Despite One Loss, New York Jets Put Together Strong Off-Season

Prior to the past week’s free agency frenzy starting, we knew the following, whether you wanted to believe it or not –

  • The Jets prioritized Santonio Holmes well ahead of Braylon Edwards
  • The Jets needed a number two cornerback
  • Brad Smith wasn’t coming back
  • Their remaining group of veteran free agents would be a toss up on who stayed and left

Nnamdi Asomugha was a long shot who stormed out of nowhere to become a reality that quickly captivated Jets fans and their free agency coverage, and why wouldn’t he as the top player on the market? The contenders for his services began to drop off making it look like Asomugha ending up on the Jets was a sure thing.

We obviously know what happened. He shocked everybody by choosing the Philadelphia Eagles. Was it a stinging loss? Yes. Was it a death blow to the Jets free agency plans this off-season? Absolutely not. Asomugha was a luxury. Your off-season isn’t a failure if you can’t land both the best offensive free agent, which the Jets did in Santonio Holmes, and the best defensive free agent. Your team isn’t not a Super Bowl contender because they don’t have the two best corners in football on their team, especially when you still have arguably the best tandem in the league.

In the end, the Jets got Antonio Cromartie back on a reasonable contract and did keep that best tandem of corners in the league together. They did the right thing by bringing back Santonio Holmes over Braylon Edwards and suffered the obvious but necessary consequences of seeing Edwards and Brad Smith leave. Fortunately, there isn’t a gaping hole opposite Holmes as the Jets found a cheaper, short term alternative in Plaxico Burress, who does come with plenty of questions but also with plenty height, experience and talent.

Drew Coleman left but Donald Strickland was signed and if he is healthy can be a more than adequate replacement, never mind the hopeful improvement of 2010 first round pick Kyle Wilson. Eric Smith and Wayne Hunter were brought back to start at safety and right tackle, respectively. Were Brodney Pool and Damien Woody better options? Maybe, but the gap isn’t substantial enough to expect a major drop off at either position. When you throw in the expected return of Shaun Ellis and James Ihedigbo, along with the potential addition of another outside linebacker it is looking like another strong off-season for the Jets led by Mike Tannenbaum.

Is the team better on paper than it was last year? Probably not, but the potential is there for it to be substantially better especially if players like Kyle Wilson, Jamaal Westerman and Joe McKnight bring something to the table this year and the Jets get contributions out of rookies like Muhammad Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis, and Jeremy Kerley. Never mind the continued growth of quarterback Mark Sanchez.

With a few minor moves left to finish up, the Jets are still a Super Bowl contender and will be a handful for any team to deal with on both sides of the ball. If you don’t think they have something good going on in Florham Park, you’ll have to explain why Bart Scott and Calvin Pace restructured their contracts, LaDainian Tomlinson took a pay cut, Mark Sanchez volunteered to restructure his contract, Santonio Holmes took less money to stay here, and Plaxico Burress came here despite likely being able to get a better deal somewhere else.

Yes, I know Jason Taylor did leave for the Dolphins…but hey, we never liked him anyway.

2011 NFL Free Agency: New York Jets Day Two Primer

Let’s get right to it

The only official move the Jets have made so far is resigning right tackle Wayne Hunter to a 4 year, 13 million dollar deal. It is also being reported that in conjunction with this move Damien Woody has retired.

– The Washington Redskins have resigned Santana Moss to a 3 year, 15 million dollar deal and just signed Donte Stallworth to a one year deal. This would seem to indicate they have less money to throw at Santonio Holmes, but you never know with Daniel Snyder.

– Speaking of Holmes, Jenny Vrentas of The Star-Ledger is reporting the Jets have made a formal contract offer to him. ESPN’s Rich Cimini has also followed up today that it is likely Holmes will end up staying in New York.

– Manish Mehta of The Daily News is reporting cornerback Drew Coleman is likely to leave via free agency.

– It is being widely reported that wide receiver Brad Smith will likely sign with the Chicago Bears today.

– ESPN’s Rich Cimini is reporting the Jets are pursuing outside linebacker Antwan Barnes and cornerback Drayton Florence.

– It is widely being reported the Jets are making a strong push to bring safety Eric Smith back. We haven’t heard anything about Brodney Pool yet.

– And now the biggest news, the Nnamdi Asomugha to the Jets talk is heating up by the second. After The Star-Ledger reported yesterday the team made formal contact with him, the NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi has stated today “I keep hearing from well place reliable NFL source that this Jet talk and Nnamdi Asomugha is serious, and I mean serious.”

We can only imagine the smile on Rex’s face.

Damien Woody Retires, New York Jets Resign Wayne Hunter

In a somewhat surprising move, considering the reported interest the New York Jets were expressing earlier in the day about bringing veteran right tackle Damien Woody back, the team has instead resigned veteran RT Wayne Hunter to a four year, 13 million dollar deal and Woody has retired.

The Jets will now move forward with Hunter competing with second year lineman Vladimir Ducasse competing for the starting right tackle job. It is clear the Jets weren’t willing to meet whatever contract demands Woody had, who had made it clear he wanted to come back to the team but not at a veteran’s minimum salary and with a guarantee to start, obviously the Jets weren’t offering that. Hunter was pretty decent filling in for Woody at the end of last season and his contract is likely structured not to have a major impact on the Jets cap situation this year.

Woody has been the Jets starting right tackle the past three years and was consistently very good for the team. He was kind enough to do an interview with me last season for SB Nation New York and we wish him well in his future endeavors. Congratulations on a long, productive NFL career.

Free Agency Floodgates Open: New York Jets Active Early

Here is running count of the undrafted free agents the New York Jets have signed thus far, look more information on these players later in the day:

  • TE Josh Baker, NW Missouri State
  • TE Collin Franklin, Iowa State University
  • G Chris Stewart, Notre Dame
  • DE Wayne Daniels, TCU
  • SS Davon Morgan, Virginia Tech
  • CB Julian Posey, Ohio
  • LB Nick Bellore, CMU
  • OL Tom Ottaiano, Monmouth
  • WR Courtney Smith, South Alabama
  • WR Mike Campbell, Temple
  • OG Zane Taylor, Utah
  • OLB Stafford Gatling, Ohio
  • WR Dan DePalma, Westchester

In other Jets free agency rumors and speculation –

As expected the team is pushing hard to get Damien Woody back on the team. I have a tough time seeing this not happening. Brandon Moore isn’t going to be ready for the start of camp because of off-season hip surgery, which is only more incentive to get a veteran like Woody back.

Braylon Edwards will be in court tomorrow to find out the penalty for violating his probation with his DWI charge.

A couple of veterans who were released that the Jets could have an interest in: Tully Banta-Cain and Kelly Gregg. Banta-Cain is a rush linebacker who is recovering from off-season abdominal surgery and could provide depth to the Jets at outside linebacker. He recorded 5 sacks the past year. Gregg is defensive tackle, who could be a nice addition to the Jets rotation up front.

One of the Jets newest additions

Calm Before The Storm: Final Thoughts On Jets Free Agency

I won’t publish a “NFL is Back” post until it becomes official (probably around noon today) with a finalized timeline for the rest of the week. Yet, from everything we are hearing, things are about to start getting nuts…maybe even today. 

A few final thoughts –

1. Wide Receiver – Santonio Holmes remains the Jets top priority but if the Washington Redskins drive the price up to a ridiculous number, Mike Tannenbaum shouldn’t hesitate to move his focus to bringing back Braylon Edwards. The Jets have too many other areas to address to waste resources and time in a bidding war with Daniel Snyder’s endless pockets. If the Jets are going to sign a free agent, I think it ends up being Randy Moss.

2. Secondary – It is worth taking a run at Nnamdi Asomugha, even if it remains a long shot. Antonio Cromartie returning is also starting to seem like a long shot, which means the Jets could have to focus on getting Brodney Pool and Drew Coleman back, along with finding a veteran free agent corner.

3. Offensive Tackle – It sounds like they plan to work something out with Damien Woody but if not Wayne Hunter remains a viable fallback option. The key is making sure at least one of the two is brought back. It would be insane to just hand the job to Vladimir Ducasse without having a veteran to compete with him.

4. Defensive End – Unfortunately, I could see Shaun Ellis being too pricey considering the Jets other concerns. However, Trevor Pryce is a good fallback plan.

5. Other Considerations – Even though I would like to see them add another linebacker, we haven’t heard anything tangible about the Jets having interest in picking up a Matt Roth, Manny Lawson, or Antwan Barnes. Hopefully, they can find some support for the position, especially if Bryan Thomas is forced to be a cap casualty.

New York Jets Offense Preparing For Transition

The owner’s ratifed the proposed new CBA yesterday and now we are waiting on the players, with an anticipated vote coming at some point this weekend. I would still look for the league year to kick off at some point next week and along those lines, the news is rolling on the New York Jets, particularly on the offensive side of the football.

First off, the Jets made a terrific move by hiring Tom Moore as an offensive consultant. Moore is best known for his time spent working with the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning and is one of the most respected offensive minds in the game. He is going to consult on their game planning, particularly in the red-zone, which is an area we certainly know they need help in. (Cover your eyes)

Second, Braylon Edwards was in court today where he pleaded guilty to his DWI charge from last season. It will be interesting to see how this impacts how much money he receives in free agency. Edwards continued to express his desire to remain with the team and hopes he gets a deal done with them in the 3 day exclusive signing period. I still think it is a long shot that he comes back, as I think too much will be spent to keep Santonio Holmes. However, maybe if Antonio Cromartie walks, the Jets could work something out to keep both Holmes and Edwards.

If Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes happen to leave, Jets fans shouldn’t panic too much as Jerricho Cotchery will be returning 100 percent healthy this season. He is a terrific option as a #2 receiver when healthy. Between Cotchery and Dustin Keller, the Jets will still have enough weapons for Mark Sanchez if one of their big name free agents leave.

Finally, Damien Woody gave an interview yesterday where he made it clear that he was interested in returning to the Jets only as a starter and only above the veteran’s minimum. Personally, I think it is worth getting him back for another year so he can mentor Vladimir Ducasse as he learns a new position. If Woody ends up being too pricey, Wayne Hunter is a good enough fallback option to the hold the fort for a year.

Asomugha To The Jets Creates Other Free Agency Problems

Imagine all world CB Nnamdi Asomugha opposite another all world CB Darrelle Revis, in 2011. According to Rotoword it is possible. The popular sports news source reported today that SI.com’s Peter King “hears” that free agent Nnamdi Asomugah’s preference is to play with the Jets. King of course, still lists the Jets as a “longshot,” presumably for financial reasons.

Without getting specific financially, speaking only in general terms, to afford Asomugha, the Jets would be limited in free agency, able to only target ONE of their wide receivers. Not including veteran bargain bin finds. Other high priced Jets may even have to restructure their current deals to make it happen as well.

Their rumored to be favored choice at WR is Santonio Holmes. Keeping either Holmes OR Braylon Edwards (who struck a plea for his September 2010 DWI today), would be about the only high priced long term deal the Jets could take on if they wanted to go after Asomugha. Following that type of scenario, expect them losing Brad Smith, RT Wayne Hunter, and one or two of their free agents in the secondary: Brodney Pool, Eric Smith, Drew Coleman and James Ihedigbo.

Going for Asomugha and Holmes might be so costly that the replacement at the WR2 position might have to come from within, NOT from the open market where veterans like Randy Moss and Plaxico Burress, who won’t come dirt cheap, even as short term solutions, await their new address.

The Jets could try and replace the second receiver spot from within, using sure handed WR veteran Jerricho Cotchery there. Doing so with the added hope that TE Dustin Keller, with less top talent mouths to feed outside, returns to his early 2010 production, one that saw the former Purdue standout on pace for an All-Pro selection prior to the return of Holmes from a four game suspension due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Darelle Revis and Asomugha would make it extremely difficult for teams to throw outside at all. The loss of Edwards and any tall, big bodied presence replacing him outside, would hurt the Jets in the red zone, run blocking off the edges, and in certain match-ups where height inside on slant patterns in short yardage situations is often an advantage.

The Jets could, by using up much of their free agent salary cap money on Asomugha, also be faced with having to rely on second year pro Vladimir Ducasse at RT. This in the event that both Hunter and Damien Woody, who according to the NY Post today, wants to return as a starter, but not for the veteran minimum, don’t return. 

The loss of Hunter and Woody would create immediate growing pains up front. Similar to the way that the Jets offensive line took a step back early in 2010 when Matt Slauson replaced perennial All Pro Alan Faneca.

Everything is a trade off. If the Jets “want” Asomugha like he wants them, the Jets certainly would be taking a step towards shutting down passing games to a murmur. The bigger question would be, how many other key positions on both sides of the ball would Gang Green be taking a small step backwards with, in order to make the deal work.

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Right Tackle: A Priority For Jets Receiving Little Attention

TOJ is very happy to announce the addition of TJ Rosenthal to our writing staff. We have worked together previously at Pro Football NYC. TJ runs a Tumblr page called The Jet Report and is also active on Twitter. Welcome aboard! – JC

Scouts Incorporated Matt Williamson broke down all 32 NFL teams needs going into free agency. In doing so, he broke down the categories into groups. Need 1, Need 2, Need 3. By combining all three columns into 96 spots, we found that 14 of 96 in total were offensive linemen. Not a seemingly sought after position you say? Think again.

Offensive lineman are a top four group, which includes defensive linemen, linebackers and the secondary, which lead the list at 20. This brings us to the Jets RT Wayne Hunter and the recently released ex-Jet Damien Woody. Assuming that Williamson’s breakdown is reasonably accurate, then the need for the Jets to address the situation regarding the right tackle position looms larger than many might think. 

Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards have been the headline grabbing Jets free agent names. CB Antonio Cromartie has been one as well. Franchise tagged free agent LB David Harris is a shoe in to return to Florham Park.

The issue of right tackle however, has slipped under the radar. Hunter filled in well for an injured Damien Woody late in 2010 and earned his stripes by helping keep the Jets offense moving during their playoff run, from Williamson’s chart, it is obvious that teams clearly need help up front. 

The Jets must work hard to keep Hunter AND look to bring the experienced Woody back as well. The latter move to insure depth for a unit that sets the tempo for the Jets on offense. If a scenario presents itself where Hunter, 30, leaves for more lucrative pastures then don’t be shocked if Woody, 33, who has been a part of the Ground and Pound for two years and owns two Super Bowl rings, gets his old starting job back.

A lees trustworthy option would be last year’s second round pick Vladimir Ducasee, who would be a fall back option to fill the role, depending on his improvement from 2010 to this training camp. Last year as a rookie, Ducasse looked confused and not quite up to starting speed. His confusion is normal for many first year players whose job it is to protect against the complexities of NFL defenses. 

A plan ought to be in place by the Jets to solidify this position with Hunter AND Woody within the first three days of free agency. A window of time where teams will have the sole right to negotiate with their own.

Hunter’s value will of course play a part in the decision. There is no telling what a player like Hunter, a player with playoff experience and one of the few available at his position, will command on the open market.

Another element involved in the equation will be the current mindset of desperate owners. Ones like Jerry Jones of the line starved Cowboys, who is in need of filling this spot for his own team. This dangerously unknown element can alter the Jets plans that for now, remain on paper.

Recent Jets history proves that a reasonable measure of concern is understandable regarding rogue owners altering market value and salary cap strategies. Look at how Al Davis and his over generous three year, 45.3 million dollar deal with CB Nnamdi Asomugha in 2009 altered the scope of how the Darrelle Revis team handled negotiations during the 2010 offseason. Going back further, former Jets starting RG Randy Thomas, was lost during the Dan Snyder “Jet Skins” purge of 2003. Outbid by an owner willing to do whatever it took to win in 2004.

In Hunter’s case, it is possible that a team in dire need of help at Right Tackle could overpay in their offer, thus forcing the Jets hand. Raising the price to an unrealistic number worth matching. Doing this while knowing that aside from Hunter, the Jets will already have alot on their plate (Besides Holmes, Edwards and the versatile Brad Smith, secondary members Brodney Pool, Eric Smith, Drew Coleman and James Ihedigbo are ALL free agents as well). What teams may NOT take into account though, is that GM Mike Tannenbaum may be willing to call a bluff on a position that MUST continue to remain solidified.

No unit thrives on continuity like the offensive line. Keeping Hunter and Woody in Green and White allows the Jets to keep continuity and familiarity in the trenches. A major key when you consider how much offseason time has been lost in terms of units working together.

The offensive line becomes a back page story when penalties cost games or Quarterbacks like Tony Romo go down as a result of their ineptitude. No team can afford communication problems that lead to mistakes costing yardage. The Jets certainly cannot run the risk of exposing QB Mark Sanchez to any physical danger that results in a season long injury, like the one that the Cowboys Romo fell victim to, due to a lack of quality blocking, in the early part of the 2010 season. Especially when you consider who is behind Sanchez right now on the depth chart. 

Right tackle will be a key position to the Jets free agency strategy in the coming days. It has to be. After the issues of Santonio Holmes and who plays cornerback opposite perennial All-Pro Darrelle Revis are solved, Right tackle should be number three on the Jets soon to be free agent priority list. Bringing both Hunter and Woody back, perhaps in a reversal of roles with Hunter starting out as the starter, would be optimal.

When the lockout ends as reports claim it will over the next few days, talk will quickly turn to what will be a wild and short free agency period. The local media focus for the Jets will start at the glamorous position of wide receiver. Expect it to turn to the trenches, and right tackle shortly thereafter.

Jets Should Pay Up For Veterans Ellis and Woody

Two of the financial decisions the Jets will have to make this off-season will be how much they are willing to invest in bringing veterans Shaun Ellis and Damien Woody back. In both cases, the team shouldn’t hesitate to spend a little extra money to get another year or potentially two out of both players.

The 34 year old Ellis has spent his entire 11 year career with the Jets and you have to think he would like to finish his career where he started it. He approached the team to rework his deal last year and was denied but hopefully this off-season they could find a reasonable middle ground to get him back for a year or two as a mentor for rookie Muhammad Wilkerson. He put together another productive season last year with 36 tackles and 4.5 sacks and also had arguably the best performance of his career in the Jets divisional round upset of the Patriots. Trevor Pryce would be a cheaper option but isn’t as effective and had injury issues last season.

It would help Wilkerson reach his true potential if he had a season to learn behind Ellis, who is a very good 3-4 end against both the run and pass, and also remains one of the leaders in the locker room. Wilkerson wouldn’t immediately be forced into a starting role and could work up as a rotational player until eventually taking over.

As for Woody, it is too risky to now ask second year player Vladimir Ducasse to take over at right tackle considering he hasn’t the chance to work with any of the coaches in the off-season. They could bring Wayne Hunter back as veteran insurance but Woody is a better overall player and has good chemistry with the rest of the line. He likely won’t have high contract demands and bringing him back for at least one more season, gives Ducasse time to learn a new position behind a quality, proven veteran.

The money spent on getting Ellis and Woody back for 2011 doesn’t just improve the Jets depth and talent at defensive end and right tackle respectively, it will also help young players like Wilkerson and Ducasse by giving them more time to get acclimated behind veterans.

Where Will The Jets Go Cheap?

There will inevitably be some tough decisions the New York Jets front office will have to make when free agency starts. Certain positions are going to see a higher concentration of money spent, while others will be forced to be handled more cheaply with hopes of younger players stepping up. Where will Mike Tannebaum decide to invest the most?

Wide Receiver – We know money is going to be spent to keep either Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards, but would the Jets invest enough in the receiver position to keep both, or perhaps one along with Brad Smith? It doesn’t seem likely considering this is a run first offense, but they may want to insure Mark Sanchez has the best weapons possible at his disposal to help him flourish into a top-tier quarterback in the NFL.

Defensive Line – The Jets could go young and not pay up to bring Shaun Ellis back and also not work to coax Trevor Pryce out of retirement. However, they will be putting a high amount of pressure on first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson to produce immediately and relying on unproven players like Ropati Pitoitua and Marcus Dixon to play large roles on the defensive line rotation. If they can’t work something out with Ellis, it would be smart to at least bring Pryce back on a cheap, one-year deal as insurance.

Offensive Line – When the Jets released Damien Woody this off-season, the original plan seemed to be allowing second year player Vladimir Ducasse battle with veteran Wayne Hunter to take over at right tackle. Hunter filled in for Woody a few games at the end of last season and is also a free agent, but would cost less to bring back. Now with the way this off-season has been affected by the lockout, can the Jets risk thinking Ducasse is ready to compete for a starting job and have somebody like Hunter as the only alternative or will they pay up to bring Woody back for another year? They also need to decide if they are going to bring back versatile back-up Robert Turner.

Secondary – Antonio Cromartie is going to be a highly sought after free agent and if the Jets decide to let him walk, they will be taking a risk at corner opposite Darrelle Revis by hoping Kyle Wilson is ready to step in as a starter. The Jets could always look to sign a free agent to compete with him but if they are going to spend money on a veteran, why not just stick with Cromartie who is comfortable in the system and handled the job well last year? They also need to make a decision at safety, where Brodney Pool will probably cost more than Eric Smith but provides better range and long-term potential next to Jim Leonhard.

Linebacker – The Jets could go into the year with their current depth chart and hope a player like Jamaal Westerman or Josh Mauga steps up as an option in certain packages and as reliable backups or look to bring back Jason Taylor or sign a free agent to support a position that is relatively thin.