2012 NFL Free Agents: Michael Bush and 5 Others the New York Jets Must Target
If the New York Jets want to get back into championship contention by next season, they are going to have to score big in free agency while spending wisely, since they are up against the salary cap.
To free up some cap room, general manager Mike Tannenbaum is going to have to work his magic to make cuts and possibly convince some players to restructure their contracts.
In a perfect Jets world, New York would be able to sign all of the following free-agent targets, but that would be unrealistic. They must prioritize in order to get the players in the needed positions who can contribute immediately since New York still remains in a win-now mode.
At 6'1" and 245 lbs., Michael Bush can become the Jets' lead back as they return to their ground-and-pound game under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano.
Last season was Bush's busiest and most productive year of his career, as he filled in for the oft-injured Darren McFadden. Bush finished the season with 256 carries for 977 rushing yards, along with 37 receptions for 418 receiving yards.
If New York cannot land Bush, Marshawn Lynch, Mike Tolbert and Tim Hightower are other possible candidates. They can also go the cheaper route by drafting a RB and hoping he can produce as a rookie.
Here are five more free agents the Jets must target this offseason.
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The New York Jets need help on the offensive line, most notably at left guard and right tackle.
This season, the offensive line failed to protect Mark Sanchez, as he was sacked 40 times and hit 70 times. They also failed to get a consistent running game going.
The offensive line was once the Jets' strength, leading the league's No. 1-ranked running game just two seasons ago.
Vernon Carey can come in and upgrade the right tackle position currently occupied by Wayne Hunter.
Moving Wayne Hunter to a backup role would also provide the Jets with much-needed offensive line depth—something they sorely missed this season, as evidenced by the clear drop-off when Nick Mangold went out with an ankle injury.
Hopefully Tony Sparano can have some influence over Carey, his former player.
A cheaper free agent option could be former Jet Kareem McKenzie.
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The New York Jets have been lacking a legitimate pass-rusher ever since, well, John Abraham.
Would he be open to a reunion? At 33 years old, he proved he can still produce, as he recorded 9.5 sacks this season.
With the Atlanta Falcons also signing younger pass-rusher Ray Edwards to a huge deal in last season's free agency, Abraham may not be re-signed due to some cost-cutting.
If the Jets can sign him and re-sign Aaron Maybin, who showed flashes of getting to the QB this season, their pairing could end up being quite a free agency haul.
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Jim Leonhard is coming off back-to-back seasons ending early due to injury. He is also headed for free agency and should not be re-signed.
Eric Smith may be cut due to an ineffective season.
If the New York Jets do not solve their safety problem through the draft and if Michael Griffin is too expensive, New York should look into Reggie Nelson.
At 5'11" and 206 lbs., Nelson is a bigger safety who's coming off a career year with 85 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, four interceptions and 12 passes defensed. He is a playmaker who would fit very well in Rex Ryan's defensive system and may not demand too much money.
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When Jon Beason's season ended in September due to a left Achilles' injury, Dan Connor was thrown into the starting middle linebacker role.
Connor filled in admirably with 75 tackles and one forced fumble.
With Beason coming back next season to re-claim his starting spot, Connor may look for a team of his own—one that would maximize his playing time.
If he does, he can make the New York Jets' aging linebacker unit younger by possibly replacing Bart Scott.
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Edwards enjoyed his stay with the Jets and did not want to leave in the first place. He had no problems with Mark Sanchez, and Santonio Holmes had no problems with Braylon.
Edwards was developing good chemistry with Sanchez as he became the Jets' deep threat, catching 53 balls for 904 yards, averaging 17.1 yards per catch two seasons ago.
After having an injury-plagued year with the San Francisco 49ers and being put on waivers, Edwards will come cheap. With him already familiar with Sanchez and the offensive system, he can pick up where he left off.