The league year officially opens on March 9th at 4PM but in reality the action should start up later today and only increase tomorrow. Similar to previous years we will maintain a running free agency blog but before everything starts here is a primer for the New York Jets, as they try to build on a 10-6 season.
The Jets will continue to hear out trade offers for Muhammad Wilkerson but nothing seems to be imminent. There could still be a breakthrough before the NFL Draft but as of now, the Jets are operating under the assumption that Wilkerson will be on the 2016 roster. This is good news for the overall talent of their roster but bad news for their spending flexibility in the coming weeks.
Outside of Wilkerson, finalizing a deal for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is the top priority. The structure of the deal should not be far off from what the Eagles recently gave Sam Bradford, ideally with most of the money and guarantees concentrated next season. If the Jets do not lock up Fitzpatrick by Wednesday at 4PM, it will be considered a disappointment internally even though the external market for him shouldn’t be that bullish.
Elsewhere, the Jets have formulated offers for Damon Harrison, Erin Henderson and Bilal Powell but all three may still hit the open market. The Jets would like all three back but likely don’t have the ability to realistically pull that off. They can increase their odds by taking care of a few housekeeping items, namely releasing Jeff Cumberland, Jeremy Kerley and potentially Breno Giacomini. It is also probable that D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Brandon Marshall and maybe Nick Mangold are approached about restructuring their deals.
Chris Ivory, Leger Douzable, Demario Davis and the rest of the Jets free agents should hit the market. The Jets will keep an eye on the type of money being offered to Ivory and may not be done making an effort to bring him back.
The Jets will have a focus on adding lower cost talent, who they think can thrive within their system. It is unlikely the Jets are in the mix for many of the “bigger” names out there, unless a deal for Wilkerson is completed in the coming days. The Jets will be looking to add depth and competition at both inside and outside linebacker, find fresh blood at running back and add experience at tight end. Offensive line and cornerback should also be focus areas but the Jets will need to get creative to pay for starting level talent on the line, although upgrading over a player like Giacomini shouldn’t be that tall of an order. The team would also like a veteran who can add interior depth, both as a backup to Nick Mangold and to push Brian Winters at guard.
It isn’t out of the question the Jets could be active in the trade market, although only having six draft picks in 2016 does limit some of their ability to go shopping for a veteran. They went the trade route to acquire both Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick last season and if free agency isn’t as productive as they hope, this could become a path to acquire talent at positions they need to improve.
As for specific names to watch? Shea McClellin (LB, Chicago), Alfred Morris (RB, Washington), Brandon Brooks (OL, Houston), Jeff Allen (OL, Kansas City), Mitchell Schwartz (OL, Cleveland), Joique Bell (RB, Detroit), Patrick Robinson (CB, San Diego), Sterling Moore (CB, Tampa Bay), Scott Chandler (TE, New England), Derrick Shelby (DE, Miami), Tahir Whitehead (LB, Detroit), Joe Barksdale (OL, San Diego), Nigel Bradham (LB, Buffalo), Bobby Rainey (RB, Tampa Bay), Rod Streater (WR, Oakland), Mike Harris (OL, Minnesota), Garrett Graham (TE, Houston)
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com