The Jets have cleared plenty of cap space, and later this week we’ll see how they intend to spend it. The early signs point to ditching the “competitive rebuild” in favor of an approach that puts resources into getting better beyond 2017. Here’s what I would like to see in order to get the Jets back on track.
DO pursue quarterback Tyrod Taylor if the Bills release him.
If the long-term approach this offseason is real, you can automatically cross off the likes of Tony Romo and Jay Cutler – highly paid short-term options – off the list. There rarely are viable long-term targets at quarterback that hit the free agent market, but Tyrod Taylor’s likely release from Buffalo provides a potentially worthwhile risk. Taylor is not without his flaws – he struggled to elevate the Bills passing attack against strong competition and his 2016 season was across-the-board not as strong as his 2015 season as a passer. But at just 27-years-old, he has proven over two years to be a legitimate dual threat, a strong protector of the ball, and capable of some of the prettiest deep passes in the league. He is at worst a competent bridge quarterback, and has potential long-term value if a stronger supporting cast can consistently capture that 2015 form.
DO NOT get caught up in the Mike Glennon bidding war.
The pursuit of a competent starting quarterback can lead a franchise to do some crazy things, like bid 12 million dollars against yourself for Ryan Fitzpatrick or think taking a quarterback that was kinda good for a freshman a few years ago in round two is a good idea. You can easily picture the man responsible for those moves see “Mike Glennon bidding war” and call it a battle worth winning.
Glennon’s whole deal is having a 2:1 TD/INT ratio in roughly a season’s worth of starts, carrying day-two pick draft status and the fact that if he isn’t a good quarterback, nobody actually really knows it yet. Let Ryan Fitzpatrick be the reminder not to get caught up in TD:INT ratio on it’s own – it’s not worth overvaluing for players on the low end of the spectrum in terms of yards-per-attempt and completion percentage.
I don’t doubt that Glennon would be ok as a starter, I just doubt he’ll be any more than that. It’s not worth spending 14-15 million annually for when a Brian Hoyer type gives you the same thing at a fraction of the cost and nowhere near the commitment. The quarterback market is one of haves and have nots, if there is even a minuscule chance you could solve a team’s long term quarterback problem, you’re making double digit millions. Take advantage of a cheaper option like Hoyer and spend elsewhere.
DO be aggressive in the corner market.
This free agent class has several young potential #1 CBs and a strong second-tier with some worthy gambles. AJ Bouye and Stephon Gilmore enter free agency in the primes of their careers with success in the recent past as a defense’s number one corner. Dre Kirkpatrick and Mo Claiborne are first round talents coming off their rookie contracts with up-and-down careers but have recently shown enough to suspect the best may be yet to come.
This draft has a great CB class, but you also don’t want to pigeon hole the team into *having* to take a CB in the first two rounds by not addressing the position sooner in free agency. Signing a young starter in free agency allows the Jets to wait until later in day two to take a corner, rather than take Lattimore at 6 or pounce on the best available CB that makes it to the Jets in round two.
DO NOT enter the season with Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson all on the roster.
This trio cannot play together effectively and keeping them all on the roster has a negative impact in terms of the resources that would otherwise be freed from moving Sheldon Richardson. This is a deep draft, and while the Jets probably aren’t getting a premium pick for Richardson, a late third or early fourth rounder still can go a long way. If the Jets choose to be active in free agency, the roughly 8 million cleared from Richardson’s departure is also a big boost. Don’t waste more time and resources with trying to force this into working.
DO explore the inside linebacker market, and move on from David Harris if a long-term signing is made.
David Harris is making top ten inside linebacker money in 2017, the last year of his deal. So far he has survived the purge that has claimed the likes of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Marshall. That is partly because he’s still a capable player and leader, but also partly because the roster offers no obvious replacement. I think Jets fans would like to see somebody that has been here a while survive this round of cuts, but good organizations are ruthless. If a replacement is lined up, don’t hesitate to make the change. Hightower is the premium option, but Kevin Minter from Arizona profiles as a much younger Harris type that has familiarity with Bowles. Zach Brown of Buffalo and Gerald Hodges from San Francisco are other names to watch.
DO NOT pay a premium for a stopgap tackle like Russell Okung.
The Jets are already dumping high-salary players from the roster that aren’t going to offer anything beyond 2017, dipping into the market to add one makes little sense. If the idea is to add a stopgap, don’t look at one that negotiated a 10 million annual deal last year and will be hoping to leverage his reputation into something not far off that deal again. Okung isn’t even the player he was early on in Seattle anymore. Look forward, not backward.
DO take a chance on a younger mid-tier left tackle option.
While the Jets should avoid paying big dollars for a temporary fix at left tackle, Maccagnan will have to do something in free agency. With Clady’s release and Ijalana a free agent, there is no starter currently on the roster. Kelvin Beachum was a player the Jets showed interest in last year before he signed a big deal with the Jaguars. Beachum was poor and released by Jacksonville, but 2016 was his first season off of an ACL injury. There’s a player worth taking a chance on, Beachum having played some good football in Pittsburgh. Matt Kalil is another interesting name – a former top five pick who has been mostly a large disappointment with the Vikings after a promising rookie year and has injury issues of his own. He may command a large deal which the Jets should be wary of, but a change of scenery could be beneficial. The Jets quietly have a number of pieces for a solid, young line. It’s worth gambling on a tackle if there’s a chance he can be a starter here for multiple years.
DO NOT let Christian Hackenberg deter the selection of a quarterback in round one.
Assuming no major moves are made in free agency, I can’t stress this point enough. A late second round pick who does not even see the field as a rookie is not a reason to pass on a top prospect if you find yourself in that type of position the following season. That goes for any position, but especially applies to quarterbacks. You find the good ones an overwhelming amount of the time in the top half of round one. There are four that should go in round one and most if not all should still be sitting there around 6. If the Jets like one, not taking one because Christian Hackenberg would be a massive mistake. This should be in the back of Maccagnan’s mind as the draft unfolds. With that said…
DO everything in your power to move back in round one and collect more picks.
The Jets are bad and this draft is deep. Collect picks. It’s really that simple. What’s more, it happens to be particularly deep in a number of areas the Jets currently lack starters on paper – edge, corner, and tight end. The Jets have four picks within the first three rounds, but they should give the war room flexibility to not only add prospects at those positions but also to take advantage of the excellent day two value overall this draft has.
DO NOT spend every last cent of cap space.
It isn’t a rebuild if you’re spending every last bit of available salary in order to make 2017 a marginally more successful season. There is a profile of player the Jets should be looking at and at times it’ll make sense to stump up cash for that player, but generally spending sprees aren’t how free agency is smartly navigated. Match value and salary as best possible and take a calculated risk. Maybe that’s taking one big swing at a legitimately good player, taking some team-friendly gambles in the mid-level of the market, and plugging a few holes with low-key stopgap signings after the initial dust settles. Holding onto cap space has value. The Jets are going to want to re-sign the likes of Leonard Williams and Quincy Enunwa soon, and unused cap gets credited to future years. This allows a team to be aggressive in the future when the right opportunities come along, rather than trying to recklessly address every need in one season. Free agency never has a deep enough a talent pool to accomplish this.
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