As long as the right moves are made by the New York Jets and the proper holes are filled, there is no reason to believe this team can’t improve in 2016. With that, here are some of the top free agents available at positions of need that the Mike Maccagnan might want to take a flyer on during his second offseason at the helm:
Cap Space: $14,185,149 (according to spotrac.com) — This number may increase to the mid/upper 20s as the front office lets go of some big contracts and reworks others. Some names to watch as these cap casualties are Antonio Cromartie (an $8 million cap hit), Jeremy Kerley ($3.1 million), and Jeff Cumberland ($1.9 million). The deals of D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold can be reworked to free up some space as well, with Ferguson due $14.1 million and Mangold due $8.6 million. As Rich Cimini reported earlier this week, Breno Giacomini (due $5.1 million) is also at risk of getting the boot — if Ferguson’s deal is reworked and the team signs/drafts another tackle, he may be the odd man out.
Positions of need: RB, OT, OG, MLB, EDGE — The only RB that is currently under contract for next season is Zac Stacy. They should be able to retain Ridley at a low cost if they opt to go that route, but it is unlikely that both Ivory and Powell return. The tackle spots are filled right now, but it can become a position of need with the price tags attached to Ferguson and Giacomini, in addition to the fact that Ferguson’s age is rising while his level of play is steadily declining. Guard is a need because of Brian Winters — enough said. David Harris and Demario Davis are tackling machines in the middle with nearly 200 tackles between the two of them, but pass coverage is a big issue. The carousel of Davis, Jamari Lattimore, and Erin Henderson was gashed on a number of occasions through the air, and it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Lastly, the defensive front may be one of the best in the league, but it still lacked the speed on the edge for key passing downs. Lorenzo Mauldin showed a lot of potential, but this defense needs more than one threat off the edge to really jump into the “elite” category.
RB Options (should sign two):
Chris Ivory/Bilal Powell (UFA) — Obviously the Jets will look in house before shopping elsewhere — the coaches and front office know what Ivory and Powell are capable of, and both players are comfortable with Chan Gailey’s offense. I think there is a good chance we see Powell back in Green and White — he shouldn’t have a huge price tag, and we saw how valuable he truly is to this offense over the final quarter of the season. Ivory, however, is a different story. He believes he is a top-5 RB and will likely seek to be paid as such, especially with this being the 27-year-old’s final chance to cash in. When the dust settles, I believe the Jets will keep at least one of these two RBs.
Alfred Morris (UFA) — After beginning his career with three straight seasons over the 1,000-yard mark, Morris saw his production take a hit this year. The drop-off had a lot to do with the overflow of RBs in Washington’s backfield, but his inability to have an impact in the passing game hurt his production as well. Morris, like Ivory, is 27-years-old, but after the season he just had, there is no way he will draw the major contract Ivory will be after. He will look for a one-year deal that he can use as a springboard for a larger contract next season (if he performs well), and the Jets might just be the right fit. If Powell is retained over Ivory, Morris could come in and be the power-back this offense needs. Morris finds the right fit that could get him on the path toward a larger contract in 2017, while the Jets fill a need with a talented player at a minimal cost in 2016.
C.J. Spiller (a likely cap casualty in New Orleans) — With the way his contract is structured, it would not come as a shock to anyone if the Saints cut ties with the six-year veteran after he failed to live up to expectations in 2015. For a player with like Spiller, who has a history of nagging injuries and will turn 29 at the start of training camp, there are no more major paydays on the horizon. There was a lot of talk regarding Spiller reuniting with Chan Gailey last season, and that talk may spark up again shortly. He had the best year of his career in Gailey’s offense, and signing a deal in the $3 million range would be his best opportunity to rejuvenate his career. Spiller would be the perfect fit for the Jets, as he would either serve as a nice complement to Ivory or an insurance policy for Powell.
C.J. Anderson (RFA) — Considering the fact that Anderson is restricted and the Broncos will rely heavily on the run with either an old Peyton Manning or a young Brock Osweiler under center next season, landing Anderson is a pipe dream for the Jets. He is versatile, effective in both the running game and the passing game, and the 24-year-old still has his prime years ahead of him. As I said, however, it is highly unlikely that the Jets (or any other team for that matter) pry Anderson from Denver.
Offensive Line options (need one OG and one OT):
D’Brickashaw Ferguson (OT;UFA)/Breno Giacomini (OT;UFA) — The most logical option would be to keep both of these players, but to try to rework the deals. Yes, it would be nice to get younger at the tackle positions, but Ferguson and Giacomini are both serviceable and durable.
Kelvin Beachum (OT; UFA)/Mike Adams (OT; UFA) — If the Jets opt to part ways with either of the in-house tackles, one of these Steelers could be a viable option. Pittsburgh’s biggest issue is its defense. In all likelihood, they will commit most of their resources to fixing the defense, making it unlikely that both of these tackles are re-signed.
Alex Boone (OG; UFA) — Boone’s season ended a week early with a slight tear in his MCL, so it will be interesting to see what the price tag is for a guard coming of an injury of that nature. The Jets signed a guard with a history of injuries last season in James Carpenter, and that panned out fairly well. The only real hole on the offensive line is Brian Winters at right guard, and this signing would solve that issue.
Ramon Foster (OG; UFA) — If you are noticing a theme here, it is the fact that the Steelers have a lot of free offensive linemen and they will not be able to keep them all. Foster is a solid veteran that would fill a main need along the offensive line.
Middle Linebacker (need one):
Demario Davis (UFA) — Does Davis lack coverage skills? Yes. In his defense, however, between his work on special teams and the amount of snaps he was taking defensively, fatigue may have played a role. Once the rotations started, Davis was noticeably fresher and was not as terrible in coverage. “Jets Twitter” is not really a fan of Davis, but I think he is worth bringing back at the right price.
Sean Weatherspoon (UFA) — Back in 2011 and 2012, Weatherspoon was the primary playmaker of the Falcons defense, with 115 tackles and 95 tackles in each of those seasons. The injury bug struck the following season, limiting him to seven games. He did not have much luck in 2014 either, as he tore his Achilles in August and missed the entire season. The Cardinals scooped him up this season on a one-year deal worth almost $4 million, but nagging injuries prevented him from being a major part of the defensive rotation (though he has seen an increased role of late). Weatherspoon has tremendous upside if he is healthy, but the key phrase is “if healthy.” He will likely come cheap, and he can essentially play the role of an Erin Henderson (who also came to the Jets after a couple of years hampered by injuries).
Danny Trevathan (UFA) — Trevathan is coming from a Denver team that has a lot of free agents to take care of, namely Von Miller and Malik Jackson. He is a three down linebacker who is strong in coverage, and he will easily get to that 100 tackle mark.
Brandon Marshall (UFA) — Yes…the other Brandon Marshall. Amid all the jokes with him being mistaken for the better know Brandon Marshall, Danny Trevathan’s partner is making a name for himself. He has registered over 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons and is very good in coverage. I believe he is the hidden gem of this free agent class on the defensive side of the ball.
EDGE Rusher (need one):
Jason Pierre-Paul (UFA) — Before the incident, JPP was going to warrant a huge contract, but it will be interesting to see what the market is for a guy with half of a hand. He will supposedly undergo more surgeries in the offseason to improve mobility in the hand. If the price is right, he may be worth a shot.
Bruce Irvin (UFA) — The Seahawks have a lot of cap space and may run into even more room if Marshawn Lynch decides to retire (which is well within the realm of possibility). With that being said, the Seahawks should not have any issues coming up with the money to sign Irvin. What may lead to his departure from Seattle, however, is the fact that they have other priorities: adding targets for Wilson, finding Lynch’s replacement, and fixing up the offensive line. He is not an every down player, but the Jets don’t need an every down defensive end — they need someone like Irvin to come in strictly on 3rd downs, pin his ears back, and end up with 7-10 sacks.
Junior Galette (UFA) — Prior to his release from the Saints as a result of his domestic violence issue, Galette registered double-digit sacks in both 2013 (12) and 2014 (10). He was signed by the Redskins for the veteran minimum in the offseason and had a strong showing in camp, but suffered a torn Achilles and missed all of 2015. He was deducted two game checks during the 2015 season, so there is no suspension to be served in 2016. Galette will likely get the same veteran minimum the Redskins gave him, so it is a low risk high reward situation. The Jets get the pass rusher they need, while the 27-year-old gets a chance to prove himself and cash in during the 2017 offseason.
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