New York Jets: 7 Free Agents Team Should Still Be Pursuing for 2012 Season
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The Jets did not select an offensive tackle, leaving incumbent Wayne Hunter at the top of the depth chart for now.
Hunter, along with Eric Smith at safety, were the two glaring weaknesses in the Jets starting lineup a season ago. New York was able to pick up a pair of safeties in the draft and also signed free agent LaRon Landry.
So as we go through the top remaining free agents the Jets should target this offseason, you may not see the sexiest of names, but players that could fill important roles in 2012.
Find out where Benson lands on this list of top free agents the New York Jets should still be pursuing:
**Note: After the Jets selected receiver Stephen Hill in the draft, former Jet Braylon Edwards is no longer on this list.
7. Stacy Andrews, OT
Free agent lineman Stacy Andrews engages with Patriots defender last season.
Let me preface this by saying that each of the offensive lineman on this list would be an upgrade from Wayne Hunter at tackle (Jets, I'm begging you here).
Andrews is not a long-term solution, but he's a big body with more athleticism than Hunter. The Giants liked him last season as an extra blocker that provided depth before he was moved to the IR with a blood-clot scare.
His brother, Shawn, recently tweeted that Stacy has recovered and is healthy. Andrews, 30, goes about 6'6'', 320 pounds and would at least challenge for Hunter's starting spot.
6. Pat McQuistan, OT
Free agent lineman Pat McQuistan blocking for the Cowboys.
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As per Andrews, I'd take McQuistan over Hunter any day of the week. McQuistan had played in all 16 games in three of the four seasons before signing with the Saints last year. In New Orleans, he played in just 10.
Another 6'6'', 320-pounder, McQuistan is relatively young at 29 and would also provide depth while pushing Hunter.
5. Tommie Harris, DL
Free agent defensive lineman Tommie Harris during game with San Diego last season.
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Whatever happened to poor Tommie Harris?
The former Pro-Bowler and Oklahoma standout is washed up in the eyes of many, and it's not difficult to see why. Harris played in 13 games for the Chargers last season and recorded only 13 tackles and three sacks.
But the former Bear is still 29 years young, and with oversized defensive ends Mo Wilkerson and Quinton Coples flanking him, Harris wouldn't have to be the dominating presence in the middle that he once was.
He could provide more veteran leadership for a young defensive line and would certainly provide depth in that front. Harris should be relatively cheap and would be a low-risk signing. Maybe his career is revived playing for Rex.
4. Max Starks, OT
Free agent lineman Max Starks about to embrace Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last season.
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Starks, when healthy, has been a consistent offensive tackle for the Steelers dating back to 2005. He's had some injuries, including an ACL tear during the playoffs last year, from which he's still recovering.
Starks has said that he's ahead of schedule and should be ready by mid-July. He could still re-sign with Pittsburgh, as his number has yet to be given away.
The 30-year-old says he would like to continue to play with the Steelers* but if not, he could be a huge upgrade from Wayne Hunter in New York. Still, he'd be another one of those players that a previous team gave up on, due to serious injury like in that playoff loss against Denver.
3. Kareem McKenzie, OT
Free agent lineman Kareem McKenzie holding his block against Green Bay's Clay Matthews last season.
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McKenzie was drafted by the Jets in 2001 and played a big part in Curtis Martin's NFL rushing title in 2004 before signing with the Giants as a free agent the very next season.
He started all 16 games last year for the world champion Giants and is expected to move on in free agency. It seems like it would be a good fit for him to return to the team that drafted him without having to relocate.
I remember how disappointed I was when McKenzie departed from the Jets, and getting him back would immediately bolster the offensive line. For how long, however, is the million-dollar question. He will be 33 on May 24.
2. Cedric Benson, RB
Free agent running back Cedric Benson runs from Jets defender Calvin Pace during 2010 playoff game.
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Benson appears to be the most productive free agent still available and would give the Jets a consistent runner for Ryan's ground-and-pound style.
The former Bears and Bengals running back rushed for 3,429 yards and 19 touchdowns over the past three seasons.
The problem with Benson, 29, is the off-the-field baggage that accompanies him, as well as his desire for a significant contract as he nears the latter stage of his career.
Given the state of the Jets locker room a season ago, and the money required to sign him, Benson would be a risky addition but one that could make New York's offense a force to be reckoned with.
1. Marcus McNeill, OT
Free-agent tackle Marcus McNeill preparing for a game with the Chargers last season.
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McNeill is a former second-round draft pick by the Chargers and a two-time Pro-Bowler. He has struggled with injuries and was put on the injury reserve last December due to a neck injury.
San Diego released him in March after he failed to pass a team physical. The 28-year-old stands at 6'7'', 336 pounds and has the talent to be a pillar of any offensive line.
However, his medical issues should bring down his next contract number for the team willing to gamble on a towering tackle. But again, if he can stand up straight and extend his arms, he's almost certainly an improvement from Hunter.
The Jets may be content with the current roster, but I really believe they need to make a move to improve the offensive line. To have such a liability at a position so vital in protecting Mark Sanchez is unacceptable.
Still, Jets fans should be happy with what the team has done to this point and excited about the potential for next season.