2012 NFL Free Agents: Why the New York Jets Are Winning Free Agency

Miguel Ramirez Jr.@@_ChaseTheFutureContributor IIMarch 17, 2012

Reggie Nelson, Free Safety / Potential Free Agent Signing
Reggie Nelson, Free Safety / Potential Free Agent Signing

As the rest of the nation is caught up in the melodrama that surrounds Peyton Manning and debating over the extravagant signings of the league's coveted "premier" players, the Jets on the other hand are making ripples, not splashes in free agency. They could not have picked a better strategy.

For as much criticism as Mike Tannenbaum deserves for giving guaranteed money to a consensus backup tackle in Wayne Hunter, for restructuring Mark Sanchez's contract despite his subpar regular season and for retaining Santonio Holmes even though he quit on his team at the end of the season, Tannenbaum has positioned the franchise to have one of the best offseason periods in the illustrious history of the organization.

Ted Thompson, Jerry Reese, Ozzie Newsome and Kevin Colbert are all names that are synonymous with building great franchises through strong draft processes, player development, being fiscally conservative and coveting a player's character above their talent. They are widely respected and considered the best general managers in the Super Bowl Era.

Mike Tannenbaum is beginning to show a similar mindset in his approach this offseason and here is why:


1. The Jets pride themselves on having a league-leading defense; in a 3-4 defense, having a great nose tackle is not an option, it's a requirement. Sione Pouha being re-signed for three years at $15 million with $9.5 million guaranteed was an excellent move.

In a market that is light on defensive talent, and a draft that has arguably only two true nose tackle prospects in Dontari Poe and Alameda Ta'amu, the Jets needed to guarantee having a dominant centerpiece to anchor their line.

Sione Pouha
Sione Pouha

It also shows that the Jets are trending towards rewarding their players for their performance and their overall value to the team.


2. It can be argued that the Jets could have done better in getting competition for Mark Sanchez than Drew Stanton, who signed a one-year contract for $1.25 million, but the best backup option was Jason Campbell, who signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears at $3.5 million.

The Jets needed a viable backup, not a starting quarterback, and in doing so maintained a large amount of cap space for other potential free-agent acquisitions (i.e. safety, outside linebacker) and the forthcoming contracts for their draft selections.


3. The contracts for wide receivers Patrick Turner (one year, $875,000) and Chaz Schilens (one year, $765,000) not only provide size at the wide receiver position, but are the epitome of low-risk, high-reward investments.

Patrick Turner, 6'5" and 220 pounds, is a possession receiver with good hands. Turner lacks the speed to be a deep threat, but he is fluid in his route running, serving as a dependable red-zone option.

Chaz Schilens, who stands at 6'4" and 225 pounds, is projected to be the perfect complement to Turner in terms of his elite speed and being a deep play threat. He also has the size to outmatch opposing defensive backs.

The only concern regarding Schilens is his durability and health; however, if healthy, the Jets will have talent to add to their receiving corps. With the signings of Patrick Turner and Chaz Schilens, in addition to having Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley, the Jets are no longer projected to take a wide receiver in the first round.

Note: In a draft class that is deep in wide receiver talent, the Jets can opt to select a wideout in the later rounds without the risk of investing too much money and being able to reserve their early round selections on other position needs not addressed via free agency. 

4. It is a known fact that the Jets need to get younger, faster...and the list of adjectives goes on forever. However, what all the critics fail to credit the Jets for is the reality that they are addressing their shortcomings with the 2012 offseason. They simply do not have the depth to afford to cut veterans and replace them with young talent.

The Jets do not need to rebuild like Indianapolis; they simply need to bolster their roster.

Therefore, the signing of Bryan Thomas (one year, $990,000) creates depth at the outside linebacker position and provides veteran leadership and insurance for younger players. Plus the Jets do not invest much for a quality player that is strong against the run and a technician in the open field.


5. Lastly, the restructuring of D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Mark Sanchez's contracts and the decision to not release Santonio Holmes were calculated front office tactics that opened millions of dollars in cap space so that the Jets could sign free-agent talent, which as of recently is assumed to be Reggie Nelson, Jameel McClain and/or LaRon Landry.

Critics may say what they want of Mike Tannenbaum's missteps, but he has proven why is regarded as one of the best cap specialists in the league.

The Jets began the offseason less than $517,000 under the maximum cap space but are now sitting comfortably with roughly $13 million.

The Jets are quietly approaching the draft with their needs slowly being filled through free agency in order to focus on the areas of the team that need a resurgence of youth, talent and depth.

With the recent contract extensions and potential signings of free agents on the horizon, the Jets can shift their priorities to the first day of the NFL Draft, where all signs are pointing to the Jets acquiring a legitimate pass-rusher, which they have not had since trading John Abraham to the Atlanta Falcons in 2006.

That trade in 2006 is regarded by most Jets fans as Mike Tannenbaum's greatest mistake, but the 29th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft resulted in the Jets acquiring one of the best offensive linemen in the National Football League in Nick Mangold. 

The current lack of depth and the needs on the Jets roster further reinforces the claim that great franchises are built through the draft; however, the New York Jets have brilliantly positioned themselves to capitalize on the 2012 NFL Draft come April.

This offseason will be, by far, the most important offseason in Jets history.