New York Jets Free Agency: Tracking 2012 Signings, Targets and Rumors

Ryan AlfieriCorrespondent IIIFebruary 27, 2012

New York Jets Free Agency: Tracking 2012 Signings, Targets and Rumors

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    The Jets may not have much cap room, but the good news is that they don't have to keep a lot of big-money free agents like they did last year. Outside of a few players, most of these re-signings are low-end contracts that are for depth players. 

    I think the Jets will be saying goodbye to a lot of older and slower players in an effort to get more athletic and faster, particularly at the skill positions and in the back seven of the defense. 

    In this free agency tracker, you will be able to find all of the information you need to keep an eye on the Jets' offseason moves. We'll look at free agents, including who should be kept and who should be shown the door. We'll go in-depth into the Jets cap situation, break down team needs and speculate potential offseason signings. 

    Finally, we'll take an in-depth look at a draft strategy the Jets should employ in April. 


Tracking Free-Agent Signings, Re-Signings and Roster Moves

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    March 19, 2012: S LaRon Landry has come to an agreement with the Jets on a 1-year, $4 million deal. 

    Landry gets a chance to prove that he his healthy, and the Jets finally get a talented player at the safety position. As the safety market dries up, it was vital that the Jets brought in somebody before it was too late. 

    March 17, 2012: Two moves were made by the Jets, as they agreed terms with WR Chaz Schilens and QB Drew Stanton. Stanton's deal is worth $1.25 million for one year, and Schilens' deal is also for one year with undisclosed details. 

    Schilens is a young player with some upside, and Stanton is a good fit as a backup to Sanchez. 

    March 14, 2012: Kicker Nick Folk was resigned, which comes as no surprise. Terms of the deal were not released. 

    The Jets also released safety Gerald Alexander and receiver Michael Campbell. Both were fringe special teams players that never saw the field on the regular offense of defense. 

    March 13, 2012: The Jets begin free agency by resigning OLB Bryan Thomas to a one-year contract, according to ESPN New York's Rich Cimini.This move comes as a bit of a surprise, as Thomas is on the downside of his career and the Jets know they need to get more explosive at the outside linebacker position. 

    March 12, 2012: Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reports that the Jets have agreed to a three-year extension with nose tackle Sione Pouha. He contract is worth $15 million over three years. 

    This was an essential move by the Jets. Pouha was the top priority, and locking him up before the start of free agency was a smart move. 

    March 9, 2012: Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com writes that the Jets have given quarterback Mark Sanchez a five-year contract extension, adding three years onto his original two-year deal. The contract includes $20.5 million in guarantees - Mark's old contract had no remaining money in guarantees. The new total for five years is $58.25 million, making Mark the seventh-highest paid quarterback in the NFL

    Of course, this all but officially rules out the Jets from acquiring Peyton Manning. In a way, this is a bit of an "apology contract". Sanchez was under a lot of scrutiny after last season's collapse, and Manning rumors did not help his image. This is a gesture by the Jets that shows their commitment to Sanchez long-term. 

    Feb. 23, 2012: LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson's 2012 contract was restructured, converting $9 million of Ferguson's $9.985 million 2012 base salary to a signing bonus, according to the New York Daily News. The Jets get some breathing room in cap space, and Ferguson gets his 2012 salary up front. 

    Feb. 8, 2012: RT Wayne Hunter's $2.45 million dollar salary became guaranteed, which comes as a bit of surprise to most Jets fans. However, the Jets would have looked pretty bad if they cut Hunter the same day Holmes got his money. Still, Hunter was awful last season, giving up 8.5 sacks and committing 11 penalties The Jets need to look for other options at right tackle. 

    Feb. 8, 2012: WR Santonio Holmes was given the $7.5 million in guarantees he was due for the 2013 season. Despite his issues in the locker room, he was expected to stay, as cutting Holmes would have resulted in about $12 million in dead money. 

    Either way, if the Jets were going to cut him, it would have been done already. Holmes is in the fold for 2012. 

    Feb. 7, 2012: WR Patrick Turner signed a one-year deal with the Jets for $870,000. Turner showed a lot of improvement this year, as he managed to get some opportunities with injuries to other receivers. The coaches like his attitude, and should have a pretty solid chance to make the 2012 roster. 


Salary Cap Status

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    According to nyjetscap.com, here is how the Jets cap situation shakes out:

    2012 NFL Estimated NFL Salary Cap Limit: $120,400,000
    Current Jets Total: $114,674,413
    Potential 2011 Carryover: $8,391,247
    Current Estimated Cap Space: $13,446,834

    What does that mean? First number is the salary cap for all teams. The second is the Jets payroll for 2012, which is about $700k million over the cap. However, dues to a clause in the CBA, room leftover from last year can be used next year, leaving the Jets with just under $8 million in cap room. 

    In fact, before the restructuring of Ferguson's contract on Feb. 23rd, the Jets had just over $500k in cap room. They took on more risk by paying him his contract up front in the form of a signing bonus. Brick has not missed any time in his career so far for injury, so it was a gamble that should pay off. 

    Still, this explains why the Jets didn't spend more money with their extra cap room next season, but why are the Jets so desperate for cap space just a year after having so much extra room? The best explanation is the Jets pursuit of Nnamdi Asomugha, in which they restructured several contracts to try to fit the star cornerback on their roster. 

    Problematic Cap Hits

    The biggest cap hits, in order, are Mark Sanchez, David Harris, Darrelle Revis, Santonio Holmes, and Antonio Cromartie. Not far off is Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, and Nick Mangold. 

    Of those top players, three appears to be under-performing: Sanchez, Scott, and Pace. Outside of those three players, every other contract appears to be fair, although you can argue that Eric Smith is making a tad too much at $2.5 million. 

    It will be interesting to see if the Jets restructure Sanchez's contract, as he will make over $14 million in salary and bonuses in 2012. That kind of money is reserved for the top 10 or so quarterbacks, and Sanchez is anything but a top quarterback. 

    Rumors have been circulating that Bart Scott may be on the chopping block. He had significantly less playing time in 2011 than in years past, and his role on the team is hardly worth his $6 million cap hit.

    Value Contracts

    The Jets roster is very top-heavy, which means most of their money goes to a few big stars, while the rest of the roster is filled with players playing for a minimum contract (which explains their depth issues).  

    The Jets have gotten a ton of value from guys like Jeremy Kerley, Shonn Greene and Garrett McIntyre, both who make about half a million per season. 

    Will Bart Scott Stay or Go?

    One of the biggest decisions for Tannenbaum is whether or not is intends on keeping Bart Scott for another season. He is scheduled to make $5.95 million in 2012 but the Jets can only save $1.25 million by cutting him, while leaving $7.2 million leftover in dead money. 

    On February 27th, a report from the Daily News came out saying the Jets gave Scott permission to seek a trade. Clearly, the Jets want no part of Scott's contract. 

    Scott is a favorite of Rex Ryan and the kind of player who sets an emotional tone for the entire team. If he can at least stay effective against the run, cutting a guy like him to save just over a million bucks does not seem worth it to me. 

    A restructuring is possible, especially if it would help facilitate a trade, but I would expect to see Scott back in green and white in 2012. 

    The coaching staff clearly has lost faith in Scott's ability to cover in space, but he is still effective against the run. 

Last Year's Holes

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    The Jets are a talented team, but the holes they have are so large that it affects the performance of other players on the team. They took a step back in just about every category, including the two most important aspects of a Rex Ryan team: defense and rushing.

    Offense

    The offense took a step back after a lot of change in personnel from 2010. With the hiring of Tony Sparano, expect the Jets to look more like the 2009 team than the 2011 team. 

    Right Tackle

    In my opinion, this is the biggest hole on the team. Wayne Hunter's inconsistent play on the edge of the line led to a severe regression in Sanchez's development, as he was clearly not a comfortable player all season. After Damien Woody retired, the Jets went from having one of the best offensive lines in football to being one of the most inconsistent units in the NFL. 

    All indications show that Hunter will be on the roster in 2012, but the Jets are kidding themselves if they think he will magically improve into a solid player. Tannenbaum must find a replacement through free agency or the draft. 

    Wide Receiver

    It appears unlikely that the Jets try to keep Plaxico Burress for another season. Sanchez had a tough time adjusting to throwing to a receiver that could not get consistent  separation between the 20s. The Jets must get faster and more athletic at the position. 

    There is a glut of receivers available in free agency and this year's draft is quite deep at the position. Given the Jets tight cap situation, I would expect the Jets to get a cheaper option through the draft with a mid-round pick.  

    Quarterback

    Sanchez will come into camp as the starter, but expect the backup situation to look completely different that it did in 2011. Mark Brunell will not be back. Look for the Jets to bring in a guy like Chad Henne or Jason Campbell who can at least come in to provide some competition or be able to step into a game situation if Sanchez struggles.

    Running Back

    Shonn Greene had his best statistical season yet, but he is not the kind of back ho can create yards on his own. However, replacing Greene is going to be a bit of a challenge. He is at his best when he get a lot of carries and find a a rhythm, so regulating him to a complimentary role will only limit his effectiveness further. 

    Either way, with LaDainian Tomlinson not returning, the Jets need to add depth at the position. How much they spend on the position will be indicative of their faith in Shonn Greene. 

    Defense

    Since their dominant unit of 2009, the Jets defense has been in a slow decline, falling to 5th overall in yards allowed. Adding speed and athleticism to an aging defense will be a huge priority.

    Outside Linebacker

    The Jets have lacked a pass rusher since they whiffed on Vernon Gholston in the 2008 draft. If they can get a player that can just be a somewhat consistent pass rusher that can play all three downs, the Jets defense has a chance to be the league's best once again. 

    Safety

    Eric Smith's struggles at the position have been well-documented, although to be fair, he played with some significant injuries down the stretch. Jim Leonhard may not return as a free agency coming off a major leg injury. 

    The Jets need to get faster and more athletic at the position. They struggled to deal with tight ends all season, and if you are going to face the Patriots twice a year, having elite talent at the safety position is a must. 

    Inside Linebacker

    With Bart Scott's role diminishing and future with the team in question, the Jets need to find a younger, faster replacement to pair with David Harris. Speed rushers and tight ends killed the Jets in 2011, so finding a player who can cover a lot of ground and play in space is a priority that should be addressed in the draft. 

Listing the Jets' 2012 Free Agents

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    NYJetsCap.com  lists the free agents for the Jets in 2012. The following players are unrestricted free agents (UFAs). In other words, these players are free to sign with any team at the start of free agency with no restrictions:

    Bryan Thomas
    Sione Pouha Update: Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reports that the Jets have agreed to a three-year extension with nose tackle Sione Pouha.
    LaDainian Tomlinson
    Robert Turner
    Kevin O'Connell
    Mark Brunell
    Plaxico Burress
    Nick Folk
    Brodney Pool
    Donald Strickland

    The following players are restricted free agents (RFAs). These players can negotiate with any team, but the Jets have the ability to match any offer. The Jets can also place a 1st-round tender on these players. 

    Marquice Cole
    Jamaal Westerman
    Aaron Maybin

    These two guys are Exclusive Right Free Agents (ERFAs). In this case, the Jets can match any offer another team makes. These guys have no right to negotiate with other teams.

    Matthew Mulligan
    Martin Tevaseu

    A $2.742 million tender equates to first-round compensation, a $1.927 million tender qualifies for second-round consideration and the lowest base tender of $1.26 million requires matching the RFA's original draft pick (i.e. if the player was selected in the third round, the interested team must give up a third-round pick in exchange).

Determining Contract Value and Worth for Every Jets Free Agent

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    The Jets don't have as many big-time free agents to keep as they did last year, but several veteran pieces are about to hit the market. They don't have a ton of cap room to work with, so if they want to make additions before the draft, they need to ensure that new contracts are sensible. 

    Here is a list of every free agent on the Jets roster, including an estimated yearly salary they should expect to get on the open market, regardless of team (and assuming they don't choose to retire).

    Sione Pouha: Update: Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reports that the Jets have agreed to a three-year extension with nose tackle Sione Pouha.

    Jim Leonhard: $3 million (estimated)

    A good, reliable, system player for the Jets, Leonhard would be a lock to return if he didn’t suffer a season-ending injury against the Chiefs last season. He is known for his football smarts, but he is more athletic and instinctive than he is given credit for. 

    He may have to take a little less than what he planned on getting, but I don’t expect him to draw a lot of interest on the open market. I don't see a lot of teams going after a player who may not even be ready for training camp.  

    Aaron Maybin: $1.3 Million

    Maybin put up some numbers and gave the Jets defense a much-needed shot of speed, but he is far too light to be an every-down player. Most of his sacks came from hustle plays and coverage, rather than pure rush ability. The Jets are kidding themselves if they think they can have a dominant defense with Maybin as their only pass rusher. 

    Maybin will reportedly get a first-round tender worth 1.3 million, but his worth is less than that. The tender allows the Jets to lock him up for one more year without committing to him long-term.

    Marquice Cole: $1 million (estimated)

    Marquice is a terrific gunner on special teams and has shown that he can be a capable depth corner in dime packages. Should the Jets catch the injury bug at the cornerback position, he can be a capable player covering the slot. He deserves to get a pay raise and some long-term security.

    Jamaal Westerman: $1 million (estimated)

    Westerman flashed some of the pass rush ability coaches raved about in the preseason, but he was not the kind of player teams had to game plan around. He was also replaced by Garrett McIntyre in the base defense because of his inability to set the edge in the run game. A restricted free agent, I would be surprised if he is his signed to anything much higher than the league minimum.

    Martin Tevaseu: $750K (estimated)

    MTV flipped back and forth between the practice squad and active roster, but when he did play in game situations, he held his own. I was surprised that he was not snagged from the practice squad, but the Jets lucked out. He should get another tryout to make the active roster on a consistent basis. 

    Matthew Mulligan: $800K (estimated)

    Mulligan had a ton of penalties as a blocking tight end, but when he was not drawing yellow flags, he was actually doing a very solid job moving around defensive ends and linebackers.  He was also an important member of the best kick return team in football. He will get another chance to make the team in training camp.

    Robert Turner: $910K (estimated)

    Turner is a versatile backup that has been valuable to the Jets in a variety of roles. When Nick Mangold went down, we saw the lack of depth the Jets had on the offensive line. He will be brought back at the right price. His injury occurred early enough in the season to where it should not be an issue. 

    Nick Folk: $910K (estimated)

    Had a great start to the season, but missed a few kicks down the stretch. He did show some improvement over last season, but he is not among the elite kickers yet. 

    LaDainian Tomlinson: $1.2 million (estimated)

    LT was very effective in his role as a third down back, but judging by his comments in the media, retirement is a more likely scenario than another tour with the Jets. Plus, bringing back a running back with the kind of mileage that LT has is not exactly a good way to go about getting more explosive on offense. If he does land with another team, it will be for somewhere close to the minimum salary.

    Kevin O'Connell: $650K (estimated)

    O’Connell spent the year on IR, working almost as a second quarterbacks coach. The Jets have kept him in the building for a while, but they are going to overhaul the quarterback position as a whole. With a new offensive system now in place, his value to the team has only diminished. I would be surprised if he returns. 

    Mark Brunell: $910K (estimated)

    It is no secret that the Jets want a component backup to compete with Sanchez. The experiment of having a veteran mentor behind Sanchez appeared to work in 2010, but Brunell was unable to halt any regression in Sanchez's game during his 2011 struggles. Brunell is all but gone.

    Plaxico Burress: $1.75 million (estimated)

    Did some nice things in the red zone, but had a hard time separating between the 20s. I still think he may undergo a Michael Vick-esque resurgence and would be a steal for any other team he goes to. Based on his comments and attitude in public, he will probably elect to avoid the Jets drama and go elsewhere

    Bryan Thomas: $1.5 million (estimated)

    Thomas suffered and ACL tear early in the season. Has always been a solid but unspectacular linebacker, and the Jets will want to get younger and more explosive at the position.

    Even if he was healthy and under contact, the Jets would be looking for his replacement. It would be an upset if he returned. 

    Brodney Pool: $1.2 million (estimated)

    Pool, for an unknown reason, took a lesser salary to stay in New York last season. His performance went down a peg in 2011, and so will his pay grade. The Jets should offer Pool a contract as a last resort, because they need to upgrade at free safety in the worst way. 


    Donald Strickland: $900K (estimated)

    A physical slot corner that can play almost anywhere in the secondary, Strickland just had a hard time staying healthy. You could do a lot worse at the fourth corner spot, and he could be added back for depth. Whether he stays or not depends largely on how they feel about the development of Kyle Wilson. 

Projecting Which Free Agents the Jets Will Re-Sign, Which Will Walk

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    The Jets may not have much cap room, but the good news is that they don't have to keep a lot of big-money free agents like they did last year. Outside of a few players, most of these re-signings are low-end contracts that are for depth players. 

    I think the Jets will be saying goodbye to a lot of older and slower players in an effort to get more athletic and faster, particularly at the skill positions and in the back seven of the defense. 

    Sione Pouha: Update: Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reports that the Jets have agreed to a three-year extension with nose tackle Sione Pouha.

    Jim Leonhard: 3 Years, $9 million

    Leonhard will be a tough call for the Jets. He is a favorite of Rex's and is vital to calling the back end of the defense. As consistent as Jimmy is, based on talent alone, he is not going to get top-end safety money. Compounded with his injury history, he is going to have a tough time getting a deal that reflects his true value. 

    Aaron Maybin: 1 Year, $1.3 Million

    The Jets will reportedly give Maybin, who is a RFA, an original round tender. Maybin was a first round pick, so he will get a first round tender with a contract worth $1.3 million. The number may be a bit high for a situational player, but this does not put the Jets on the hook long-term if Maybin proves to be a one-year wonder. 

    Marquice Cole: 4 Years, $5.5 million

    Marquice has been a good find for the Jets, filling in several important roles on special teams and in specific defensive packages. A restricted free agent, the Jets can get away with offering Cole long-term security as opposed to giving him more money, thus saving valuable cap room. 

    Jamaal Westerman: 2 Years, $1.6 million

    Westerman has not quite developed into the stud pass rusher they hoped he would, but he did flash enough potential to keep around a little while longer. Still, the Jets have gotten their money's worth from the undrafted free agent, and Westerman have a few more years to prove that he can be a valuable asset to the defense.  

    Martin Tevaseu: 1 Year, $750K

    MTV will be brought back at the league minimum. He if wind up not making the team, it will be strictly beacuse of numbers, not because his can't play. If he does not make the 52-mam roster, It would not shock me at all if another team came in a swooped him from the Jets practice squad.

    Matthew Mulligan: 1 Year, $800K

    A lot of fans do not like Mulligan because of his frustrating, untimely penalties, but the kid has some potential as a blocking tight end and as a special teams player. He will get another opportunity to make the team.

    Robert Turner: $910K

    The Jets were desperate for offensive line depth last year; so desperate, that they traded away Dwight Lowery away for Caleb Schlauderaff, a guard prospect who was barely active all season. The Jets, with their new-found appreciation for backup offensive lineman after the Baltimore game, will bring him back. 

    Nick Folk: $910K

    Folk started off the year perfectly, then missed a few kicks toward the end of the year to hurt his value a bit. He is the favorite to be the kicker in 2012, but camp competition will be brought in. 

    LaDainian Tomlinson: Released

    After his comments regarding the relationship between Holmes and Sanchez in the media, Tomlinson is speaking like an ex-Jet. I get the feeling that he is leaning towards retirement, but latching onto a contending team in a complimentary role is certainly possible for LT. The Jets need to get more explosive at the position, not older.  

    Kevin O'Connell: Released

    Tannanbaum has stated that he wants to make wholesale changes to the quarterback position as a whole, which would lead to thinking that O'Connell is on his way out. He has had a ton of time to develop, but if he is not going to be anything more than #3 material, what is the point in keeping him? I don't see the Jets carrying more than three quarterbacks, and with Sanchez and McElroy on the roster, there is just not room for O'Connell. 

    Mark Brunell: Released

    The Brunell experiment did not prove to work in 2011, as he was unable to help Sanchez from falling into regression. I don't think anyone in th ebuilding has confidence in him to actually win football games, and the Jets will bring in real competition for Sanchez. Happy retirement. 

    Plaxico Burress: Released

    Plaxico's skill set may be more valuable to another team, but the Jets need to get younger and faster at the position. He was a huge part in their league-leading red zone efficiency, but they were not able to get into the red zone often enough, which is in large part a result of Plaxico not being able to separate consistently. 

    Bryan Thomas: Released

    Bryan is a solid player, but the Jets need to get more explosive at the position, especially in terms of pass rush. A season-ending leg injury all but sealed his fate as an ex-Jet. 

    Brodney Pool: Released

    Pool was a bit disappointing when he was given an opportunity to start. The Jets are going to want to bring in new bodies at the free safety position. Pool will only be a Jet if they need to add depth after the draft and he is willing to play for a figure near the league minimum.

    Donald Strickland: Released

    Strickland is a good player and can still help the Jets, but I am not sure they want to pay a depth corner at any price above the league minimum. He is also a bit too short to cover tight ends, which haunted the Jets all season. He has a chance to be back, but only if the Jets do not add any new corners between now and the draft.


Available Cap Space After Re-Signings

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    Before any re-signings, the Jets have $7,716,834 in cap space. Adding up the re-signings from the previous slide (assuming the contracts are paid evenly each year) brings a total of $14.18 million which is about double the amount of cap space available. 

    Tannenbaum is going to have to work some serious magic here, but he is not without options. He can use the same technique he used when he restructured D'Brickashaw Ferguson's contract to buy himself $7 million of cap room on another player. 

    Tannenbaum can also back-load more contracts, but that practice can be somewhat dangerous because it takes away cap room in the future. He should also look into cutting down the contracts of players like Mark Sanchez and Bart Scott. 

    Either way, with a class of draft picks to sign and holes to fill in free agency, Tannenbaum has his work cut out for him.

Jets Needs After Re-Signings

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    Even after the Jets are able to resign all of the players listed on the earlier slide, there are still a ton of needs on this team that must be filled if they want to make a playoff run. 

    Outside of a few players, most of the resigning were for depth or situational players; Sione Pouha is the most valuable free agent and the only player who would leave a huge hole is he was to leave. 

    Offense

    Right Tackle

    The more I look at the Jets cap situation and compare it with the kind of money it would take to sign a quality free agent tackle, the more discouraged I get that the Jets can fill this need outside of the draft. If the Jets cannot find another body to compete with Wayne Hunter, they will have to reach for a player in the draft, which is a recipe for disaster. This is the number one issue on the Jets roster as far as I am concerned. 

    Quarterback

    With O'Connell and Brunell out the door, the spot for a number two quarterback is wide open. Perhaps Tannenbaum will bring in a Chad Henne or Jason Campbell to be a viable backup to Sanchez. Drafting a guy in the middle to late rounds is also an option. 

    Of course, never rule out the possibility of bringing in a certain Hall of Fame quarterback to get the Jets over the hump. It doesn't appear likely, but Mr. T has done it before. 

    Running Back

    With LT gone, the Jets need to decide if they think Joe McKnight is ready to get significant snaps at running back. If he is, adding a camp body will suffice. If they choose to keep him in his role on special teams, I would not be surprised to see the Jets spend a high draft pick on a runner. The free agency class is either far too expensive or does not provide good enough value. 

    Wide Receiver

    Now that Plaxico is out of New York, the Jets will need to add another player to divert attention opposite Santonio Holmes. Adding a player with speed and separation ability is a must, as Sanchez clearly struggled throwing to a slow and covered Plaxico Burress between the 20s. 

    This upcoming draft has a ton of value in the middle rounds at the receiver position, and I expect the Jets to take advantage. 

    Defense

    Outside Linebacker

    Bryan Thomas tenure as a Jet is now over, leaving a starting job at the outside linebacker spot up for grabs. Unless Jamal Westerman emerges into the stud the coaching staff thought he would be (while adding enough weight to allow him to play the run and stay on the field for all three downs), the Jets need to make filling this need a top priority this offseason. 

    Safety

    If the Jets are ever going to usurp the Patriots and take hold of the division, they need to find someone who can cover Gronkowski and Hernandez. The Jets were torched by tight ends all season, which is a reflecition of the lack of speed and cover ability they have at the safety and linebacker positions. Even if Jim Leonhard returns, finding a free safety than can cover would make this secondary the best in football. 

    To me, the Jets have to solve either one of these two needs on defense. Adding a pass rusher can make up for the lack of a safety, and vice versa. But ignoring both issues is just asking for further regression of an aging defense. 

    Inside Linebacker

    The Jets have reportedly given Bart Scott permission to seek a trade; this may never happen beacuse of the amount of guaranteed money owed to Scott, but it is clear that the Jets want out of Scott's contract. Either way, the Jets need to add some new blood to pair up with David Harris. Josh Mauga did a decent job on passing downs, but he is not overly physcial and can be pushed around in the run game. 

    However, much like the safety position, the Jets need to add a player with speed who can cover in space to deal with tight ends. 

Identifying Potential Free Agents the Jets Could Sign

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    Frankly, the Jets don't have a lot of of money to send in free agency, so expectations for drastic overhauls to need areas must be tempered. Still, there are quality players than can be had for decent prices that could fill holes without breaking the bank. 

    Sorry, but getting a big-time player like Mario Williams is out of the question. 

    Of course, knowing how Mr. T works, the cap number could look dramatically different just a few hours after this publishing. Here are some realistic option for the Jets at need areas:

    Offense

    Right Tackle

    The tackle market is a bit thin, but there are some options. Jeff Backus, who has been a mediocre tackle for the Lions, could move to the right side and would be an instant upgrade over Wayne Hunter. He would be a one-year fix, but at the right price, his experience would be more than welcome. 

    Former Jet Kareem McKenzie is also set to hit the market. He had a lousy season, but the Jets can bring him on board and see how he looks in camp. 

    Wide Receiver

    I think a player like Mario Manningham would be a great fit opposite Santonio Holmes; he has deep speed and can get open, and the value would be decent. Problem is, the Jets can't afford him either way. 

    It is unlikely, but don't completely rule out a return of Jerricho Cotchery. He made just a million bucks playing for the Steelers, and perhaps enticing him with a starting spot would lure him back to New York. 

    Running Back

    The Jets are probably looking for a complimentary back to play on third downs to replace Tomlinson, which would make a player like Jason Snelling a logical fit. 

    Realistically speaking, I would be shocked if the Jets spend valuable cap space on a veteran runner. If they are going to add a back, it will be through the draft.

    Quarterback

    There is an array of options for the Jets when looking for a backup quarterback who is capable of filling in for Sanchez. Names like Chad Henne and Jason Campbell have been floated around, and both could easily wind up a Jet. There are a ton of other options as well, such as Kyle Orton, David Garrard, and Vince Young. 

    One of these competent players will end up behind Sanchez on the depth chart. Whether or not Sanchez can maintain his position on the depth chart remains to be seen. 

    Defense

    Outside Linebacker

    There are not a lot of affordable options at outside linebacker, but one name that jumps out to me is Jarrett Johnson of the Baltimore Ravens. Johnson was a Rex Ryan favorite during his time in Baltimore. He is a tough player who is great against the run, and his pass rushing ability is a bit underrated. 

    Johnson is not a world-beater as a pass rusher, but he would be an instant upgrade over anything else the Jets have at the position. 

    Safety

    There are a handful of quality safties to hit the market, and they all should be asking for similiar contracts. Michael Griffin has been in a bit of a decline, but he is a talented player that would be a good system fit. LaRon Landry made be had at a discount rate because of his injury concerns. 

    Dashon Goldson would be an ideal fit, but after his stellar season with the 49ers, he is going to be quite expensive and will probably get the Franchise Tag from the 49ers, preventing him form hitting the market. 

Projecting Contract Values for Jets' Free-Agent Targets

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    As I previously stated, it is going to be very difficult to make much of a splash in free agency. Depending on how much more cap space Tannenbaum can open up, here are some realistic contracts for potential Jets:

    Chad Henne: 2 Years, $3 million

    Of all of the backup-quality free agent quarterbacks out there, Chad Henne makes the most sense. He has show that he can win games and has a lot of upside. There is also the obvious connection between him and Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. 

    Henne will pick up the system quickly, and he has enough NFL experience to win games should something happen to Sanchez. 

    Jarrett Johnson: 4 Years, $17 million

    With Bryan Thomas out of the picture, adding a veteran player who knows Rex and his system would be an instant upgrade over anything else the Jets have at the position. He is not the best pass rusher, but if he can hold his won against the run, it will allow Aaron Maybin to come in in passing situations and take over the pass rushing responsibilities.

    Kareem McKenzie: 1 Year, $1.3 million 

    McKenzie is going to have a tough time getting a contract after his 2011 season, but the Jets are so desperate for a right tackle that they will at least bring him in to see if he has anything left. If he does, then they have a one-year fix at tackle; if not, Jet fans may have to watch another season of Wayne Hunter at the helm. 

    Michael Griffin: 3 Years, $8.4 million

    Griffin's play has been hardly consistent enough to warrant a big-time contract. If Griffin demands a top-level contract, the Jets should stay away. If he will accept a contract with is worthy of his on-field play, the Jets should make a move. Their need at safety is too desperate to ignore once again. 

Analyzing Jets' Draft Strategy, Positions of Need

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    All things considered, this draft plays into the Jets' hands as far as matching this draft's strengths with team needs. They will have plenty of offensive linemen to pick from, and one of the top pass rushers has a decent chance of falling to where the Jets pick at 16. 

    Assuming the Jets don't trade up, they have to be looking at one of the top pass rushers as their first choice. Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram could both play in Rex's system, and with so many 4-3 teams picking before them, one of those guys (probably Upshaw) has a good chance of slipping to 16. 

    There is also the possibility of picking an offensive lineman at that spot. There is a chance that someone like Jonathan Martin could slide, and Cordy Glenn should be available at that spot. 

    I have seen a lot of mock drafts pointing to the Jets selecting Mark Barron with the 16th pick. To me, that does not make a whole lot of sense for the Jets, as they need a safety with exceptional cover skills; Barron is more of a hammer who will blow up run plays. I don't think he has the natural cover skills to be worth of the 16th overall pick.

    In the later rounds, look for the Jets to attack their need at the receiver position. There are a ton of quality prospects that will be available in the middle rounds.

    Expect them to draft a running back somewhere along the line as well; where they draft one will depend on the value they would get in the draft. For example, if Trent Richardson is available in the first, they may go that route. If David Wilson is somehow on the board in the second, he will be in heavy consideration. If the board doesn't play out, the Jets could just wait until the 6th or 7th round to get a depth player. 

    The Jets have not had a ton of success in recent drafts, so getting a few studs this year will go a long way in making up for their recent misses.

Draft Names to Keep an Eye on

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    Outside Linebacker

    As I discussed in the previous slide, one of the top defensive end/linebacker prospects is likely to fall to the Jets at 16: Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram, or Quinton Coples. Coples is a workout warrior who had a miserable senior season, and the Jets know the price of picking worout warriors (cough Vernon Gholston cough). 

    Upshaw is more of a "classic" 3-4 outside linebacker, who is good in space and can get after the passer. Ingram is a bit better as a pass rusher, but he lacks experience as a linebacker. He is also a bit heavier than ideal, at about 270 lbs. 

    Offensive Tackle

    There are a lot of good offensive tackles in this draft. Stanford's Jonathan Martin and Georgia's Cordy Glenn both could be available when the Jets pick at 16. Glenn, however, may be better suited as a guard. 

    If Iowa's Riley Rieff somehow slips, the Jets should seriously consider moving up and taking him. I think he has the ability to become one of the best tackles in football, and can instantly be produce on the right side. 

    Wide Receiver

    The Jets will likely wait until the middle rounds to pick a receiver. Brian Quick, Nick Toon, Tommy Streeter, and Marvin Jones are all likely to be available in the middle rounds. 

    To me, Quick is the most interesting of the group. He is a big target who actually reminds me a lot of Plaxico Burress, but he is a little faster because of his age. Adding a young Plaxico that has a bit more explosion off the line sounds like a good idea to me. 

    Running Back

    The Jets could go in a lot of directions in terms of adding a new runner. David Wilson and Lamar Miller should both be available with the 16th pick. Perhaps Trent Richardson, with his sports hernia, will fall to 16. Tannanbaum could also wait to see if Wilson, Miller or even Boise State's Doug fall to the second round. 

    Wilson and Miller are faster and more physically impressive, but Doug Martin is the more complete player in terms of vision and blocking. 

    The Jets are not too desperate for a back, so they can play the board and take whoever provides the best value. 

    Safety

    This is a pretty weak safety class, but Mark Barron might be the only player worth a first round pick. He is a fantastic player against the run that knows how to lay the wood. He lines up in all kinds of positions and can cover a lot of ground in a hurry. 

    The issue with Barron is that he is not very fluid in his hips, and may struggle covering tight ends at the next level. 

    If the Jets think they can coach that up, Barron may be worth the 16th pick. But the Jets need guy who can cover, and taking a strong safety with problems in man coverage is not how you go about solving your problem covering tight ends.