There will be sweeping changes in the New York Jets personnel, front office and coaching staff this offseason.
One of those changes will not be at head coach, where Rex Ryan (deservedly) gets one more chance to prove he's the right man for the job.
Rex said he is approaching this year like a "new beginning," but the fact is that the Jets will still have some painful scars from the past on their roster.
How can the Jets approach this offseason? What are some of the biggest concerns?
Here's a complete guide to their needs, pending free agents and salary cap information.
Oh, where to begin.
Well, it's tough to know exactly where to begin because the Jets are going to have a new general manager, and because so many of their players will be free agents (more on that later).
However, based on the performance last year, these are the three biggest needs:
Defensive end/outside linebacker: One of the Jets' biggest needs from last offseason remains one of their biggest for this offseason, as well. The Jets only got nine sacks out of their edge rushers: 3.5 from Garrett McIntyre, three from Calvin Pace, 2.5 from Bryan Thomas. Pace and Thomas are a combined 65 years old. They either need McIntyre to develop into a starter, or to find more talent at the position. Possibly both.
Quarterback: The Jets fell short of expectations in 2012 largely because their quarterback play went off a cliff. It may be hard to fill a need at quarterback with $8.25 million in guaranteed money for Mark Sanchez in 2013, and a $17 million cap hit if he's cut. No matter what, a quarterback is the primary building block for any team to be competitive in today's NFL, and the Jets simply don't have one.
Running back: The Jets averaged just 3.8 YPA rushing (23rd in the NFL) on 494 rush attempts (sixth in the NFL). They had just 44 rushes of 10 yards or more (20th in the NFL) and just five rushes of 20 yards or more (30th in the NFL). New York has a stable of backs in Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell, so it may just come down to using them better, but the Jets need more explosive plays out of the backfield next year regardless.
The Jets have a lot of big decisions to make with their own talent, and not a lot of money to do it (more on that later).
The most notable free agents include safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, defensive end Mike DeVito, wide receiver Braylon Edwards, tight end Dustin Keller, running back Shonn Greene and guard Matt Slauson.
Landry was a surprise in 2012—mainly because he stayed healthy for a full 16 games, but also performed admirably in New York's secondary. He was a (dubious) Pro Bowl selection, so the Jets may have a hard time retaining his services if he thinks he can get more money elsewhere.
DeVito has been the quintessential blue-collar defensive linemen for the Jets. He doesn't do any one thing particularly well, but is versatile and adaptable. The Jets have invested significant resources in their defensive line recently with two first-round picks and a big contract for Sione Pouha; the next general manager may not be too keen on handing DeVito a big contract.
Edwards was brought in as a midseason trade acquisition, and caught 10-of-18 passes thrown in his direction for 125 yards. There weren't many suitors for him on the open market, so he might come on the cheap.
Keller has been a favorite target of Mark Sanchez's in his career. He had a down year in 2012 while battling injuries, but he has caught a team-leading 393 receptions since 2009. That being said, the consensus among Jets fans is that he's too one-dimensional to be brought back at a high price.
@erikfrenz expensive, but overrated b/c of his chemistry with Sanchez. Spend money elsewhere.— Ryan Alfieri (@ryanalf17) January 10, 2013
Decent player but just a soft dude. He can leave RT @erikfrenz What is Jets' fans general consensus on Dustin Keller?— Drew(@DrewfromJersey) January 10, 2013
Greene has rushed for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, but he had to carry it 529 times over the past two years (seventh-most over that span) and averaged just four yards per carry (lowest for any back with over 1,800 rushing yards). He has a role in the NFL, but that role should not be as a lead back. His inability to create explosive runs means he should rarely be seeing the field between the 20's.
It could be difficult for the Jets to retain many of their free agents, simply because of the team's dire salary-cap situation.
Perfect transition to the final segment!
Salary Cap Info
ESPN's John Clayton listed the salary-cap situations for all 32 NFL teams in a recent mailbag, and the Jets are in the league's worst shape for 2013 at $19.4 million over the cap. NYJetsCap.com says the Jets are slated for over $146 million in salaries for 2013, which puts them at roughly $16 million over the cap.
Either way, the Jets are going to have to make more than a few moves to reach any level of stability. There is, however, some hope; Rich Cimini of ESPN New York reported earlier this week on some rumored transactions that could free up some space:
As soon as the waiver period opens in February, the Jets will clear $30.7 million off their salary cap in less time than it takes to hail a cab in New York. They will release LB Calvin Pace ($8.56 million savings), LB Bart Scott ($7.15 million), OT Jason Smith ($12 million) and S Eric Smith ($3 million). Those moves will result in only $4.5 million in dead money. The problem—and it's a big problem—is that they will have only 10 starters under contract and not much cap room.
By the rough figures outlined by Cimini, this would save the Jets $26.21 million off the salary cap for next season, giving them roughly $6.5 million in cap room. With only 10 starters under contract, the Jets could have a hard time getting to true cap stability without making a few more painful moves.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.
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