Discussion around the New York Jets is currently built around two topics bouncing back and forth on a daily basis: Muhammad Wilkerson and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Every angle of both discussions has been beat to a pulp. Here is the reality of where both are at before looking at a few other outstanding issues surrounding the team in today’s 12 Pack…
1. There is no team in the NFL who is going to beat the money the Jets are offering Fitzpatrick. He can leave the 7-9 million dollars per year on the table and retire, wait out a potential training camp injury or force Jimmy Sexton to fold his poorly played hand and come back to New York. The Jets have an internal deadline they would like to have quarterback settled by, which is probably still at least a few weeks off. At that point, they would look towards a player like Josh McCown or Brian Hoyer, who would come at half the cost of Fitzpatrick but also not be guaranteed a starting job. It would also be interesting to see how the Jets would handle Paxton Lynch being on the board at number 20.Ultimately, it still feels like the safest bet is Fitzpatrick coming back on a fluffed up deal from what the Jets offered before free agency opened. The team could increase the overall value of the deal with incentives without impacting their long term cap health substantially.
If Fitzpatrick remains adamant about getting Brock Osweiler money, the team is confident they could prop up a Hoyer, McCown or even a Geno Smith with their offensive system and supporting cast. It isn’t their preferred option but is a path they are willing to go down.
2. Wilkerson’s situation is a little more complex. Nobody wants to trade for him because they don’t want to give up assets AND have to pay him 100 million long term. The Jets don’t want to pay him long term, need more draft picks and cap flexibility. Right now, the Jets are stuck with a player they would like to move but cannot find an offer they deem acceptable.
If something doesn’t move around draft weekend, the Jets will have him play on the franchise tag in 2016 and may have to deal with a potential holdout this summer. If somebody comes through with a comparable offer to what New England got for Chandler Jones, I think the Jets would jump in a heartbeat.Before you express outrage at not getting a top 10 pick for Wilkerson, look at the Jets roster, cap situation and reality of Wilkerson’s position. If the Jets roster existed as it did now, with Wilkerson off the books and he was available in free agency or via trade from another team, there isn’t a logical Jets fan out there who would be pushing to go acquire him. Why? The team has enough to win on the defensive line. They do not have enough to win at linebacker, offensive line and quarterback.
3. What about linebacker? It looks much better now with Erin Henderson back as David Harris’ running mate. Henderson will be an upgrade over Demario Davis and come at a cheaper price. Lorenzo Mauldin will be one full time outside linebacker but the spot opposite him remains wide open. Yes, the team is high on Deion Barnes and Mike Catapano…and Calvin Pace is always lurking but they need more. Both the NFL Draft and June/training camp cuts could hopefully provide support there.
4. What about offensive line? Right now the Jets would be running back the same five starters and top backups…not ideal. The team would love to cut payroll at tackle but may need to see how the draft shakes out first. This is another position that needs another veteran or two in the mix, despite high internal hopes for both Brent Qvale and Jarvis Harrison.
5. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Jets drafted a punter in the 7th round and brought another one in as an undrafted free agent. They still need more options in the return game (Dri Archer is a borderline roster guy at best).6. Recent signing Darryl Morris is unlikely to compete with Marcus Williams on the outside for reps but fits more as a depth option that likely means Darrin Walls isn’t coming back.
7. We have mentioned Barnes, Catapano, Qvale and Harrison as young internal options the Jets hope take the next step. Here are a few more names to watch: Deon Simon as a platoon at nose tackle with Steve McLendon. Taiwan Jones as a backup to Erin Henderson and special teams player. Rontez Miles as the team’s third safety and special teams player. Wes Saxton as an in line option at tight end. Dexter McDougle as sub corner and special teams player.
8. Once you get past Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Matt Forte and Bilal Powell, it is hard to imagine more than another 4-5 targets per game to divvy up between other backs, receivers and tight ends.
9. If the Jets did trade Muhammad Wilkerson, I’d look for Leger Douzable to be quickly re-signed to round out the defensive end depth behind Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams and Jarvis Jenkins.
10. Everybody always says “what if Richardson slips up one more time…the Jets can never count on him long term” …What if he doesn’t slip up and goes on to become a more athletic, more versatile, better long term player than Wilkerson or Williams, who stays out of trouble?
11. For no reason at all, one man’s ranking of the twelve best Jets in 2015
1. Brandon Marshall
2. Muhammad Wilkerson
3. Darrelle Revis
4. Eric Decker
5. Damon Harrison
6. James Carpenter
7. David Harris
8. Nick Mangold
9. Ryan Fitzpatrick
10. Chris Ivory
11. Calvin Pryor
12. Bilal Powell
55. Ryan Quigley
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com