By Harrison Peltz
The 2014 Jets were horrendous. Their O-line was leaky. Their secondary was inexperienced and untalented. Their quarterback was Geno Smith. Their coach was fiery, but simply didn’t know squat about offense. Their record was 4 and 12. Yet, they have a million things to look forward to in 2015.
How could they have turned it around so quickly? Hold your horses, they’re not good yet. Nevertheless, even your ‘realist’ friend who doesn’t like a football team and just ‘spectates’ and ‘enjoys the game’ must admit that the Jets may very well be a playoff team in the somewhat near future.
As a result of Woody Johnson finally surrendering and saying “shoot, I don’t know anything about football”, with Casserly and Wolf, two Jet executives with successful histories in the NFL, the Jets have a competent coaching and front office staff. Todd Bowles, though similar to Rex Ryan, does, in fact, know a bit about offense, and Mike McCagnan was the brains behind that really good Texans team, led by J.J. Watt (yeah, remember that?).
More importantly, the Jets have cap-space up the wazoo. It was frustrating to watch John Idzik jerk around while the rest of the NFL decided to pay good players; nevertheless, his ‘patience’ has resulted in a plethora of cap space. They currently sit at about $50 million, however, after the expected cuts are made, they could have upwards of $60 million to spend on rebuilding and solidifying a mediocre roster.
Also, the Jets have a full draft (7 picks), including the 6th overall pick. Like every year, this draft class is over-hyped and unproven, but with McCagnan’s draft history, the Jets have a chance to avoid any Stephen Hills or Vlad Duccasses and walk away with some Sheldon Richardsons and Muhammad Wilkersons.
If the Jets play their cards right, their five year playoff drought could come to a refreshing end. That’s a big ‘if’, however. They must be willing to spend (wisely, of course) if they want to be good. The following is a positional-group-by-positional-group primer that details how the Jets should tackle improving their roster through both free agency and the draft.
The Jets cannot afford to lose any of the cogs of their dominant defensive line. When you have talent, you keep talent, as Darrelle Revis’ Super Bowl ring has taught the Jets organization, and the Jets certainly have talent at this position.
Free Agency: There’s simply no need to spend any more money on the D-Line. That’s obvious. However, there must retain a few essential D-Linemen. Damon Harrison will attract big money, and the Jets must give it to him, as he has proven himself as a premier interior lineman over the past two seasons. The other two free agents are Leger Douzable and Kenrick Ellis, both of whom could probably start on any other team. The Jets should try and bring both back, but at a reasonable price: there’s no reason to get into a bidding war over a bench player.
Draft: Again, no need. The Jets need to focus their draft picks on other, more needy positional groups.
Free Agency: Chris Johnson has already been cut. Smart. He’s past his prime, and he’s too egotistical to be positive in the locker room; that is, he’s too obsessed with his own playing time to share wisdom to help groom younger talent.
There’s been a lot of talk about C.J. Spiller coming to New York. I’m not fully against it; however, I don’t see any point in paying him decent money. He hasn’t proven himself at all. Chris Ivory could rush for 1,500 yards with a nice load of carries (I mean it), and Bilal Powell is a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield. You know what? I take that back. I’m fully against it. NO C.J.
Draft: I’m a huge advocate for taking running backs in the later rounds. What makes a running back special is his athleticism, and I feel that more and more athletic freaks are undervalued and left on draft boards for way too long. That being said, the Jets should spend a late round pick on an athletic, pass-catching running back to compete for the third-and-long-RB starting position. They should also bring an undrafted free agent, just ‘cause Arian Foster.
Free Agency: The linebackers are a makeshift crew. And that’s okay. They hold up well, they make some plays, and they’re far from an embarrassment. In the near future, the Jets will have to find a long-term replacement for outside linebacker Calvin Pace. They’ll also have to decide whether or not Quinton Coples is their guy (hint: he is). Right now, they have to re-sign David Harris. He’s not the player he used to be, but he’s still a tackling machine, and having a question mark in the middle of the field is asking for trouble. The Jets have way too many problems in other positional groups to worry about when ol’ reliable’s time is up.
Draft: An edge rusher is never a bad idea, but it’s certainly not a priority. If the opportunity presents itself, then the Jets should take an athletic, 3-4 defensive-lineman-linebacker hybrid to help bolster the pass rush a bit in the later rounds. Nothing serious though.
Free Agency:(Assuming Harvin is Cut) Randall Cobb. He’s young, he’s fast, and he’s a perfect fit at the Z position, as opposed to Decker, who plays the X. Demaryius Thomas is a phenom, but the Jets would be unwise to break the bank on one receiver. He’ll probably fetch a 100 million dollar contract and without Peyton Manning as his qb he’s not worth that money. If the pursuit of Cobbs fails, I’d turn to Jeremy Maclin, who’s a less proven version of Cobb. At least with Maclin, we know he can catch balls from a scrub (Sanchez). I’d also be happy with Michael Crabtree, who according to Jim Harbaugh has the best hands in the league, and Torrey Smith, who will surely improve the Jets deep-ball attack, which was anemic this year. There’s tons of depth in this wide receiver free agency class, and the Jets must spend frequently and quickly.
Draft: (Assuming Harvin is Cut) If the Jets pass on the higher-end receivers in free agency, their season can be salvaged. With the sixth pick overall, the Jets have a lot of flexibility with their draft options. If there is still an open spot on the depth chart at Z receiver, Kevin White is the way to go. He draws comparisons to Julio Jones, except Julio Jones didn’t run a 4.35 forty. If not Kevin White in the first-round, then the Jets should snag Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockette in the third or fourth round. He’s speedy and has sticky hands. One of the biggest sleepers in the draft, Lockette is a straight burner down the sideline.
Free Agency: The offensive line play this year was an embarrassment. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can splurge on free agent linemen. For example, the Jets should pass on signing any tackles. The tackle play was not good, but it was certainly not worse than that of the guards. Guard play needs to be improved on both sides. Mike Iupati is an eye-opening name who will probably require a hefty contract. Give it to him. Willie Colon needs to retire, and the Jets cannot expect anything from a quarterback playing in front of a line that consists of…well, you get the point. Also, Clint Boling is a young, underrated guard who could fill in on the other side. An under the radar player, Boling will not have as hefty a contract as Iupati.
Draft: I wouldn’t be angered if the Jets spent multiple draft picks on offensive linemen. In fact, I’d be overjoyed. The Jets shouldn’t try and be sexy this draft, they should simply try and bolster and fortify one of their most depleted positional groups. Cameron Erving, Tre Jackson, and Tyler Moore are players that should be targeted in later rounds, as they certainly could become bona fide starters in the future.
Free Agency: Uy. The secondary was painful to watch this year. After Dexter McDougle, a recent third round pick, and Dee Milliner went down, it seemed like the Jets season was over. It was. The Jets must improve their secondary through free agency this year. Kareem Jackson seems like a perfect fit. He’s long and thus has the ability to guard bigger, red-zone targets who torched the Jets all season. He has a relationship with GM Mike McCagnan, who drafted him back in Houston. Byron Maxwell is the other corner of choice, although he’ll probably demand the highest contract of all corners this offseason (unless Revis doesn’t opt-in with the Patriots). I’m not too high on Maxwell, as his stats and reviews are exaggerated due to the secondary he played in, but nevertheless, he’s a good player, and will certainly improve the Jets secondary. If not Maxwell, than a Cromartie reunion seems only necessary. In fact, it already seems like it’s happening, according to ESPN sources. Milliner and Cromartie were making strides together before Cromartie was cut. A corner corps comprised of Milliner, Jackson, and Cromartie is solid, and a great upgrade from last year. At safety, I think the Jets need to go by committee. Calvin Pryor deserves another shot, as he was playing with no help and out-of-position, yet, Jaiquawn Jarrett has proven that he deserves time. Louis Delmas is a veteran that could help both young talents out, and probably won’t demand that high of a contract compared to other safety free agents. A hard hitter, Delmas could supply the anchor that the Jets need in such a young secondary. (P.S.: Revis is not coming back, nor should the Jets want him. He’s a traitor and fool. He’s also a mother and a nerd. Bush Did 9/11)
Draft: Like in the offensive linemen situation, the Jets must add depth to the secondary. I’d suggest P.J. Williams or Kevin Johnson in the second round. It wouldn’t hurt to take another corner in one of the later rounds, too. The Jets should stockpile in defensive secondary talent as a whole.
Free Agency: It pains me to say this, but this just isn’t the year that the Jets find the franchise quarterback they’ve been lacking since Broadway Joe hung up his helmet. There’s no talent in free agency or the draft. That’s why, I say, bring a bunch of quarterbacks, and have ‘em duke it out on the football field. Ryan Mallet, Ryan Fitzpatrick (who both have ties with the Jets front office), and other veteran quarterbacks must be brought in to compete with Geno. A trade for Jay Cutler is out of the question, as the Bears aren’t trading him, and he sucks anyway. A good old quarterback competition sounds like the best move to me.
Draft: Steer clear of Mariota. If Winston is there (which he won’t be), then we’ve got ourselves a franchise quarterback. However, Mariota has yet to prove himself as a pro-style, drop-back quarterback. He may be good, but the Jets cannot take a chance on another young quarterback. They must wait until there is sure thing, and then give up anything for him. There is no sure thing this year, which is why no first round picks should be surrendered to a quarterback. For depth and grooming purposes, Bryce Petty or Brett Hundley are both intriguing prospects, but they’re both considered projects. The Jets should select a quarterback in the later rounds, nothing above the third, and see if they can snag a diamond in the rough, just as their enemies of the North did.
The Jets have something here. They have the resources and pieces of the foundation, and with the right moves, could be a legitimate football team this year.