Mike Tannenbaum is going to have to do some creative maneuvering with contracts in the coming week to improve the New York Jets through free agency. There has been a good amount of talk about releasing Bryan Thomas as a necessary move to free up cap space. However, too many people are writing off his value to the defense and not looking at the important question of who will fill his void.
Thomas has started every single game at outside linebacker for the Jets since Rex Ryan has taken over. In 2009, he finished with 53 tackles and 2 sacks. Last season, he followed up with 39 tackles and a team leading 6 sacks. He isn’t a flashy player but he fits well in the system and is constantly praised for doing those “little things” that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
Rex Ryan’s defense needs players who are going to take on less enviable tasks in sacrifice of their own personal stats, look at Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and any player rotating through at defensive end. Thomas is comfortable in that role and has the trust of the coaching staff. If the Jets let him walk, who are they are going to replace him with? The only in house option is Jamaal Westerman, who has shown potential at times but spent most of last season inactive and finished with a total of 7 tackles.
Outside of their own roster, why would they spend money on a free agent like Manny Lawson, Antwan Barnes, Matt Roth, or even bringing Jason Taylor back before using that money to work something out with Thomas, who should be open to moving money around on his contract considering the big deal he received from the team before the 2007 season and that he has spent his whole career in New York.
The Jets are thin enough at linebacker, there is no need to make the position weaker by parting ways with a quality starter.
It now seems to be a foregone conclusion that a new CBA deal will be announced this Thursday at the owner’s meetings, followed by a 72 hour window where teams can negotiate with their own free agents, followed by the free agency floodgates opening to the entire league in what should be a massive spending spree. In about two to three weeks, we could have the New York Jets, however they are constructed at that point, on the field in Florham Park getting ready for the 2011 season.
It is about damn time.
It is pretty amazing how far ahead Nick Mangold ranks ahead of every other center in the NFL by these and just about any metrics. Tim Graham also recently ranked him as the 5th best player in the AFC East, which seems a touch low to me at first glance. I know Tom Brady and Darrelle Revis will be higher, but I am curious to see who else will be. Then again it could be hard to put too much stock in a list that ranked Cameron Wake higher than Santonio Holmes and D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
It is comforting to know the Jets do have the best center in the league anchoring their offensive line for the long haul. Getting him with the 29th overall pick in the draft was an absolute steal and is right up there with trading up for Darrelle Revis as the best draft day move Mike Tannenbaum has made.
TOJ’s good friend Jeff Capellini recently published this article at WFAN.com on how the Jets should approach free agency. He has remained optimistic about the Nnamdi Asomugha being swayed by the potential to win over the money and seems to think there is a better chance of Braylon Edwards returning over Santonio Holmes, two opinions I do not agree with. However, with the amount of interest the Washington Redskins apparently have in Holmes, bringing Edwards back could become a financial necessity to save money to help improve the rest of the team. At corner, I just can’t picture any scenario where the Jets pay anywhere near the amount of money it will take to bring Asomugha here and would rather see them focus on getting Antonio Cromartie back.
An intriguing free agent option mentioned for the Jets in this article is San Diego linebacker Antwan Barnes. He has played under Rex Ryan before and finished with 4.5 sacks last season as a pass rushing specialist for the Chargers. The Jets aren’t going to be able to spend big money at linebacker but need to improve their depth and pass rush options so either bringing Jason Taylor back or signing somebody like Barnes or Manny Lawson are possibilities.
A look at a potential worst case scenario for the Jets in free agency. There will obviously be tough decisions that have to be made in the coming weeks but hopefully Mike Tannenbaum can manuever the numbers to maintain as much of the current roster as possible, while a few other supporting pieces.
The latest reports on the NFL Lockout involve a tentative resolution being agreed upon on July 21st. In that scenario or really any scenario at this point, a frantic period of free agency will begin, which should truly separate the league’s best and worst front offices.
I would think most New York Jets fans should feel comfortable with Mike Tannenbaum pulling the strings, considering the success of the team since he has taken over as GM. Expect many teams to overpay for big name veterans in the opening days of free agency and for the more patient front offices to be rewarded with a few under the radar signings at very good market value.
There is a rumor floating around that the Washington Redskins have a strong interest in Braylon Edwards, which is about the worst news any Jets fan who wants Edwards back could hear. The Redskins are notorious for paying out lavish contracts to veterans and will likely drive Edwards price out of what Tannenabum is willing to pay, especially with Santonio Holmes likely a higher priority.
You would think Edwards would rather compete for a Super Bowl in New York than field one hoppers from John Beck on a mediocre Washington team but money talks and how much of a hometown discount would he really take?
Pro Football Focus recently compiled this list of the top 51 free agents (I strongly disagree with the ordering of these players but it does provide a good reference of who is available) and this list of bargain free agents. A few thoughts on how some of these available players could fit with the Jets —
- I don’t see them making a big offer on an elite free agent that isn’t one of their own. The top priorities should be keeping Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, and Edwards and to a lesser extent Shaun Ellis, Brodney Pool, and Damien Woody.
- A few middle of the road free agents I could them considering are linebackers Matt Roth or Manny Lawson, both could be options to improve depth and the pass rush, especially if Jason Taylor doesn’t come back.
- If Antonio Cromartie leaves, I could see them adding a veteran corner…if Jonathan Joseph ends up being too pricey, Chris Carr or Richard Marshall could be solid alternatives.
Also don’t forget the Jets still need to work out a long term deal with David Harris, to finish off taking care of their “Core Four.” It is hard to see this getting done before the season starts with how much madness will be going on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets weren’t afraid to visit the issue after week one considering the circumstances.