After a somewhat promising 2017 season, the New York Jets will look to build on their positives in 2018. Despite starting a 39 year old QB, with holes all over the roster, the Jets suprisingly hung around in the playoff hunt until December. In a weak AFC, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Jets could be playing January football next year. Especially since GM Mike Maccagnan will likely have over 100 million dollars in cap space and 8 draft selections, including 3 premium picks (thank you Seattle), Maccagnan has a terrific opportunity to completely turn around the franchise and make a serious playoff run in 2018. Here is part 1 of a step by step analysis on what I think the Jets need to do over the next few months to make that dream a reality, and end the Jets 7 year playoff drought.
Currently the New York Jets have 77 million dollars in cap space, plenty to make a splash in free agency. However, after a few cuts, they can generate quite a bit more.
Muhammad Wilkerson – Frees 11 M: “Big Mo” has not lived up to the lofty expectations set for him in 2016 when Mike Maccagnan re-signed him to a 5 year 86 million dollar deal. Due to the complete fall off in production the last two years, this has been one of Maccagnan’s most glaring mistakes, however he can right a wrong this offseason and free up 11 million in cap.
Devin Smith – Frees 1.2 M: Another bad Mac move, drafting Devin Smith in the second round just has not worked out. After suffering a rib injury that held him out for all of his rookie training camp, then a poor season of looking lost and dropping everything, an ACL injury, and another ACL injury in 2017, Devin Smith just is not meant to be a Jet. Theoretically, the Jets could wait until training camp to make this move if they want to see if he lives up to his potential, however given the unlikeliness of that situation, we’ll list him here.
Matt Forte – Frees 3 M: In general, signing a 30 year old running back past his prime is never a good idea. In Forte’s two seasons with the Jets, he’s had some good moments, putting up over 1,000 total yards and 8 touchdowns, however, a poor 2017 season coupled with constant injury problems signal the end of the Matt Forte era in New York.
Ben Ijalana – Frees 4.75 M: In one of the weirdest moves of 2017, Ben Ijalana was signed to a fairly big deal (2 years, 10.5 M) however he hardly saw any playing time whatsoever. Kelvin Beachum, Brandon a Shell, and Brent Qvale were all favored over him. Although he may provide solid depth, he is not worth the nearly 5 million dollars it would take to keep him.
Buster Skrine – Frees 6 M: Although Buster finished the season on a high note, he is not worth the high cost it will take to keep him. Too many times over his three seasons on the Jets has he been either burned badly, called for a penalty, or lost a jump ball. I think Maccagnan will bring back one of his veteran cornerbacks, in my mind it should be Claiborne, who had a nice season himself and won’t be expensive.
This puts the Jets cap space at just under 103 million, which would be the third most in the NFL, behind the Browns and 49ers. Due to the CBA, the Jets will have to spend 89% of their cap space (91 million), so be prepared for a huge offseason by the Jets.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE: A great influence on the young locker room and a fan favorite. Although he was underutilized last season, especially in the red zone, ASJ displayed he has what it takes to be a very solid TE this season. (Predicted contract: 3 years, 18 million, 2018 cap hit: 6 M)
Demario Davis, MLB: A pro-bowl caliber season from Davis will have him cashing in on a big payday this offseason. The Jets clearly won last offseason’s trade with the Browns as Davis put up 133 tackles and 5 sacks. Maccagnan has to be careful not to overpay for an aging linebacker but the Jets would be foolish to try and not bring him back. (Predicted contract: 3 years, 24 million, 2018 cap hit: 8 M)
Morris Claiborne, CB: With the Jets cutting Buster Skrine, Bowles will want one of his veteran cornerbacks returning. Claiborne had a very solid year as a number one corner, but as always his biggest concern is healthy, which will hold him back from a huge deal. I believe the Jets will also add another veteran corner, which would put Claiborne as the number 2 corner which better suits his skill set. (Predicted contract 2 years 12 million, 2018 cap hit: 6 M)
Chandler Catanzaro, K: Cat-Man was consistent during his first year in New York. His high point was either his game winning kick against Jacksonville or his team record 57 yard field goal. Besides that, it was a quiet year, which is a good thing. (Predicted contract: 2 years 2 million, 2018 cap hit: 1 million)
Kony Ealy, DE: The Jets will have a hole at DE after releasing Muhammad Wilkerson. While I don’t think Ealy is an every-down player, he is a great guy to have in the rotation. Ealy dominated early in the year, getting after the QB, batting balls, and even an almost pick-six. However, he fell off towards the end of the year, which will keep him from a big deal. (2 years, 4 million, 2018 cap hit: 2 million)
Quincy Enunwa, WR: A lot of fans forget that Enunwa is a Free Agent this offseason, albeit a restricted one. The Jets should put a tender on him and work to re-sign him during training camp, assuming he’s healthy. Enunwa had an encouraging 2016 season that he never got a chance to build on after suffering a season ending neck injury. With his natural potential and Robby Anderson’s arrest, Mac needs to ensure he is back next year. (1st RD Tender, resign in training-camp, 2018 cap hit: 4 M)
The rest of resignings are listed down below. All are on cheap one year deals. These five players are all young, showed their value last season.
Mike Pennel, DT: 1 year, 1.5 M, 2018 cap hit: 1.5 M
David Bass, OLB: 1 year, 900k, 2018 cap hit: 1 M
Lawrence Thomas, FB: 1 year, 1 M, 2018 cap hit: 1 M
Douglas Middleton, FS: 1 year, 750k, 2018 cap hit: 750 k
Eric Tomlinson, TE: 1 year, 1.5 M, 2018 cap hit: 1.5 M
With the Jets cutting dead weight and re-signing some key players, the Jets are left with 70 million dollars of fresh ammo to attack a big class of free agents. In the part 2 of 3 we will look at the remaining team needs and who Mac should sign to fill them.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com