David Aitken gives you five offseason predictions for the New York Jets heading into the 2017 season…
The Purge is ComingThe Jets were 5-11 largely on the back of enormously paid underperforming veterans. The good news is that Maccagnan and Bowles have the opportunity to (mostly) put their mistakes behind them here, freeing up potentially close to 50 million in cap room through cuts and trades. We already know that Ryan Clady will not be retained at his $10,000,000 cap number. Sourcing www.overthecap.com, here are the most likely other candidates and their cap relief in parentheses: Darrelle Revis ($7,333,333), Nick Mangold ($9,075,000), Sheldon Richardson ($8,069,000), Brandon Marshall ($7,500,000), Marcus Gilchrist ($4,625,000), David Harris ($6,500,000), Breno Giacomini ($4,500,000), Nick Folk ($3,000,000), and Erin Henderson ($2,578,125). And while it would surprise me to see these players moved on, Eric Decker ($5,750,000) and Buster Skrine ($3,500,000) aren’t totally safe either.
Survivors? Although I would prefer an attempted rework or cut/re-sign at a cheaper deal, I expect that David Harris will be allowed to play out his final year. Ryan Clady is on the way out, but in a thin tackle market and draft class, there will be an effort to bring him back. It’s been mooted since Revis first came back that a move to safety would be in the cards eventually, but that was Plan A for a much rosier final act the Jets were initially envisioning. After a Nnamdi Asomugha-like nosedive, the Jets are best served cutting losses entirely.
The Jets Will Target a Potential Long-Term Starter at QB in Free Agency
This is an offseason for the Jets to take a deep breath and reconsider the “competitive rebuild” approach that has left the team back at square one. This means no Tony Romo, no Jay Cutler, or any other desperate attempt at a “this is the year!” type season that only further perpetuates the endless cycle of unsustainable short-term rolls of the dice.Maccagnan finds himself in the awkward position of having no obvious starter on the roster and a second round pick from last year that cannot even be expected to compete for a starting position in 2017. The Jets brass have been pushing the patient approach with Hackenberg since day one in fairness, and for better or worse I think we can take it at face value. if we buy that the team will continue to be patient and aren’t already going to cut their losses, a quarterback early in the draft isn’t something I’d anticipate.
As usual there are cheap stopgap starters available – the likes of Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have some links to coaching or management. But there’s (probably) going to be money to spend, and with the uncertainty at the position both short and long term, expect the Jets to pursue possible starters with long-term upside.
The obvious target is Tyrod Taylor should the Bills refuse to pick up his contract option. He’s consistently protected the ball over two seasons, is a legitimate dual threat and one of the better deep passers in the league. Think of him as a supercharged Alex Smith at his best. He’s also just 27-years-old and there’s reason to believe with a better supporting cast he can produce better than he already has. He’ll have suitors, but Maccagnan would be competing most with a number of franchises in even worse shape than Jets.
If not Taylor, I expect the Jets will be the team that does the whole Mike Glennon thing. He fits the “possible starter with some long-term upside” profile, with a 2:1 TD/INT ratio in just over a season’s worth of starts. Teams take chances on the somewhat highly drafted, some starts where you weren’t awful, a few years of league seasoning types. Matt Schaub, Kevin Kolb, Nick Foles, Brock Osweiler and soon Jimmy Garoppolo can attest to that. I don’t think Glennon will be an Osweiler-like failure, but I doubt he’s is going to be some surprise success story either. He’s a decent quarterback without pressure that’s athletic for a tall goofy white dude, but he doesn’t really leverage that athleticism into making inspired plays when the play breaks down. He’ll probably be a perfectly ordinary quarterback being paid to be something better that some Jets fans will put on a pedestal all the same.The Jets Will Spend Big at Corner
Defensively the Jets are literally right where the team was two years ago – building a pass defense from scratch. And just like two years ago, there will be money to spend once the team is through with the purge. This is a secondary that must continue to look to the draft to be rebuilt, but free agency offers some interesting opportunities. Trumaine Johnson, Stephon Gilmore, A.J. Bouye, and Logan Ryan are all set to hit free agency barring a franchise tag or last-minute long term extension. Bouye is reportedly not going to be tagged, coming off a breakout year and is only 25-years-old. He was added to Houston’s roster as an undrafted free agent while Maccagnan was director of college scouting – he is a definite name to keep an eye out for. Trumaine Johnson has experience with new defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson, and for the Rams to keep him again with the tag is to incur the further bump in one-year salary that comes with tagging two years in a row.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jets mirror the 2015 approach completely, just with a younger slate of players. The Jets could double-dip by landing a top-tier option like Gillmore or Bouye and then also take a shot on a talented up-and-down player from the next tier like Prince Amukamara Morris Claiborne or D.J. Hayden.
But the key is to not put all eggs in the 2017 basket. If spending for a corner, there has to be long-term value. This free agent class offers that.
Sheldon Richardson Will Be Traded, and People Will Be Disappointed with the Return
Last year the Patriots traded a very good 25-year-old outside linebacker coming off a career season. The Patriots, seemingly, had no reason to *have* to trade him. They received a late 2nd round pick and a throw-in with Jonathan Cooper.
The Jets are trading a 3-4 defensive end twice suspended in four seasons coming off the least productive season of his career. Everyone knows the Jets intentions with Richardson reportedly on the block during the season’s deadline. There is also urgency for the Jets to do something here, as it is heavily in the team’s best interests to get rid of him. Cap wise the Jets can’t pay all three first rounders, and clearly they can’t even play all three effectively. Richardson, Wilkerson and Williams look good together on a poster but functionally they don’t gel. Richardson on the roster in 2017 is also 8 million the Jets don’t have to spend this year or carry into the next. Having him here in 2017 is simply a waste.
It’s not going to be a first round pick, it’s not going to be a second round pick either. To have Richardson moved within the early days of free agency (ideal), expect at best a late third or a fourth round pick and another late pick tied in. If the Jets demand something better it’ll be another drawn out saga and they’re settling for a post-draft trade for a day two conditional pick in 2018.
For the Eighth Straight Year, the Jets Will Go Defense in Round 1
I know what you’re thinking. Defense again? It’s been eight years since the Jets last took an offensive player. What sense does yet another year of defense in round one make? Well, Kyle Wilson and Dee Milliner may be in their primes but you can never have enough good corners. And while Coples keeps getting better every year, it may be time to start thinking about that Vernon Gholston replacement.
You get the point. Used draft picks are sunk costs. It doesn’t matter that the Jets used a top ten pick on a corner in 2013 when said player is no longer on the roster and the team needs a corner just as badly as they did back then. This is a team bereft of blue chip talent – when you have a top ten pick, you want to grab one of the draft’s best players.
The elite talent is mostly on the defensive side of the ball unless you want to bang the table for a running back at six, which would not be a good use of resources. In a typical draft class the Jets would be the team being given the elite tackle in every mock draft, but that player doesn’t exist this year. And while the smart thing to do would be to seriously consider Mahomes or Watson, I expect the Jets are going to enter the draft “satisfied” with their QB situation.
If I had to guess the most likely Jets picks, it would be Jamal Adams, Marcus Lattimore, or Malik Hooker in that order.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com