One of the biggest challenges for NFL teams is properly evaluating their roster and current overall situation. Self scouting and self evaluation is one of the many things that separate consistent contenders from teams who struggle year after year. Unfortunately for the New York Jets, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, self evaluation is an area that needs improvement.
The Jets are currently an aging team, trending close to the salary cap limit with no apparent answer at quarterback in the short or long term. Outside of a handful players (Quincy Enunwa, Leonard Williams, Darron Lee, James Carpenter, Brian Winters and other 2016 draft picks), nobody is untouchable, especially if they are over 29 years old. If a player cannot help the Jets in 2018 and beyond, it is highly negotiable whether they need to be on next year’s roster.
This is a team who needs to stop paying for previous years and start paying for future years. This is a team who needs to start moving on from players one year early, instead of one year too late. This is a team who needs to stop worrying about the name on the back of player’s jerseys and start worrying about their on field production, salary cap number and how they fit holistically into a depth chart.
Let’s use Brandon Marshall for example. He has been everything the Jets wanted and more since trading for him before the 2015 season. Last season, he was one of the five best receivers in the NFL and broke franchise receiving records. This season, his production is dramatically falling off across the board. Yes, a good portion of that is due to poor quarterback play but not all of it. Quincy Enunwa is out producing him with the same crappy quarterbacks. Marshall is a step slower, dropping a ton of passes and not completing the same amount of acrobatic catches he made in 2015. He is still very good but his play is heading in the wrong direction and he will be 33 years old next year, which means it is likely to continue in that right direction.
A smart team would aggressively put Marshall on the trade market, hoping to find somebody willing to pay for his 2015 production and bet that 2016 was a Fitzpatrick induced aberration. If the Jets are lucky/savvy, they will get a mid round pick back and clear up almost 8 million dollars in cap space, while also clearing up further development reps for Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Charone Peake, Jalin Marshall and Devin Smith. If nobody is interested, the Jets can let Marshall play out the final year of his deal or consider moving on, if Eric Decker’s recovery is going well. What they should not do is consider extending that contract in any way to limit the payout in 2017 but spread money into later years. Do not set yourself up to pay receivers well into their mid 30s.
An easier situation is on the other side of the ball with Darrelle Revis, who was been outright terrible this season. It is one thing to age in the NFL and not be the player you once were. It is another thing to stop trying on the field, admit to coming in out of shape and constantly refer to how old you are in post game interviews. The Jets can move on from Revis with minimal financial impact this offseason. Do it. Don’t keep him for another year and talk yourself into him getting it back at 32 years old. Don’t talk yourself into him playing safety next year, when he has shown no desire to tackle this year. Revis has not just been bad this season. He has been bad since week 9 of last year. So far on the massive contract the Jets paid, they got 0.5 seasons of good football and 1.5 seasons of disaster. Send a message to the rest of the team and move on.
The Jets window to be a playoff team led by Brandon Marshall and Darrelle Revis slammed shut in 2015. It isn’t coming back in 2017 or 2018. The sooner they realize that, the better off they will be.
There are other players who fall into this category. If Wesley Johnson continues to be competent these final five games, the Jets need to look at moving on from Nick Mangold, while retooling their offensive line. Ryan Clady’s days of being a highly paid tackle are over. He can come back on the cheap or move on. The Jets can no longer proceed with all three of their big name defensive ends. They likely can’t get out of Mo Wilkerson’s contract, which means Sheldon Richardson is probably hitting the trade market because the Jets made their choice on who to pay and it was Wilkerson (not looking wise so far). Are the Jets really going to play another season with Marcus Gilchrist as their free safety or are will they focus on improving that positional group?
No matter what Ryan Fitzpatrick does these final five games. It is time to go. We have seen the Fitzpatrick movie in Buffalo, Houston and here. It is a dead end road. Play your young quarterbacks or move to another veteran with some semblance of upside and ability to protect the football. If the right situation comes up in the NFL Draft, go get another quarterback because it is fair to wonder if anybody on this current roster can be a starting NFL quarterback.
The Jets need to take a hard look at the mirror and realize they need to radically upgrade quarterback, offensive line, tight end, special teams, linebacker, corner and safety. They won’t do this by taking half measures or trying to hold on to a formula that almost worked in 2015.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com