There’s still about a month to go until the floodgates of free agency open, but the options that the New York Jets need to be targeting have already been discussed ad nauseam. Kirk Cousins. Ryan Jensen. Allen Robinson. These are names that would be tremendous solutions in areas that have been problems for the Jets, including some of which that have been issues for an extremely long time. Still, we all know real life isn’t franchise mode in Madden and that the Jets aren’t going to get every top target.
As with every team in every offseason, the Jets are going to have to scour the second and third tiers to fill some of their biggest holes. When you pass the first tier of players whose potential for success is significantly higher than the rest, the risk increases big time. There, you get players like Morris Claiborne who have showcased tantalizingly high ceilings but have struggled tremendously with injuries. Which players of this variety would be best for the Jets to steer clear of?
Here are a pair of names at a few offensive positions the Jets could be looking at.
Sam Bradford, Case Keenum
The Jets have enough cap space to build a to-scale Manhattan skyline out of pennies, and they have it in a free agency class including one of the most productive quarterbacks to ever hit the free agent market. They are also picking sixth in a draft that has at least 3-4 options that are getting legitimate first round buzz, and have an extra second round pick to boost their ammunition. There is no excuse for the Jets to come out of this offseason without a legitimate future to hang their hats on at quarterback.
Maybe it’s a rookie who doesn’t start day one. That’s fine, but if that’s the case, save the money and time and bring back Josh McCown or a similarly-priced passer to hold things down for half a season, or to provide preseason competition. Avoid a more expensive option who is good enough to fool you into holding your young prospect back, but is bad enough to never sniff real sustainable success.
That’s where Bradford and Keenum fall. Both have found career revivals with solid years in Minnesota, but that is a franchise with an extremely talented all-around roster and has made three different quarterbacks look passable in three years. Bradford still can’t stay healthy. Keenum was not a viable starter before this year. Yet, both have done enough to earn a decent contract this season. The Jets would be unwise to spend extra at the QB position on a player who isn’t getting them anywhere.
Think about this way. Years aside, let’s say McCown signs for an average of $6-8M and Keenum or Bradford sign for an average of $10-12M. Is Keenum or Bradford more likely to win a game for me right now than McCown? Probably, I would take that bet. However, if the Jets are hoping to ride their top six pick for the next decade and only want a half-season stopgap, is that extra $4-6M better spent on a marginal upgrade for 8 games in what is primed to be a transitional year, or on a solid starting cornerback, wide receiver, or center?
Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount
For Bell, I don’t think the Jets have any business paying a running back an eight figure contract. Bell is the best running back in the league, I’ll tell you that right now. The value he provides on all areas of the field on every down is unlike any other offensive player. Despite all of that, running back has become a devalued position, and one where great contributors are easily found in the middle of the draft. That’s looking like a really strong group this year. The best value move for the Jets would be to pass over the position in free agency and take a swing at the 70-mph meatball over the middle plate that is the mid-round running back.
Blount has made a name for himself after featuring on each of the past two Super Bowl champions, but the numbers say that he simply isn’t a very good player. While he picked up 19 touchdowns for the Pats in 2016, he averaged only 3.9 yards per carry, and just 3.1 in the playoffs. For Philly this year, he was Pro Football Focus’ 41st ranked back and placed 37th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. These facts coupled with his age (31) make him the kind of player that doesn’t fit in with the Jets at the moment. He should not be their Matt Forte-2.0.
Landry is a really talented player who carries a very unique skillset to the receiver position. He is just going to get paid a lot of money that doesn’t quite match his efficiency. He averaged 8.8 yards per reception on his league-leading 112 receptions, leaving him short of 1000 yards on the year. I’m not quite sure that a player of Landry’s style is what the Jets need to be spending big money on. It seems he is the type of player that needs the offense to change to benefit him, and not the other way around. Will he add enough to the Jets offense to be worth a contract that could make him a top-five paid (or higher) wide receiver?
A surprise appearance from an impending Jet free agent. You might remember that I listed ASJ as one of three Jets that the front office should be looking to bring back. And I still believe that. However, the Jets need to be wary of Seferian-Jenkins price-wise. Reports have surfaced multiple times throughout the offseason that he turned down deals from the Jets in the range of $4M-$6M per year. In my view, as I have mentioned before, I think that price range right there is very fair for him considering his intriguing potential, but pedestrian production. I understand that Seferian-Jenkins is a young player who brings a positive locker room presence with his turnaround story, and as I mentioned his physical makeup and past production makes for an interesting ceiling. Regardless, I am very skeptical that the Jets will end up getting their money’s worth if they make him one of the top ten paid tight ends in the league.
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