play nearly the whole game, we should have a much better indication.”

    @Everybody:

    Jason Worlids just signed his Pitt transition tag. This means that he will be payed about 1 mil less than the franchise tag. Other teams can make him offers and the Steelers have a few days to match the offer or risk losing him without compensation.

    According to reports, if Worlids remains a Steeler, Woodley will likely be cut…food for thought!

  • Lidman

    I am not saying I am right and understand your points. I would answer you this way:

    -Players all, at one time or another, and to different degrees, complain about their contract, hold out and miss workouts. It’s a business. Fans should, IMO, pay that no mind.
    All they should care about is: is this guy giving it his all? There are some questions about Nicks, but if he’s on a 1yr deal, he’d be betting on himself. If he stunk, then you’d simply have lost a year. Not great, but not something that will hurt for many years (ala Holmes).

    -I don’t know the number is, but would love to know what the average number of games each position group plays per year. In a sport where the injury rate is 100%, a guy who makes 86% of his possible starts and never misses more than 3 games in any year, is pretty reliable in my book; especially a WR who is susceptible to big hits. Golden Tate has missed 6 games in 4 years, and he’s probably seen 1/2 the snaps Nicks did, during those years. Is he an injury risk?

    -If J Maclin weren’t coming of an ACL, and had a typical Maclin season, he’d have been the top FA WR target. That said, if this was Nicks’ ‘weakest season’ (personally, I believe last year was), he still had more receiving yards than JM did in 3 of his 4 seasons. On top of that, Nicks has 2 1000+yd seasons and Maclin has only 1 season over 900yds.

    -Cooper may me a bargain for Philly. Maybe he likes it there and wanted to stay. I also believe the present day discussion, penalizing racial slurs, likely affected the way his agent advised him. If he tested FA, any team that brought him in would have to deal with that publicity. Philly has already dealt with it. If I were his agent and saw the opportunity to get $10mm guaranteed, with a high likelihood of $15mm+, I don’t see the upside risk, of racial backlash, diminishing interest in Cooper, worth taking.

    I won’t cry if the NYJ don’t get Nicks, but more and more I think he’s an intriguing option.

  • John X

    In general, the writers here need to justify their positions better. And it could stand if some of you had differing opinions. It seems that a solidarity exists on many player personnel ideas – where’s the independent, thought-provoking ideas when such one-sided views exist?
    A lot of what I call hit-and-run comments are running rampant here – drafting another QB, Coples is really a DE (based on WHAT? – did anyone see Richardson or Wilkerson taking rotating?). Bad stuff.

  • Joe Caporoso

    John – Pretty sure we’ve addressed the reason for drafting a QB multiple times and you just didn’t agree with our answer. Also Cole provides a great outline of what he said about Coples in the comment section here as well. I generally think we always back up our opinions with reasoning and research. Sorry if you don’t feel the same way. It isn’t easy to please everybody when writing about this or any team.

  • KAsh

    @Cole

    I am wrong. Coples did play predominantly 5-tech when he came back from his injury. As he started getting healthier, he did start to see more snaps at OLB, but his snaps as a 5-tech never went away.

    However, that does not mean that Coples being a linebacker in name only speaks to the team’s deficiency at linebacker. If you want to say that Coples is a DL, that means the Jets are more of a 4-3 team, as they have 4 starters on the d-line. You still have the exact same problems of not having one starting LB and having questionable depth players, aside from Barnes.

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