The Best Free Agent Fit at Every Position for the New York Jets
The New York Jets are a train wreck.
Rex Ryan is permanently inked to Mark Sanchez (literally), the general manager position is vacant and incredibly unappealing to top-notch candidates, and the team has nothing but question marks at quarterback.
To add to the team's hardships, they are currently about $10 million over the salary cap.
However, the team seems to be moving towards cap stability, as reported by Rich Cimini of ESPN New York:
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.
Even if New York gets comfortably under the set salary cap, they will have plenty of work to do when free agency hits.
The team has plenty of need areas but not the financial flexibility to make a play for elite free agents. Therefore, the team will be forced to target a handful of lower-tier free agents who can immediately take hold of the starting reigns.
With that said, here is the best free-agent fit at every position, considering the team's financial situation and how the player(s) fit into the Jets' offensive and defensive systems.
*Center, Defensive End, Inside Linebacker, Cornerback and Punter are not on the list, as the Jets possess stability at each of those positions and will likely not look to upgrade those areas in free agency
Quarterback: Matt Moore
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The Jets cannot afford to release Mark Sanchez, as it will cost them a quite deal of salary cap room.
They also cannot afford to start Mark Sanchez, as that will result in a lot of mindless turnovers and mind-boggling losses.
The Jets may choose to go after a quarterback in the draft, but as luck would have it, this is one of the weakest quarterback classes in recent memory.
Even if they do select a signal-caller early in the draft, it would be wise for them to sit him for a season or two and learn from a veteran quarterback, a.k.a. the Aaron Rodgers treatment.
Matt Moore would be the perfect quarterback under whom to groom a young talent.
Moore, 28, lacks the skill set to be a franchise quarterback. However, he would be a terrific stopgap option for New York next season.
The current Dolphin has overcome his lack of top-notch talent to emerge as a solid NFL quarterback. He holds a 13-12 career record as a starter, and his 33 touchdowns to 26 interceptions and 59.1 completion percentage are much better than Sanchez' marks.
Moore is one of the finest backups in the league today, and he wouldn't demand top-notch money in free agency this offseason, especially if the Jets offer him the chance to start.
Running Back: Chris Ivory
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Shonn Greene will be a free agent this offseason, and despite consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, he lacks the vision and explosiveness to be a starter. The team should move on from him.
Chris Ivory would be a terrific replacement for Greene.
Ivory will a restricted free agent this offseason, and with the Saints already boasting Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles in the backfield, he's unlikely to be back in the Big Easy.
Ivory is a violent runner who can break tackles with ease and be a load to handle in short-yardage situations. He is also only 24 years old, so he will not begin to wear down anytime soon.
The Tiffin University product has averaged an outstanding 5.1 yards per carry over his career, and he would form a superb trio with Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight in the New York backfield.
Wide Receiver: Braylon Edwards
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There's something about Braylon Edwards in a Jets uniform that just looks right.
Even after being brought back to New York in Week 15 and barely knowing the playbook, Edwards led the team in receiving over the team's final three games.
Edwards has had some of his most successful years in Gotham, and he was a integral part of New York's back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances in 2009 and 2010.
The former first-round pick will be extremely cheap in free agency this offseason, so the Jets will definitely get their money's worth by re-signing Edwards.
Tight End: Ed Dickson
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Dustin Keller is due to hit the open market this offseason, and after years of consistent production in a subpar offense, his price tag is likely too high for the Jets.
The loss of Keller will be a big one, but the emergence of Jeff Cumberland, coupled with the signing of Ed Dickson will significantly lessen the sting of Keller's departure.
Dickson was in the shadow of Dennis Pitta all season in Baltimore, but he is still a solid tight end capable of doing great things.
Dickson possesses a solid combination of size and speed, and he is a capable red-zone target.
The 25-year-old would form a formidable tight end duo with Jeff Cumberland in New York's offense.
Offensive Tackle: Austin Howard
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Austin Howard had his ups and downs this season, but all in all, his first year as a starter was a successful one.
Howard developed nicely as a pass-protector and run-blocker, and at just 25, he still has plenty of time left to grow.
The Jets need to re-sign the Northern Iowa product, both to continue his development into a franchise right tackle and to help stabilize the entire offensive line.
Offensive Guard: Brandon Moore
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Brandon Moore will be 33 at the start of next season and he will be costly, but New York can not let him walk.
Moore is the heart and soul of the offensive line, as he has been with the team since 2002.
The 2011 Pro Bowler has been one of the most underrated guards in football for years. The loss of Moore would be devastating for New York's offense.
Re-signing Moore has to be at the top of New York's offseason priorities.
Defensive Tackle: Mike DeVito
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Like Brandon Moore, Mike DeVito is a veteran leader whom the Jets cannot let walk.
DeVito has been a Jet his entire career, and his presence is key both on and off the field.
The 28-year-old is a natural born leader, as well as a cog in New York's usually stout run defense.
DeVito is one of the nicest guys in the league, as well as one of the most underrated. It is crucial that New York's front office realizes DeVito's significance and brings the big man back to Gang Green.
Outside Linebacker: Connor Barwin
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With Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace almost assuredly on their way out, the Jets have to revamp their outside linebacker position this offseason.
Signing Connor Barwin certainly would do that.
Barwin, 26, may be coming off a down year, but he is still an incredibly talented player, capable of double-digit sacks if things break his way for an entire season.
The Cincinnati product will be an affordable option for New York, and he would immediately upgrade a pass rush that recorded just 30 sacks last season, good for just 25th in the NFL.
Outside Linebacker: Manny Lawson
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Manny Lawson may never reach his true potential, but he is still a capable NFL starter.
Lawson possesses amazing speed for a linebacker, as well as good size. He is a sound tackler, who can occasionally rush the passer or drop back into coverage.
While signing the 28-year-old won't draw a lot of media attention, it will be provide New York's defense with a solid middle-of-the-road starter, which is certainly an upgrade over either Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas or Bart Scott.
Safety: Yeremiah Bell
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LaRon Landry's spectacular Pro Bowl season drew all of the media attention and overshadowed Yeremiah Bell's solid performance this past year.
Yet it is Bell, not Landry, who will likely to be back in the Big Apple next season.
Landry is almost certainly too costly for the Jets to re-sign. However, Bell is a terrific consolation prize.
Bell will be 35 entering next season, but he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down thus far.
The former Miami Dolphin recorded a phenomenal 89 tackles, a sack and three fumble recoveries in 2012, and he was a key piece in a New York secondary that ranked second in the league in pass defense.
Bell is an affordable option for the Jets, and he will be a solid starter next season if given the opportunity.
Kicker: Nick Folk
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Nick Folk may not have the leg of Blair Walsh or Sebastian Janikowski, but he has emerged as one of the most consistent kickers in the league over the last few seasons.
Folk has made at least 76 percent of his field goal attempts in each of the last three years, and he has never missed an extra point in his six-year career.
The former sixth-round pick always seems to come through in the clutch, and there is no reason why he shouldn't be back in New York next season.