We are finally there. Starting tomorrow NFL teams can begin contract negotiations with free agents. On March 11th, those contracts can be confirmed. The Jets are financially poised to have an active offseason but what can we actually expect? Crack open the 12 Pack for thoughts on what may be ahead for our New York Jets…
NOTE: We can report the New York Jets are resigning TE Jeff Cumberland. We don’t have contract specifics yet but he will be back in 2014.
1. QUARTERBACK: MARK SANCHEZ WAS SPOTTED IN A NEW YORK CITY APARTMENT! Is 2014 the year of a triumphant return of SoCal Six? I wouldn’t rush to that conclusion but there seems to be a general hesitancy among fans and writers around the team to pronounce Sanchez a goner. My guess on the reason? The team has been dead silent about his future. Silence leads to curiosity and confusion over something that was considered a foregone conclusion. I said a few months ago Sanchez was 100% a goner and yes I’d still be shocked if he was back in 2014. My best guess is at some point before March 25th, a different veteran is signed and Sanchez is released.
Who will that veteran be? There is a ton of chatter about Mike Vick. Have him and Marty Mornhinweg buried the hatchet? If so, it is a sensible move. If not Vick, Shaun Hill, Matt Cassel, and Tavaris Jackson could all receive consideration. Regardless, the Jets need to leave March with another quarterback confirmed on their roster who could effectively push Geno Smith in the summer and then hopefully be a competent backup throughout 2014.
2. WIDE RECEIVER: We’ve been pretty in-depth into the Jets options here. Santonio Holmes is going to be released (probably in the next 24-48 hours)…and then it is time to get to building. In this author’s opinion, Golden Tate should be priority number one. If they miss out on him, Andre Roberts or Julian Edelman would be a better fallback option than Emmanuel Sanders. Dexter McCluster would be an intriguing addition, even after they add a player like Tate or Roberts. It is also worth keeping an eye on Bengals RFA Andre Hawkins, recently released Saints WR Lance Moore and Eagles WR Jason Avant. The Jets need depth, badly and shouldn’t be shy about adding two players at receiver in free agency. Remember, this was a team who played Clyde Gates, Stephen Hill, Ryan Spadola, Ben Obomanu and Santonio Holmes in week 2 against New England…four of those five players may not play a single NFL snap next season.
3. TIGHT END – We can report that TE Jeff Cumberland will be back in 2014, so that is something worth keeping in mind as the Jets approach free agency. Considering his limitations as a blocker, I don’t think this stops the Jets from considering a player like Brandon Pettigrew or Andrew Quarless. Remember, depth is important. Offensive Coordinator Marty Monrhinweg made a major effort to feature Jeff Cumberland last season and clearly sees some potential there.
4. RUNNING BACK – There were a few rumblings the Jets could consider chasing Ben Tate or Donald Brown. I don’t see it with Tate but Brown could make sense because of his ability to contribute in the passing game. It would be hard not to consider Darren Sproles if he was released but there will be plenty of bidders for him. I wouldn’t bank on the Jets making an addition here, as they may add somebody in the middle or late rounds of the NFL Draft and also hope Mike Goodson can come through for them in 2014.
5. OFFENSIVE LINE – Hopefully, Austin Howard will be locked up in the coming days. My money remains on him returning, even if it is at a price that a few Jets fans may not be thrilled with. You create cap space so you can pay ascending young talent on your roster and Howard fits that description. The last thing the Jets offense needs to do is create another hole by letting him walk. As for Guard, expect Willie Colon to hit the open market and for the Jets to potentially show interest in players like Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah.
6. DEFENSIVE LINE – The main question here is if the team will bring Leger Douzable back, which will be a challenge. There are plenty of teams who will look at him as a starter and pay him accordingly. It is also being reported the Jets are going to exercise the fifth year option on Muhammad Wilkerson’s deal, which is an article for another day.
7. LINEBACKER – The safest bet is that Calvin Pace will be returning on a low cost one year deal. Brian Orakpo is off the market. Jason Worilds is basically off the market with the transition tag slapped on him. If DeMarcus Ware is released, it would be far from surprising if the Jets showed some interest.
8. SECONDARY – Will the Jets make the big money push for Jairus Byrd or TJ Ward? Honestly, we have no idea but we wouldn’t be against pursuing Byrd, who Rex Ryan could work wonders with. The Jets badly need to start forcing more turnovers and signing Byrd is quite the start. It is probably a safer bet to assume they will chase a lower cost option with more range than Dawan Landry, like Malcolm Jenkins or Antione Bethea but don’t rule out the Jets using their cap flexibility to chase Byrd.
At cornerback, it remains most likely that Antonio Cromartie will return on a restructured deal. The Jets solidified their depth in the past week by resigning Darrin Walls, Ellis Lankster and claiming Johnny Patrick off waivers from the Chargers.
9. SPECIAL TEAMS – The team is currently working on a long term contract for Nick Folk who was slapped with the franchise tag. It will be interesting to see if/when they can lock that up. Beyond that, the addition of McCluster or Tate could help remedy the ongoing issue at punt returner.
10. THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T EXPECT TO HAPPEN – The Jets giving up draft picks for Jimmy Graham…Hakeem Nicks…the Jets trading up for Sammy Watkins.
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