As Football Gets Closer…

For a refreshing change of pace, the news associated with the NFL Lockout today seems to be positive. Maybe I am being an optimist but from everything being reported today, I’d be shocked if NFL free agency wasn’t kicking off within the next couple of weeks. A few of the more interesting tidbits coming out of the today’s discussions were the following:

  • Starting in 2012, there is going to be a full 16 game Thursday night schedule to help generate revenue.
  • The players apparently are going to agree to 48& of all revenue generated by the league, the details of changing the rookie wage scale aren’t in place but it will be tweaked.
  • All players with 4-6 years of service will be unrestricted free agents.

The last point is a key one for the Jets because it means Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, and Brad Smith will all be unrestricted free agents, instead of restricted. The Jets won’t be able to keep them with a one year deal and all three are going to command substantial money on the open market, especially Holmes and Cromartie.

Braylon Edwards is also an unrestricted free agent.

It is going to be a furious few weeks of free agency when it kicks off and it will be a few weeks filled with tough decisions for Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets front office. How do you prioritize Holmes, Edwards, Cromartie, and Smith?

Personally, I rank them in the following order —

  1. Santonio Holmes – The best overall player of the group, who will also command the most money. He comes with off the field risks (including a new pending casino investigation) but he is a uniquely talented playmaker who is one of the most clutch players in the sport.
  2. Antonio Cromartie – The Jets are a defensive minded team, which means you don’t prioritize two receivers before a cornerback, regardless of how well Braylon Edwards played last year. Cromartie did an admirable job in 2010 opposite Darrelle Revis and unfortunately Kyle Wilson didn’t show enough in his rookie year to make anybody believe he is ready for the role opposite The Island.
  3. Braylon Edwards – He is coming off a terrific year and adds a physical dimension to the Jets offense in both the passing and running game. However, you can’t keep everybody and I doubt the Jets will have the money to bring him back after paying Holmes. I think Dustin Keller could replace a large degree of his production if used properly and that Jerricho Cotchery will be much better in 2011 because his back will be healthy. Also if the Jets are desperate for more height on the outside, they could pursue Plaxico Burress or Randy Moss on a short term, cheap deal.
  4. Brad Smith – An incredibly versatile player, but obviously the fourth most valuable. A team will likely offer him more money and a bigger role on offense, making it very hard for the Jets to bring him back.

TOJ As Tannenbaum: Free Agent Decisions For New York Jets

I am trying to be an optimist with this whole lockout thing, so if free agency does actually start some time in the next month here is TOJ sitting in the big chair as Mike Tannenbaum and making personnel decisions for the Jets this off-season:

1. Sign Santonio Holmes to a long term deal – Yes, this will likely mean the end of Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith’s stay in New York but in the long run making sure Holmes remains a Jet is the right decision. He is a uniquely gifted and clutch playmaker who can change a game at any second.

2. Sign Antonio Cromartie to a long term deal – You need a consistent, athletic corner opposite Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie handled the job well last season. He is already familiar with the defense and it is too risky to hand the starting job over to Kyle Wilson or a free agent. If the Jets want a bigger role for Wilson in year two, they should let Drew Coleman walk.

3. Bring back Damien Woody – Don’t risk the right tackle spot to Vladimir Ducasse after he didn’t have a proper off-season. Let him spend a full year learning behind Woody at the position and have him take over next year. Wayne Hunter will likely walk in free agency if this happens but the Jets should at least make sure they bring back the versatile Robert Turner for depth.

4. Bring back Shaun Ellis – He is a longest tenured player on the team, a leader on the defense and would be a perfect mentor to Muhammad Wilkerson. The Jets should be able to work a short term deal to allow him to retire in green and white.

5. Bring back Brodney Pool – Pool began to develop into the playmaker most of us thought he would be at the end of last season. With a year of this system under his belt, he should flourish in his second year. Eric Smith likely won’t be back if this happens, but if the Jets can bring back James Ihedigbo and if a young player like Emmanuel Cook steps up, their depth should be fine.

6. Veteran Stopgap Receiver – We all have heard all kinds of name thrown around but if Braylon Edwards leaves, I expect the Jets to sign either Randy Moss or Plaxico Burress. Personally, I would sign Burress to a short, incentive-laden deal. He is a more physical player that should be able to do many of the things Edwards did for the Jets offense last season.

7. Linebacker Depth – The Jets need to add another linebacker to their depth chart, whether it requires bringing Jason Taylor back or signing somebody on the cheap like Matt Roth.

TOJ Top Five: New York Jets Free Agency Decisions

Since free agency could be here sooner rather than later, let’s use today’s TOJ Top Five to look at the decisions the Jets will have to make in the coming month or two.

5. Offensive Line

The team released right tackle Damien Woody earlier in the year but may still bring him back since second year lineman Vladimir Ducasse didn’t have a formal off-season to work with the coaches. Wayne Hunter is a free agent and could be signed as a cheaper option to compete with Ducasse if the Jets decide not to bring Woody back. Versatile backup Robert Turner is also a free agent.

4. The Pass Rush

The Jets didn’t add an outside linebacker in the NFL Draft and remain thin overall at the linebacker position. A few people have speculated they could pursue Matt Roth, who spent last season in Cleveland. They could also decide to bring Jason Taylor back, although that seems like a long shot. On the defensive line, a decision has to be made on Shaun Ellis, who is the longest tenured member of the team and could provide an excellent mentor to rookie Muhammad Wilkerson for a year or two. Veteran Trevor Pryce could also be brought back to help take some of the burden off Wilkerson in his rookie year, if the Jets decide to let Ellis walk.

3. Safety Choices…

Brodney Pool and Eric Smith are both free agents, and the Jets will likely have to pick one to bring back as the starter opposite Jim Leonhard. Pool has more potential but could cost more money, Smith struggles in coverage but is a heady player who is good in run support. Backup safety and special teams ace James Ihedigbo is also a free agent.

2. Who to put opposite of The Island?

The Jets need to decide whether or not they are going to bring Antonio Cromartie back to play corner opposite of Darrelle Revis. If Cromartie does walk, the Jets are going to need to find another veteran to compete with Kyle Wilson and provide better depth throughout the cornerback position. Jonathan Joseph, Richard Marshall, Carlos Rogers, Ike Taylor and Chris Carr are all on the market…and no I don’t think the Jets will even pursue Nnamdi Asomugha. Nickelback Drew Coleman is also a free agent and and coming off a career year in 2010.

1. Braylon or Santonio?

Which of the free agent receivers is going to get the long term deal? There is always the possibility that Mike Tannenbaum could put in an early bid for executive of the year by getting them both back but in all likelihood, one will be leaving town…probably Edwards. How it plays out with Edwards and Holmes will determine which (if any) free agent receivers the Jets will pursue in free agency or via trade, whether it is Plaxico Burress, Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Steve Smith, or any of the other names they have been associated with.

New York Jets and Plaxico Burress: How Much Sense Does It Make?

Since wide receiver Plaxico Burresswas released from prison today, the speculation is obviously swirling about which teams will pursue him. The New York Jets have frequently been mentioned as a potential landing place for Burress, considering Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Brad Smith are all free agents, and the organization’s propensity to sign big name players.

The Jets initial focus is going to be bringing their own guys back, with Santonio Holmes likely being the top priority. The only way I see them getting in the mix for Burress, is if Braylon Edwards leaves via free agency, which is a pretty good possibility. The decision at that point will likely come to down to focusing their efforts on Burress or Randy Moss.

We all know the effort issues that come with the Moss, along with the questions about whether he is finished. Burress is going to be 34 years old this August and hasn’t played football since November 2008. You have to think for at least a season or two, Burress will absolutely be on his best behavior and be supremely motivated after his time in jail. The bottom line is that there is a risk associated with both of them but considering their talent…a cheap, short contract could make that risk worth it.

Burress wouldn’t have to be a number one receiver on the Jets. He would have favorable match-ups thanks to playing opposite Santonio Holmes and having Dustin Keller and Jerricho Cotchery working in the slot. If Braylon Edwards leaves, he could provide the needed big target over the middle and in the red-zone for Mark Sanchez.

The Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams are also supposed to be heavily in the mix for Burress. However, I wouldn’t rule the Jets out. This is a team that likes making a splash and signing Burress would do just that, while filling a need if free agency ends up breaking the way most of us expect it to.

New York Jets Free Agency Rumor Round-Up

Track all of the latest New York Jets free agency updates on TOJ’s stream at SB Nation NY

A few comments on how the New York Jets will approach free agency…

1. Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t going to happen…so get the dreams of the two best corners in the NFL being on a single team out of your head. The Jets aren’t going to break the bank for him with so many free agents of their own, including a cheaper option than Asomugha at corner in Antonio Cromartie.

2. Regardless of Asomugha not happening, the Jets still need to address their cornerback position either by bringing back Cromartie or by signing somebody else like Ike Taylor or Jonathan Joseph. They didn’t draft a pass rusher and it is doubtful they will find a high impact player in free agency, hence they need as much coverage as they can get. Other corners they could look at include Carlos Rogers, Richard Marshall, Chris Carr, and Fabian Washington.

3. If I had to guess today, I would still say it is more likely that Santonio Holmes comes back before Braylon Edwards. However, I am more confident today than I was when the season ended about both of them coming back. Edwards has already gone on record saying he would offer some type of a hometown discount and if Holmes does the same, you never know what could happen. I don’t see any way Brad Smith ends up coming back. Another team will give him more money than the Jets will be willing to offer along with a bigger role on offense.

4. If the Jets lose Braylon Edwards, I am not against giving Randy Moss or Plaxico Burress a shot (no pun intended). Chad Ochocinco or Steve Smith is going to command too much money, yet the Jets should be able to get Moss or Burress on a cheap, short-term deal. The recent talk makes Moss sound like more of a possibility and I might be crazy but I think he could be productive for the Jets on the outside, especially with the attention Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, and Jerricho Cotchery need to receive in the slot.

5. In the less likely case that Edwards returns and Santonio Holmes leaves. I think the team should focus on signing Green Bay’s James Jones. Edwards is going to cost less money than Holmes so if he leaves, the Jets would have more money to invest in a longer contract to a younger player with more upside, like Jones.

6. Outside of Croamrtie in the secondary, I think the Jets will focus on getting Brodney Pool back to start at safety and then work towards getting either Eric Smith or James Ihedigbo back as a reserve. Drew Coleman is very up in the air. It depends on how they decide to handle Cromartie.

Braylon Edwards: What A Difference A Year Makes

January 9th 2010…the New York Jets knock off the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild-card round of the playoffs, boosted by a surprisingly strong performance from an offense that had struggled down the stretch of the season. They managed to produce on this day despite a lack of support from their supposed number one receiver, Braylon Edwards who only registered 2 receptions for 15 yards and had a perfectly thrown touchdown pass drop through his arms.

The game was an addition to a somewhat disappointing season for Edwards. He showed flashes of the big play potential the Jets traded for when they acquired him before week 5. Yet, there was no consistency. Edwards had 45 yards or less receiving in six of the Jets last seven regular season games, followed by the previously mentioned weak peformance in the wild-card round and a quiet divisional game with 2 receptions for 41 yards.

It started to turn around for Edwards in the AFC Championship Game, when he pulled in a 80 yard touchdown reception on a beautiful double move to give the Jets a first half lead. In the biggest of moments, Edwards responded and made a play that demonstrated his true potential in the Jets offense.

Approaching the 2010 season, he received rave reviews for the work he was putting in during the off-season. While everybody was understandably excited about the acquisition of Santonio Holmes, the coaching staff kept mentioning the extra effort they were seeing around the facility from Edwards.

The work paid off in 2010, as Edwards was the Jets best all-around receiver from the start of the season to the end. There were no more dropped passes, no more inconsistency…just a week in and week out, physical presence for the Jets both on the outside and over the middle. Unlike most receivers in the league, Edwards is willing blocker who provides a big boost to the Jets running game. He didn’t have as many highlight reel game winning catches as Santonio Holmes but that doesn’t mean Edwards was without his share of clutch receptions.

Before the 2010 season, it was seemed to be a no brainer that it would be Holmes over Edwards who would receive a long term deal with the Jets. It looked like even more of a no-brainer after Edwards DUI incident. Yet, the answer to the question seems a little foggier right now. Ultimately, it will depend on how the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is worked out but it would be foolish to write off Edwards chances of returning to the team at this point.

Last January, I wouldn’t say Edwards was that popular at all with fans. Now, I would say he is one of the more popular players on the team. Especially after repeatedly expressing his desire to return this off-season, while Santonio Holmes has been much colder about his loyalty to the Jets. It won’t be a popularity contest that determines who gets the money from Woody Johnson but it has been impressive how far Edwards has came with the Jets in only a year and a half.

Randy Moss To The Jets: Hype Or Genuine Interest?

The buzz about Randy Moss going to the Jets picked up this morning thanks to a Daily News report claiming the team has a genuine interest in pursuing the free agent receiver in the likely case that the team can’t resign both Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes.

The real question, is whether the Jets are serious about potentially signing Moss or they are attempting to gain some leverage in their negotiations with Edwards and Holmes.

Rex Ryan has always been a big fan of Moss and we know he can still stretch a defense, as he beat the Jets secondary deep twice for touchdowns last year. He certainly is past his prime and isn’t as complete of a receiver as Edwards or Holmes but he could be a viable short term option on a cheap contract.

While I do think this story being leaked does have to do with posturing for upcoming negotiations with Edwards or Holmes, I do think the Jets would be seriously pursue Moss if they can’t sign both of their free agent receivers this off-season. I also think Moss would be very interested in the Jets recruitment. Why wouldn’t he want the chance to show New England he isn’t finished yet twice next year and also play for a team that is a legitimate contender for a Super Bowl?

We already know the Jets aren’t scared by players with baggage, on or off the field and that they won’t shy away from pursuing the big name. It makes sense to have plenty of doubts about the intelligence of bringing Moss into the Jets offense, considering the type of season he had last year. Regardless for the price the Jets might be able to get him at, the reward could be worth the risk.

New York Jets Free Agency Rumors: Randy Moss Up, Plaxico Burress Down

TOJ at SB Nation New York, rounding up the latest Jets free agency rumors. Is the Jets reported interest in Randy Moss misplaced and is the team no longer a contender for Plaxico Burress?

New York Jets: A Few Target Free Agents?

Brian Bassett over at The Jets Blog did a nice round-up today of how the Jets could approach free agency. He hit on a few interesting names, considering most of the Jets free agency hype has been centered on players like Randy Moss and Nnamdi Asomugha, most likely because of their reputation of making a splash by adding big name guys. However, don’t discount Mike Tannenbaum’s ability to look down every possible avenue to improve his roster. Here is a run down of a few players they could target and how much sense they would make…

Wide Receiver – Bassett mentioned both Chansi Stuckey and James Jones as options. Jones jumps off the page to me because if the Jets do lose Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes, I believe they should target him before looking at a big name player with tons of baggage like Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Plaxico Burress, or Steve Smith. Jones is 27 years old, coming off a productive season in Green Bay (679 yards, 5 touchdowns) and has the potential to develop into a long term starting receiver. He has played behind Greg Jennings and Donald Driver the past couple of years and could thrive in a starting role with more opportunities.

I am not as interested in Stuckey, whose skill set really limits him to being a slot receiver. He does know the offense and could be a good mentor to Jeremy Kerley, but I don’t think signing him comes anywhere adequately replacing Edwards or Holmes. If they were interested in just adding a slot receiver, I’d rather see them look at Lance Moore who has more big play potential than Stuckey.

Outside Linebacker – The Jets didn’t add a pass rusher through the draft, which has led some to think they will bring back Jason Taylor for another year. It seemed like he was done at the end of last season and I’d be surprised to see him back, unless the Jets get into camp (if that ever happens) and realize they desperately need depth. When the new Collective Bargaining Agree is figured out, Kamerion Wimbley could be a free agent and he has a skill set that could intrigue the Jets. Matt Roth is another player the Jets could target, although New England is rumored to be interested as well.

Cornerback – If Antonio Cromartie happens to get away (despite the 1,000,000 million words I have written against it this off-season) and Asomugha signs a huge deal somewhere else, the Jets could look at Jonathan Joseph or Ike Taylor. Both of those players would be a downgrade from Cromartie considering his athleticism and familiarity with the defense. Yet, the Jets would be foolish just to hand the starting job to Kyle Wilson so they would need to add somebody else to compete with him.

Offensive Line – Personally, I think if the Jets make sure both Wayne Hunter and Robert Turner are back. They will be in good enough shape next year. Hunter could hold down the fort at tackle if Vladimir Ducasse flames out and Turner provides good depth at both guard and center.

Jerricho Cotchery Poised For Rebound In 2011

We all know 2010 was a disappointing season for New York Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery. He dropped passes he never drops, struggled to stay healthy, and was overshadowed by the big plays of Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Dustin Keller.

The reason for Cotchery’s struggles became apparent when it was revealed he played throughout most the season with a herniated disc in his back, which was operated on this past February. Nobody should be surprised by Cotchery’s toughness in playing through his injury, as he made this unforgettable catch during the Cleveland game last year:

Despite his regular season struggles, Cotchery came up biggest when it mattered the most with 5 receptions for 96 yards in the Jets playoff upset over the New England Patriots. He also added a touchdown in the AFC Championship Game to aid the Jets furious comeback attempt.

It is very likely the Jets are going to lose either Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes this off-season, opening a spot for Cotchery in the starting line-up and giving him more opportunities to make plays. He has always been a productive player for the Jets since entering the starting line-up in 2006, so with a healthy back in 2011, he should easily exceed his output from last season.

Cotchery isn’t a game breaker or a number one receiver but he is an ideal compliment to either Holmes or Edwards, with his reliability, and ability to find soft spots in the defense and then run after the catch.