New York Jets Free Agency Tracker: Updated Signings, Rumors, Storylines

Rocco Constantino@@br_jets_reportContributor IMarch 12, 2012

New York Jets Free Agency Tracker: Updated Signings, Rumors, Storylines

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    The pivotal offseason for Mike Tannenbaum and the New York Jets is about to get started.

    Tuesday marks the start of NFL free agency and with some newly-cleared cap space and a number of holes to fill, expect Tannenbaum to be active right away.

    With questions at every position except cornerback and center, any number of things can happen during this period.

    The Jets currently stand $14.4 million under the salary cap and if Tannenbaum can get creative with some contracts, there are plenty of available players on the open market.

    UPDATE (3/12): The NFL has penalized the Redskins and Cowboys for salary cap violations.  As a result, the Jets will have an additional $1.6 million in cap space bringing their estimate before the Pouha signing to $16 million.

    It will be interesting to see the route the team takes moving forward.

    They recently committed to Mark Sanchez long-term and with the expected exit of LaDainian Tomlinson and Plaxico Burress along with questions about Bryan Thomas and Jim Leonhard, the Jets could have a very different look sooner rather than later.

    After a season that ended in utter disaster, there are a ton of questions surrounding the Jets this offseason.

    One question has already been answered: Peyton Manning isn't coming and Sanchez is the quarterback of the future.

    But as the Jets head into free agency, the following questions remain.

Report: Jets Trade 4th Round Pick to Broncos for QB Tim Tebow

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    UPDATE 3/21: Jason La Canfora of is reporting that the Jets have traded their 4th and 6th round draft picks to the Broncos for Tim Tebow and their 7th round draft pick.

    I guess full on Timsanity will hit New York this fall. Tebow to the Jets will be one of the most interesting storylines of the 2012 NFL season. 

    Will he put pressure on Mark Sanchez for the starting QB job? How will he and Rex Ryan get along?

Will Brandon Jacobs Make Up with Rex, Sign with the Jets?

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    Whether Jets fans like it or not, Brandon Jacobs to the Jets is a real possibility.

    Jacobs has been openly campaigning about joining the Jets next year and Gang Green is certainly in the market for a power running back.

    While Jacobs will turn 30 this July, he has showed no signs of slowing down and still is a force to deal with when he is motivated.

    If he landed with the Jets, he sure would be motivated.

    Jacobs averaged just 3.8 yards per carry in the regular season in 2011, but that number jumped to 4.4 yards in the playoffs.  

    He dominated the Atlanta Falcons on the ground to the tune of 92 yards on 14 carries in the first round of the playoffs and was effective throughout the Giants Super Bowl run.

    Before being released, Jacobs showed how much he wanted to stay by almost working out a minimal deal with the Giants, but they just couldn't get it done.  

    If staying put in his North Jersey home is most important to Jacobs, he should be able to work a deal with the Jets.

    While Jets fans most recent memory of Jacobs is his diatribe against Rex Ryan when he said, “Rex Ryan is a disrespectful bastard. The Jets have a big mouth, big belly coach that talks too much” among other things, the truth of the matter is that Jacobs is a great team presence.

    After the Giants cut him loose, Tom Coughlin released the following statement about Jacobs:

    "No matter what you asked him to do, he performed and played in whatever role we asked him to perform. He really was a team player. I have always felt like Brandon could be counted on. He’s a guy that is very, very good in meetings for me. He pays attention. He picks up on the message. He loves the excitement of the game."

    The two-time Super Bowl champ sounds like the behind-the-scenes leader on offense the Jets truly need.

Will the Jets Address OLB in Free Agency or Wait for the Draft?

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    The Jets have a number of holes to fill across the roster, but none might be more glaring than outside linebacker.  

    If the Jets want to return to being an elite defensive unit, they need to do much better than Calvin Pace, Aaron Maybin, Josh Mauga and Jamaal Westerman at outside linebacker. With Bryan Thomas coming off an injury as an unrestricted free agent, chances are he will not be back either.

    UPDATE (3/13): James Walker of ESPN is reporting the Jets signed LB Bryan Thomas.

    Mauga has shown some promise and Maybin will likely be back. But besides that, nobody could blame the Jets if they clean house here.

    Chances are that they will address this problem through both free agency and through the draft.

    Mel Kiper's latest mock draft has the Jets selecting Courtney Upshaw and that would be a good place to start.

    If the Jets chose to make an impact free-agent signing at the position, they could make a run at Jarret Johnson, who played under Rex Ryan and has already been linked to the Jets.

    If Johnson's price tag is too high, there are a number of young free-agent linebackers who could be primed for breakout performances if given the opportunity.

    Some names to keep an eye on here would be Minnesota's Erin Henderson, Baltimore's Jameel McClain, former first-round pick Manny Lawson of Cincinnati and Tampa Bay's Geno Hayes

    Whatever happens, expect the Jets linebacking corps to look significantly different in 2012.

Is Chad Henne the Top Choice as Backup QB?

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    3/23: ProFootballTalk is reporting that the Colts have traded with the Jets for QB Drew Stanton.

    UPDATE 3/21: Jason La Canfora of is reporting that the Jets have traded their 4th and 6th round draft picks to the Broncos for Tim Tebow and their 7th round draft pick.

    Update: Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports the Jets have agreed to terms on a one-year $1.25 million deal with former Detroit Lions backup QB Drew Stanton.

    Whether or not Peyton Manning ends up in Miami, Chad Henne's days with the Dolphins appear to be over.

    Omar Kelly of the Miami Sun Sentinel reports that the Dolphins will not be making a contract offer to their former second-round pick.  

    With Henne's former coach Tony Sparano now the Jets offensive coordinator and the Jets in need of a quarterback who could push Mark Sanchez, it seems like Henne would be a perfect fit for the Jets.

    Numerous reports have already linked Henne to the Jets and it makes perfect sense to everybody.

    With the possible exception of Chad Henne.

    The one snag in bringing Henne to the Jets would be if he had the opportunity to at least compete for a starting job somewhere.  

    There aren't many teams that would be willing to turn the reigns over to Henne directly. But Henne would have a better chance seeing the field if he landed on the roster of the Jaguars, Browns, Seahawks or whatever team misses out on Matt Flynn, rather than the Jets.

    In all likelihood, Flynn, Jason Campbell and Kyle Orton will be the primary targets for teams looking for a true quarterback competition.  

    Henne is the top choice for the Jets as their backup quarterback. But if an opportunity for Henne to compete for a starting job comes up, the Jets better have a Plan B not named Mark Brunell.

    UPDATE (3/13): According to Manish Mehta, his sources have told him the Jets have reached out to Chad Henne and Drew Stanton on the first day of free agency.

    UPDATE (3/14): Chad Henne signed a two-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    UPDATE (3/16): Manish Mehta reports that the Jets have signed Drew Stanton to a one-year deal to become the team's backup quarterback.

What Safeties Could the Jets Target in Free Agency?

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    3/19: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the Jets have signed S LaRon Landry to a 1 year, 4 million dollar contract.


    After Tyvon Branch, Michael Griffin and Dashon Goldson were franchised by the Raiders, Titans and 49ers respectively, the free agent safety class got extremely thin.  

    LaRon Landry is the top name on the board, but he has played just 17 games over the past two years. He is still recovering from an Achilles injury that he opted not to have surgery on, against team wishes.

    Despite the injury,'s Rich Cimini expects the Jets to be players for Landry once free agency starts.

    Aside from Landry, the top name to keep an eye on in free agency is Browns safety Mike Adams.

    He isn't a Pro Bowl player by any means, but he is a solid veteran who could thrive in Rex Ryan's system.

    In 2011, Adams started all 16 games and played well for Cleveland. He forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, had three interceptions and provided support against the run.

    Adams will be 31 on opening day and with the Browns in full rebuilding mode (once again), they are better off finding out what younger players can do at the position.

    Veteran Deon Grant presents an intriguing option in addition to Adams. He is 33 years old, but is coming off a strong season for the Super Bowl champs and was one of their leaders in the Super Bowl champions locker room.

    Old friends James Ihedigbo, Dwight Lowery and Abram Elam are on the market as well.

    Alabama safety Mark Barron was a possibility in the draft, but an injury has left his draft slot in question.

    Barron's double hernia surgery will also keep him out of Alabama's pro day this week.

    Whether the Jets sign a safety, re-sign Jim Leonhard or try to solve their problems through the draft, it's looking like the Jets will be going into 2012 with questions at the position. 

    UPDATE (3/15): Former Patriots and Bears safety Brandon Merriweather is expected to visit the Jets today.  The Jets currently have just two safeties on the roster -- Eric Smith and Tracy Wilson.

    UPDATE (3/18): Bengals re-sign safety Reggie Nelson.  Jets still have interest in Oshiomogho Atogwe, LaRon Landry and Jarrett Bush.

Will the Jets Sign a Punter of Kicker That Fans Can Trust?

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    Since the forgettable Chuck Ramsey was let go by the Jets after averaging 39 yards a punt in 1984, the Jets have had just one punter last at least four full seasons with the team: Brian Hansen.

    The team has had the same revolving-door policy with their kicking department as the shelf life of every Jets kicker since Pat Leahy has been three to four years.

    This question is relevant this year because Nick Folk is a free agent and because there has to be someone on this planet better than T.J. Conley.

    Unfortunately for Jets fans, chances are that both Folk and Conley will be back or they will be replaced by kickers who are equally likely to cause Jets fans chest pains.

    There are some free agents in the kicking game available, most notably Jay Feely and two-time Pro Bowler Mat McBriar from the Cowboys. But there are more pressing needs on the Jets than the kicking game.

    With their current cap situation, the Jets will take their kicking game in one of two directions. They will either retain Conley and re-sign Folk at close to his 2011 salary or they will take on journeymen kickers until their financial situation is more stable.  

    They have gotten good success from Steve Weatherford and Feely using this method during recent seasons, so all hope is not lost. 

    Fans should be prepared for uncertainty in the kicking and punting game for the foreseeable future.

    UPDATE (3/14): Jets re-sign Nick Folk.  Terms of deal not available.

What Jets Unrestricted Free Agents Will Return in 2012?

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    Sione Pouha, the team's only major free agent, should be a lock to resign with the Jets.

    The Jets took a chance on him as a 26-year old rookie in 2005 and he has developed into one of the best run-stopping defensive tackles in the league.'s Richi Cimini reported that the Jets have accelerated talks with Pouha in hopes of coming to an agreement by early this week.

    UPDATE (3/12): Jets re-sign Sione Pouha to a three-year contract.

    As for the Jets other free agents, basically anything can happen.

    Jim Leonhard and Bryan Thomas are coming off major injuries, so it is unlikely the Jets will bring both back. Rex Ryan might want to keep one of them around as they are both have a strong locker room presence, but it would have to come at a cheap price.  

    Chances are though that both will be gone.

    Aside from Pouha, the free agents most likely to return are Brodney Pool and Donald Strickland. Neither will command a high salary elsewhere and both have been adequate members of the secondary.

    The ship has already sailed on LaDainian Tomlinson, Plaxico Burress and Mark Brunell, so there is no need to consider them.

    When all is said and done, Pouha will be back, Pool and/or Strickland will return, Thomas or Leonard will be back and anyone's guess is as good as mine when it comes to Folk and Robert Turner.

    UPDATE (3/13): Jets re-sign Bryan Thomas.

    UPDATE (3/15): Brodney Pool signs with the Dallas Cowboys.

    UPDATE (3/15): Jamaal Westerman has signed a deal with the Miami Dolphins.

What Big Names Will the Jets Pursue?

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    The Jets may have missed out on the biggest name in free agency, but there are plenty of stars out there besides Peyton Manning.

    Mike Tannenbaum has done a good job in creating some cap space to work with by reworking D'Brickashaw Ferguson's contract and giving Mark Sanchez an extension. As free agency starts, the Jets are an estimated $14.4 million under the cap.

    The Jets have numerous holes to fill, but they do have money to spend if they choose to bring in a big name free agent.  

    The biggest name currently available is Mario Williams and he'd solve all the pass rushing problems the Jets have immediately. There were early reports that the Jets wouldn't pursue Williams at all, but that was before the cap space was cleared.

    It would be hard for the Jets to just totally discount Williams, but they will be on the fringes of the chase for Williams at best.

    March 16. 2012 Update: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports the Jets have agreed to principle with WR Chaz Schilens.

    March 15, 2012 Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports via his Twitter that Mario Williams will be given a six-year deal from the Bills. He reports that the contract is worth up to $100 million dollars with $50 million guaranteed.

    Most of the other big name players reside on offense and some provide nice options for the Jets.

    The team should be in the market for a wide receiver and the top players available are Vincent Jackson, Mike Wallace and Marques Colston.

    UPDATE (3/13): Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the Buccaneers have signed Vincent Jackson to a 5 year, $55.55 million dollar contract with $26 million dollars guaranteed.

    Colston has re-signed with the Saints.

    Wallace is a restricted free agent and would cost the Jets a first-round draft pick and a lot of money if he is signed, so he is out of the question. Jackson's price tag will likely be too high, but Colston could be a fit for the Jets.

    At running back, Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis have already been discussed in the media for the Jets as they look to find a compliment to Shonn Greene.

    UPDATE (3/14): Peyton Hillis signs a one-year, $3 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Other top running backs like Michael Bush and BenJarvus Green-Ellis have not been linked to the Jets in any way, but either of them would boost the Jets ground game tremendously.

    UPDATE (3/20): Jets showing interest in BenJarvus Green-Ellis according to the New York Post.

    If the Jets had to spend their money on one big name free agent though, they would be best served going after the Saints' Carl Nicks.  

    The problem with Nicks is that any team in the NFL would love to have the 26-year-old dominant guard. So if a likely bidding war ensues, the Jets would be unable to keep up financially. 

    Even with the extra cap space, the chances the Jets pursue a big name free agent are less than 50 percent.  With too many holes to fill across the roster, the Jets can't afford to allocate a high percentage of their $14.4 million to one player.

    The only way that will change is if a situation happens similar to last year when Nnamdi Asomugha became available. When word spread that the Jets were contenders for Asomugha, players lined up to renegotiate their contracts to create space for him.

    However, aside from Manning or possibly Williams, there aren't any free agents that will cause the kind of stir Asomugha did last year.

Who Should the Jets Avoid at All Costs?

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    With just $14.4 million in cap space and a plethora of needs to be filled, Mike Tannenbaum better make the right decisions in free agency.

    Tannenbaum is in a tough spot because the Jets aren't looking for complimentary players this offseason. They are looking for difference-making starters.

    One thing is certain—the Jets can't afford for one of their free agents to be a bust (health-wise or performance) in 2012.

    Before getting into the players the Jets should avoid at all costs, let's get a few of the "proceed with caution" players out of the way first.

    Peyton Hillis, LaRon Landry, Michael Bush and Braylon Edwards all are injury or performance risks who could be steals in free agency if productive, but would present a huge gamble on the part of Tannenbaum.

    Most people wouldn't blame Tannenbaum if he takes a gamble on one of those players, in fact a lot of fans are hoping he does.  

    However, there are a number of veterans who the Jets should stay away from at all costs.

    It's a foregone conclusion that the Jets need a reliable complimentary running back to Shonn Greene. Joe McKnight is a nice change of pace back, but he isn't the answer. Neither is Bilal Powell.

    If the Jets turn to Ryan Grant or Tim Hightower, chances are at some point during 2012 that they will be back down to Greene, McKnight and Powell as their options due to an injury.

    The Jets are also in need of a wide receiver. Luckily, there is a deep class of free-agent wide receivers to choose from.  

    They have a big selection but need to stay away from Steve Smith (injury), Mario Manningham (a possession receiver at best) and Robert Meachem (numbers are a product of Drew Brees).  

    UPDATE (9/13): Robert Meachem signed a four-year, $25.9 million contract with the Chargers.  Sources say the contract contains $14 million in guarantees. 

    They also should pass on Mike Wallace, as their first-round draft choice is too valuable, and Randy Moss for obvious reasons.

    With a lot of options on the market, a lot of needs on the roster and a little bit of wiggle room under the salary cap, there really aren't any reasons to take chances here.  

    They simply cannot afford to sign free agents only to have them underperform or suffer an injury.  

    If the Jets expect to return to elite status, Mike Tannenbaum needs to hit on his free agent signings and his draft picks this offseason.