New York Jets Free Agency: Slow Start Isn’t Reason For Panic

Frank Giasone on why New York Jets shouldn’t be panicking after day one of free agency

It’s not always easy for fans to sit back and watch as other teams climb all over one another for a chance to sign the most highly-touted free agents on the market. Unfortunately for some Jets fans, inactivity early in free agency equates to failure.

And while many understand that this “inactivity” is an intelligent non-move by Jets General Manager John Idzik, there’s been enough overreaction on Twitter on the first day of free agency to warrant my writing of this article.

But that’s why we’re here…to help you see the bigger picture. More importantly, we’re here to help you avoid ruining your evening (week, month or entire offseason) sulking over the fact that the Miami Dolphins signed Mike Wallace, or that Seattle is paying Percy Harvin more than $11M per year (I know he’s not a free agent…but those numbers are just too absurd to ignore), while the Jets are now without guys like Mike Devito and Sione Po’uha.

The fact is, the Jets don’t have a ton of spending cash. After releasing Po’uha and reworking Santonio Holmes’ contract, some cash was free’d up, but it’s highly unlikely that the Jets will blow anyone’s doors off with a big time free agent signing. The more likely scenario is that Idzik & Co. will sit back and wait a day or two…or three, and eventually walk away with a few mid-range free agents, capable of filling some of the many holes on this roster.

Yes, it hurts to see a guy like Devito sign with Kansas City (Bob Sutton is a ruthless, ruthless man), or hear that Laron Landry is meeting with Indianapolis (they could use some meat and potatoes ondevito-mike that defense). But this is what happens in a pro sport with a salary cap. It’s a tough business. Guys move on. Guys you don’t want to leave, leave. It’s not about what they’ve done for you in the past…it’s about finding cheaper talent that can do the same for you in the future.

That’s the issue the Jets face. After spending a few years with a “win now” mentality, the organization and its fans are paying the price. Backloaded contracts to free up cap space, high priced free agents and traded draft picks are what teams do when they see their window closing. And it’s what former GM Mike Tannenbaum did. He mortgaged the future for the good of the present. But it’s not how you sustain success in the NFL.

Building through free agency is great if you have a talented team on the cusp of winning. But when you’re looking at a team heading into a “rebuild mode”, overspending on a wide receiver or inside linebacker just doesn’t make sense. It’s why Idzik is considering trading Darrelle Revis–because draft picks and cap space have value. And it’s why a guy like Victor Butler has more value to the Jets than Wallace or MLB Danell Ellerbe (who signed a 5 year, $35M deal with Miami Tuesday).

If History Teaches Us Anything…

Around this time last year, the Bills were being lauded as the new power in the AFC East after locking up the top free agent on the market, Mario Williams, with a massive deal that made him the Mario Williamshighest paid defensive player in NFL history. Now, it’s Miami who’s holding the belt late on Day 1.

I think it’s safe to assume that a lot the people who are fired up about the Jets’ lack of activity thus far in 2013, were just as upset at this point in 2012. But I have to remind you, rarely do you see the winners of free agency carry end up as Super Bowl winners.

It’s a point that can’t be stressed enough after witnessing Miami make the most noise of any team on Day 1 of free agency. While Tuesday’s signings may help Miami, they in no way guarantee them a 12-win season in ’13. That team has plenty of issues, and this free agent splurge appears to be more of an effort from GM Jeff Ireland to save a job that many thought he wouldn’t still have at this point, than it is the missing piece to a Super Bowl run.

So What Now?

Aside from waiting to hear about the next “imminent” Revis trade rumor? Well…lets hope the Jets continue the approach of building with mid-level free agents. This team is desperate for players–the cheaper the better.

The 2013 NFL Draft will be the best way for the Jets to fix some issues on the roster, with the singing of undrafted free agents in the following week another opportunity at loading up on young, cheap talent.

But remember, things could be worse, Jets fans. I know you want activity and improvement…we all do. But spending money for the sake of spending isn’t the smart move. This organization has seen much darker times than what we’re currently witnessing. Be patient, remain optimistic, and maybe say a few Hail Mary’s.

Things will get better.