Peaking At New York Jets Contracts For Upcoming Off-Season

Mike O’Connor takes a stance on some of the decisions the Jets will have to make in the off-season, and how the rest of the season will impact them

The New York Jets are not at the brightest of spots right now but at least John Idzik has set them up well to handle the team’s free agents this off-season while still reserving free money to spend elsewhere. Not only will they be looking to extend some of their cornerstone players, but they also have to make decisions on a bunch of guys finishing up their contract year. With this season a complete wash and only seven games remaining to convince their value, let’s look at which players should be invested in. Also, where will extensions be worked on, and how will it impact re-signing other players?  Using Over The Cap off-season cap numbers, a fantastic resource, let’s try and predict how this off-season’s money will be spent on the team.

Likely extensions in order of priority

Muhammad Wilkerson
In my opinion, it’s not really up for debate if the Jets should break the bank to reward Mo Wilk. I don’t even have to discuss how important he is to this team; he needs to be back under a new contract instead of taking his mediocre fifth year option, which he almost certainly won’t do for a base salary of about 6.9 million. He clearly wants to remain a Jet, and he knows he’s underpaid. Thus, underpaying him one more year only gives him more reason to go test the market when he’s a UFA in 2016 and not give the Jets any sort of discount. If they can extend him now, they won’t have to battle other teams and can get him slightly cheaper than he’ll come after another dominant year in 2015.

Damon Harrison
Snacks will only be a restricted free agent this off-season, but the Jets would rather extend him before they have to assign a tender to him at all. Restricted free agents are almost always kept under contract by their tender, but sometimes other teams will match that draft pick tender if the player is worth it, and Harrison is definitely on the top of a lot of team’s desires if the Jets don’t extend him instead. It will be tough to get both Wilkerson and his deals done in time, but we could see Mo Wilk’s done within the next couple weeks. If any two Jets get extended before they hit the open market, it’s these monsters on the defensive line.

Darrin Walls
Sure he’s been facing unfortunate injuries lately as almost the whole secondary seems to be, but he’s undoubtedly been a breakout player this year. Walls is a solid #2 corner, and for a team that’s future on the boundaries is totally unclear with the youth and prone to injury (Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle), Walls is a guy they must lock up for more quality years. He’s entering a ripe prime at only 26 without too much of a toll on his body. Walls will be a UFA come 2016, and teams will certainly be after a capable starting corner like him. Don’t think so? Greg Toler was an average, maybe a quality #2 corner with the Cardinals from 2009-2012 when he hit the open market and received a three year deal worth five million a year and incentives. I’m starting to think he’s definitely gone unless the Jets overpay for him in 2016, and they really can’t afford to lose him out of laziness. They can sign him right as he’s about to peak in his career to a three or four year deal right now and capture it big time.

Demario Davis
I would highly doubt that the Jets make four extensions happen, but three is relatively realistic.  Davis is the one out of the four that I’m not sold on. As a starter since his second year in New York, he’ll require more money in a league without a lot of quality, athletic linebackers who can play inside and outside than I think he deserves. He’s a good player, but I’ve said for awhile now he’s not the developing star some claim he is. As good as he is clogging gaps and bursting through to make stops around the line of scrimmage, he’s made no strides in pass coverage at all. In fact, we’ve been killing David Harris for it for years, but Davis is significantly worse in that area. I wouldn’t be on board to rush to extend him, and would rather see them wait on him to test the market in 2016. However, I can’t deny that it’s in the realm of possibility for them to get to him with an extension before the start of 2015, his contract year.

Other more minor possibilities

Chris Ivory – Unlikely because he’s still going to make almost $3 million in 2015, but he is a UFA in 2016. They won’t want to lose him but they aren’t in a situation where they can’t work with that current deal. He’s happy with it; I’d imagine they are, too.

Quinton Coples – Another player who will enter 2015 in a contract year, but Coples hasn’t done anything since moving to OLB to deserve any upgrade in money from his rookie deal. Unless a new head coach comes in and immediately wants Coples back inside at the 3-tech where he thrived in his rookie year, he will be ignored.

Likely Cuts (in no order)

D’Brickshaw Ferguson
Man, how far we’ve come. The Jets’ offensive line as a whole is bad, but it’s gotten to the point where Brick cannot even separate himself as better than everybody else besides Mangold. He’s played just as poorly as Giacomini and the woeful guards several games this year, especially as of late. Oh, and he’s on pace to make $11,698,666 next year. Sign me up for not missing him next year no matter who his replacement is. He can’t really save himself from mediocrity in these last seven games with that cap number for 2015.

Jeff Cumberland
Cumberland is only slotted to make $1,900,000 next year, but let’s be honest, there’s just no more reason to keep the guy around.  It doesn’t matter if Marty Morhinweg is retained or not for 2015; Cumberland has proved himself useless. He’s looked good when he’s produced, but it’s sickening how many snaps he’s getting for no apparent reason over Jace Amaro and he’s supplied us with the most pathetic statistic of the Jets’ woeful season so far: 254 routes ran, 15 receptions. I mean, oh my God.

Chris Johnson
If somehow, some way, Chris Johnson finds himself still on the Jets in 2015, somebody needs to be fired immediately. Johnson has been consistently disappointing this year, yes, but it’s his $5,250,000 cap number next year, almost double of his this year, that does him in.  A one year tryout is what we’re experiencing right now, and so far, it isn’t going well at all.  I don’t think he can possibly save himself from getting cut or traded to save significant cash.

Jets Free Agents in 2015

David Harris
Mike Vick
Kyle Wilson
Willie Colon
Dawan Landry
Bilal Powell
Nick Bellore
Leger Douzable
Ben Ijalana
Kenrick Ellis
Tanner Purdum
Greg Salas
Damon Harrison (RFA)
Jaiquawn Jarrett (RFA)
Philip Adams
T.J Graham (RFA)
John Conner
Joshua Thomas
Jermaine Cunningham
Matt Simms (RFA)

How will the Jets approach this list?

David Harris is going to be a tough one. The veteran linebacker will be 31 by the start of next season and has shown definite signs of age in recent years. However, his level of play at the moment is arguably the best we’ve seen from him in three years. Since his play dropped notable in 2011, he’s arguably had a resurgence. Next to the athletic Davis, Harris isn’t the inferior of the pair. The reason I think Harris absolutely must be worked back into the puzzle is because there’s no replacement for him on the roster, and drafting inside linebackers to plug and play from Day 1 is mission impossible these days. It’s a tough spot for the Jets because they either need to make a big move in the off-season to replace him, or they might need to overpay for him to return, even at his age. He’s still playing at a level more respectable than the veteran minimum, and he’ll get looks from needy teams around the league. Unless the Jets can bring in UFA Nate Irving from Denver or former Jet Josh Mauga, they’ll need to pay the man.

Bilal Powell is a fan favorite who is much better than his current usage on the Jets suggests.  We should have known after his spectacular emergence in 2013 that signing Chris Johnson was a mistake from the start, because Powell is a very capable second back in a rotation.  He can run in and outside the tackles, he catches passes, and he’s a stellar pass blocker compared to the rest of the Jets’ backs. The four year back had two very promising years from 2012-2013, but hopefully for the Jets, his lack of exposure in his contract year will help shield him from other teams’ bidding. The Jets know he can ball, and they should absolutely bring him back for a reasonable price next year with Johnson soon to be out of the mix. It wouldn’t be unlikely for the Jets to shell out $4 million a year for the proven back. He’s more durable than Ivory and extremely valuable.

Of course it will depend on what direction the Jets take to solve the quarterback position in the next seven games, but I can’t imagine a scenario in which Mike Vick plays well enough to convince the Jets to give him a shot at the quarterback competition next year. I expect the Jets to let him walk. He won’t shock anybody throughout the duration of the season. We know who he is, and the Jets would really be smarter to hold on to Geno for next year to compete with whoever they bring in rather than pay Vick anything.

I see three players on this list who we can hopefully all agree will be playing in their last seven games in New York, barring any late magic this season: Willie Colon, Dawan Landry, and Kyle Wilson. Among these guys are two subpar starters on a bad team, and a slot corner who has been highly underwhelming for just about all of his career.  Colon is arguably just as bad as the Winters/Aboushi revolving door this season, Landry is declining faster than anybody on the team not named Antonio Allen, and Wilson is just as passable as he has been in recent years.  Even though they’ll have to fill these positions, the Jets would be extremely ill-advised to think any of them could play significant snaps next year, let alone re-sign them to do so.

As much as I would like to say the Jets will re-sign Kenrick Ellis, I don’t think they will or should based on the market he’ll see. Talent observers for teams have likely had their eyes on Ellis for awhile now as he steals snaps from Harrison every once in a while. He’s quite dominant stuffing the run and applying pressure from the inside, but of course, he’s not going to prove himself a better player than Big Snacks. The thing is, Ellis could be a starter for a lot of teams around the league. He can be an explosive pass rusher as a 4-3 defensive tackle, and any 3-4 team would love him in the nose.  In fact, I’ve said multiple times in the past he’s good enough that the Jets would be smart to put him on the trading block to see what they could nab for him. I definitely think he’ll be paid a nice contract somewhere else; somewhere where he won’t sit behind a Pro Bowl-caliber player (Harrison).

Out of the remaining free agents, I only see four that should be sought out to bring back, or at least highly considered. Greg Salas is one of them. Even with Percy Harvin in the fold and Jeremy Kerley returning to the scene with his extension, I believe Salas is worth keeping around as depth for cheap. Until Percy was signed, he’s literally served as the only explosive player on offense catching the ball other than Eric Decker at 100% health.  If he shows up from this injury and keeps performing for the duration of the season, he’s definitely worth a cheap, one year deal.

Leger Douzable is another one of those role players who should be re-signed. He’s been a key part of the defensive line rotation for a couple years now, and he hasn’t dropped off at 28.  The Jets brought him back for cheap after a very efficient year in 2013, there’s no reason they can’t do it again with Rex gone.

Two special teamers worth cheap, several year deals for their services are Nick Bellore and Tanner Purdum.The special teams ace and long snapper have been effective in their roles on the third unit over the years, and their sub $1.5 million cap numbers won’t have to be increased.

The interesting call, at this time, is Philip Adams. I’m not really sure what to think with him.  When he was signed out of desperation at the cornerback spot mid-season, he had few expectations. Now, the Jets really do need him back from injury because he’s proved in a couple games he can be okay as a spot starter. Okay is not ideal, but the Jets’ cornerback situation entering 2015 is a very confusing one, and he might be worth re-signing for depth.  His last seven games will matter more than anybody’s on this list, as he needs to prove himself still capable of holding down an outside spot versus worse passing offenses than he faced before to A) improve his market stock, or B) ensure the Jets he’s worth another go.

The last seven games of the season are pretty irrelevant to just about everybody but some of these free agents who are trying to peak above the rest in terms of their value to the team.  It will be interesting to revisit this article in January and see if any foreseeable moves have changed their likely course.