New York Jets Free Agency – Perspective Piece

Much has been made of the New York Jets free agent strategy to date. Some praise second year GM John Idzik’s meticulous approach. Others condemn him for lacking vision and ignoring blatant holes in the roster. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, some league wide perspective on this free agency period is in order.’s Gregg Rosenthal provides this list of teams and the number of players from other rosters that they signed. What can this list tell us?

  • We know that the New York Jets signed five players: Eric Decker, Michael Vick, Breno Giacomini, Dimitri Patterson, and Jacoby Ford.
  • We also know that twelve teams signed equal to or fewer players than the Jets.
  • Some of those teams are the class of the NFL: 49ers, Saints, Patriots, Broncos.
  • Others had years (or a few consecutive ones) to forget: Bills, Rams, Cowboys.
  • The teams that signed the most players were all middling to below average in 2013: Buccaneers (17), Giants (15), Redskins (13), Raiders (12).
  • The Superbowl Champion Seahawks signed eight players.
  • The 5-10-1 Vikings, who hold the eighth overall pick, also signed eight players.

There is a lot that can be gleaned from this information. However, what stands out the most is that there is no one way to approach free agency and no universally successful way to construct a roster. Consider the actions of some of free agency’s top customers.

The Buccaneers signed seventeen new players. However, likely only five of them will start: Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner, Brandon Meyers, , Evan Dietrich-Smith, and Clinton McDonald. The Buccaneers were already very talented but had to add players that fit new Head Coach Lovie Smith’s mold.

On the other hand, Oakland signed thirteen players and will likely start nine: Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley, Donald Penn, Austin Howard, James Jones, Kevin Boothe, Terrell Brown, Antonio Smith, and Carlos Rogers; ten if you include Matt Schaub. The Raiders were devoid of talent across the board. GM Reggie McKenzie was dealt a poor hand and had to find a way to balance immediate results with long term opportunity.

The crosstown Giants probably played free agency how many expected and hoped the Jets would. The signed Dominic Rogers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond III, and Quintin Demps to add starters and depth to their struggling back end. They replaced the departed Tuck with Robert Ayers. They fortified their offensive line with Geoff Schwartz and hope to catch lightning in a bottle with Rashad Jennings. They now have $4,129,849 in cap space, just enough to ink their rookies. The Giants shelled out mostly cap friendly deals (the Rogers-Cromartie deal being the obvious outlier) and should have approximately $30,000,000 in cap next off season. Should these moves work out, GM Jerry Reese may find himself off the hot seat without having compromised his future cap.

The Jets are in a very different position than any of the aforementioned organizations. GM John Idzik does not face the same front office pressure as Reese or McKenzie and is still free to operate at his own pace (glacially apparently). Nor is he a first year GM like Tampa Bay’s Jason Licht who must completely restock the roster in he and Coach Smith’s image.

The Jets are in year two of a rebuild with a young core in place. Filling the roster out with free agents may have led to some quick results but would not be conducive to long term success. That being said, putting all his eggs in the draft basket leaves Idzik with little leeway should this upcoming rookie class not yield positive results, and quickly.

Had Idzik gone on a spending spree, some fans would have been happy but many would be reminded of the short window of success that strategy produced in the Tennenbaum era. However, some GMs (looking at you Trent Baalke) went to the other extreme and let numerous starters walk (e.g. Rogers and Brown) and only signed two free agents.

If you are a numbers person, the average number of outside players signed by an NFL team so far this offseason is seven. The mode of this same sample is five players, with a total of six teams singing that many (the Jets being one).

Whatever this statistical perspective means to you, the fact is that the Jets offseason is in line with what much of the rest of the league. That being said, each team operates in its own context and what works for one team will not necessarily work for another. No one organization has a secret formula for sustained and immediate success and free agency alone does not a resume make.


Author: Cole Patterson

Cole has attended American University in Washington DC and is currently completing a double major in history and global communications at Ramapo College in Northern NJ. He has served as an NFL Analyst for a local DC radio show, Fanatic Radio. He lives and dies with the New York Jets. Cole will help lead Jets coverage and analysis.

  • Cole..nice write up. When I look at FA, I don’t look at it as quantity, or overall money spent. I simply ask does bringing this guy in make the team better than it was last year. The only outsider he’s brought in that defintively improves the team, is Decker. I simply believe he misjudged how the change in cap space this year, and projected changes coming, affected the supply/demand curve of the players available. I see the way the Raiders went about their business, and simply wonder if the NYJ couldn’t have done some of those type of deals. Reggie Mackenzie is a GB guy, so he’s likely to have a similar philosophy in building a team. However, he also was flexible enough to utilize free agency to improve his team, for the coming year, but not at the cost of his future salary cap.

  • LeeBur

    Lidman- i wish the Jets did 1 or 2 deals like the Raiders. But the way the raiders went about it just dosent make sense.

    “Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley, Donald Penn, Austin Howard, James Jones, Kevin Boothe, Terrell Brown, Antonio Smith, and Carlos Rogers; ten if you include Matt Schaub.”

    If 5 of these guys dont pan out, which is easily possiblebased on their play, they will need to replace 5 starters in 2015. And especially if Matt Schaub dosent work out, you have set your franchise back 1 year by finding his replacement. IMO what the raiders did was give them a 2 year window to MAYBE be a wild card team, and then they will be starting from scratch AGAIN in 2016 (maybe even 2015)

  • Joe Caporoso

    IMO – The Raiders will be lucky to win 6 games this season. Nothing Reggie McKenzie has done since taking over that team should inspire any confidence. His track record in Oakland speaks for itself

    …And then Saffold went and failed his physical….and for some reason Oakland is moving Austin Howard to guard. They are currently the 4th best team in their division, 6 games might have even been generous.

  • LeeBur,

    Oakland has their full alotment of draft picks too. This just gives those players time to develop and adjust their game to the new level, but gives the team a chance to be more competitive. Wouldn’t have been nice, last year, if the NYJ had a player who could have competently played for Winters, or Milliner? When I hear people talk about how many draft picks the NYJ have, I confounds me a bit. Great, they have 12 picks, but 7 of those are in the 5th-7th rounds. How many impact players can we expect them to get? If you look at last year’s draft, of their 7 picks, only Richardson was a consistent performer, even if you count Ivory (their 4th rounder, via trade) who came on late. Sure, Dee and Winters improved, in December, but counting on the 2 of them, to be solid NFL players this coming season is still a gamble. Aboushi and Campbell haven’t played a down, and Bohanon was sub par, at best. I get buidling via the draft. I simply think their are long odds of them filling all their needs, in this this draft.

  • JOe, you may be right, but nothing he’s done in Free Agency is likely to have a long term negative effect on the franchise. They only won 4 games last year, so 6 would be an improvement. On top of that, they had over $60mm in cap room, and eventually they were going to have to spend money. Time will tell if they screwed up the Veldheer situation (especially after Saffold failed his physical), but maybe they simply didn’t see him being worth $17mm guaranteed. Personally, I think Idzik may have done the same ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ thing with Howard/Breno.

  • Joe,

    Tell me, what is Reggie McKenzie’s track record? I’m not a fan, nor detractor, but when I look at what he walked into, in 2012, what should you expect from hi team. If you want to look up all the moves, you can, but in short he arrived and the team didn’t have a 1st or 2nd round pick, and their original 3rd rounder, came in the form of T Pryor, in the 2011 Supplemental Draft.So, his first pick was the 95th pick. He had a bloated cap, and was forced, like someone you say we should have patience with, to sign some bargain basement guys, while getting out from Al Davis’ mess. He’s had one draft and I can’t tell you if his draft skills will prove good, or bad,; but that can be said for anyone. However, when you look at the team today, they are in much better shape than they were when he took over. I’m sure you can find other opinions supporting your thesis, but here are 2 that suggest he’s doing Ok. That’s not really my long winded point. You consistently tell your readers to be patient with Idzik, so I don’t why you seem to be rushing to judgement on a guy who has a similar plan.

  • Joe Caporoso
  • KAsh

    All you have to know about the Raiders’s future prospects is that they have 33 players under contract for 2015, according to Over the Cap. Even if they keep all their draft picks over the next two years on the roster, they will not have 53 players. Another way to look at it is that they are barely a third of the way to filling their training camp roster for next year. They will have to binge on free agents next year again if they want to field a team.

  • LeeBur

    Lidman- you are right that it would have been nice to have guys fill in for Winters and Milliner. But that was just 2 positions. The raiders might potentially cut 1-10 players after the 2014 season if the old farts they signed this season flame out. Like you just said the later picks are a crap shoot. If the Raiders cut 8 of those guys, maybe the guys they drafted in the 1st 4 rounds will be able to fill in, but what about the other 4 positions? Its hypothetical on my end, but it could happen. Im really just stressing the lack of stability by constantly bringing in different guys each season.

  • LeeBur

    Joe- that Rotoworld article is interesting. Cant believe how little PT the young guys got. I think Idzik is a bit different because his plan is to bring in young talent and play them. Raiders just have a weird mix of so many ageing vets who are new to the team and young guys who have barely played.

  • joe dante

    Making an argument and basing your proof on the success of the Raiders is ridiculous. They have been in the bottom 3 of the NFL for ten years now and nothing they have done now will change that. Signing all these over the hill veterans only prolongs the pain because it takes roster spots and playing/practice time away from the young players who will still be on the team in 1-2 years. All these signings as you like to say “are not locked in after this year”. So what is the point in signing them? They are not going to be a playoff team with all the free agents they brought in. So why do it? All these signings are doing is making a feeble attempt at keeping his well paid GM job for another year. It does nothing but hurt the future of the franchise by making it take even longer for the young players who will be the future of the team to develop.

    Rotoworld has Idzik ranked 15th in their GM list. Not bad for a guy with 1 year experience on the job. “I want the Jets to do stuff the way the Raiders do”. HAHA. LOL.

  • LeeBur

    joe dante- i dont think Lidman is saying “I want the Jets to do stuff the way the Raiders do”, i think hes just trying to state that the Raiders improved their roster compared to what it was last year. Which is true. Cant speak for Lidman, but im sure he wanted the Jets to go after the better free agents (not guys who the Raiders signed) and structured the deals so we could get an early out. Some people like that, im not one of them. Would rather let the Jets go through 1 more draft, and then spend some money next season as hoping that all the key players on the 2014 roster improve.

  • David

    I just believe Idzik is putting too much emphasis on the draft. I understand you don’t need to just spend, spend, spend, but the draft is only going to help you so much. I agree with what theelidman said; you have 12 picks no doubt, but 9 of them are from rounds 4-7 and more times than not, those picks don’t work out.

    And here is my question: What is this so called “Young Core” of the future that everyone talks about? I see Wilkerson, Harrison, Richardson, and maybe Coples, but what else is there? You could add a few more like Geno, Milliner, and what not if they take the next step, but both are far from a sure thing and I would go so far as to say as of right now, there is only Eric Decker (and that is only due to his contract) that I would put into the “Young Core” discussion.

  • LeeBur

    would for sure put Geno and Milliner in their. along with Ivory, Demario Davis, Kerley, all these guys have improved each season, outside of the rookies (who were 1st/2nd round picks)

  • joe dante

    Young core:
    Defense: Wilkerson, Coples, Richardson, Ellis, Douzable, Demario Davis, Antonio Allen, Milliner, Walls, Wilson.
    Offense: Geno Smith, Ivory, Bohanon, Kerley, Hill, Winters, Cumberland, Aboushi, Campbell

    Thats 11 starters at least which is half the team. Thats the young core.

  • joe dante

    Forgot decker. thats like 13 starters with less than 4 years in the NFL. If that isn’t a young core I dont know what is.

  • joe dante

    The Jets are the 5th youngest team in the NFL as of January 2014.

  • joe dante

    If you go by average age of the entire 53 man roster of 2013 the Jets were the 7th youngest instead of the starters which is the above rankings.

  • joe dante

    And with 12 draft picks it is only going to get younger. The Jets are a young team on the rise. The future is finally bright for this franchise.

    Mocks have Bridgewater falling past 18 in some drafts. I think the Jets should pull the trigger if Bridgewater is there. Even if Geno works out it can’t hurt to have another potential franchise QB on the roster. People are making way too much of his Pro Day. You can’t erase years of success with one bad practice session. A few months ago he was a can’t miss elite QB.

  • David

    Some of you are too funny: Campbell? Aboushi? Walls? Wilson? Hill? Bohanon? Darn, it must not take much to be “The Core” of the NY Jets!

  • Lidman

    Joe..why is that guy’s opinion better than the 2 links I sent? The whole reference to Oakland was McKenzie came into a very similar to Idzik, and both are attacking their challenges by fixing their cap situations and using the draft to build their rosters. Oakland had a ton of cap room, and chose to bring in some vets, and Idzik basically didn’t. I have no idea which way is better, or if either tact is going to work. But, if you’re going to preach patience with Idzik, I don’t know how you can’t do the same with McKenzie.


    The Jets are a season away from a FA splurge at least. We need this draft to go well, and we need to lock up our own young players prior to giving large contracts to outside players. I like Decker, bring in team guys from outstanding programs, that know how much prep and work is needed to win. He, Kerley & Nelson are the guys you want influencing young receivers. OL in the coming years will need particular focus, It’s important to come out of this draft with lineman that can be a starter in 2015. We likely have only a few more years of Mangold & D’Brick.. This draft must focus on OFF playmakers outside of #18, at that spot I think you take the best player available period!

  • Frank Antonelli

    Lidman. Using the Raiders as your shining example borders on insanity!