8 Big Moves New York Jets Could Make in 2013 NFL Free Agency

Philip SchawillieContributor IIIJanuary 16, 2013

8 Big Moves New York Jets Could Make in 2013 NFL Free Agency

0 of 8

    When it comes to signing free agents in 2013, the Jets' new GM had better be a superb bargain hunter.

    In case you haven't heard, as of January 12 the Jets' projected 2013 cap hit is over $147 million. That's roughly $26 million above the NFL's projected 2013 cap limit.

    Factor in a $4 million rollover from 2012, and the Jets need to trim $22 million to achieve compliance.

    Rich Cimini of ESPNnewyork.com believes that the Jets will trim $30.7 million by cutting the following players at the start of February's waiver period: linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, safety Eric Smith and tackle Jason Smith.

    That would give the Jets roughly $8.7 million with which to accomplish the following goals:

    - Allocate approximately $5 million to a rookie cap
    - Re-sign players from the 2012 roster who are eligible for free agency, such as safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell
    - Pursue free agents

    Cimini concludes, "The problem -- and it's a big problem -- is that they [the Jets] will have only 10 starters under contract and not much cap room." 

    In other words, both quality and quantity are significant factors as the Jets plan their 2013 player acquisition strategy.

    This has the following implications for free agent signings:

    - Expect more efforts to save cap room. Releasing Sione Pouha and Tim Tebow would save over $5 million more. Alternatively, the Jets could restructure contracts with large base salaries, like those of Pouha, Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis to allocate more money over multiple years.
    - Don't expect big-name acquisitions. Quarterback Joe Flacco will not wear a Jets' uniform next year. The "big names" you might see are former stars trying to make a comeback at a bargain basement price.
    - Expect players whose value has declined because of injury or a subpar season. I'd count Michael Vick in this category, but he probably wouldn't come here if Mark Sanchez remains. I expect cap considerations to force Sanchez's retention. 
    - Expect "projects," players who must return to top form or achieve unfulfilled potential to contribute. Aaron Maybin is an example. If only he had maintained his 6-sack, 4-forced fumble performance of 2011 in 2012.
    - Expect short-term contracts for the minimum base salary or close to it. The NFL's rigid salary cap may force the Jets to avoid large, long-term contracts until their cap structure is sound.

    To succeed in 2013, the Jets will need to become a team whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. They do not have available funds to pursue blue-chip talent, so their GM will have to scour the bargain basements of the football world for overlooked gems.

     Maybe they'll consider the recommendations on the following slides.

Re-Sign Starting Safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell

1 of 8

    The secondary was the New York Jets' crown jewel in 2012. Free agency could decimate the unit if the Jets don't act.

    Despite losing Darrelle Revis, perhaps the Jets' best player, to a season-ending injury in Week 3, the Jets' pass defense ranked second in the NFL. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safety LaRon Landry earned Pro Bowl invitations.

    Landry and his fellow starter Yeremiah Bell will be free agents in March if the Jets don't re-sign them.

    Cost is the obstacle. The pair's combined 2012 cap hit was just over $4 million. Of that, $2.625 million was Landry's. To complicate things, Landry wants more.

    If the Jets don't give themselves more cap room than $8.7 million, Landry may well be headed elsewhere. Remember, they'll probably use over half of that to sign draft picks.

    Let's hope the Jets' new GM is resourceful enough to keep this pair while addressing other needs as well.

Keep Braylon Edwards

2 of 8

    Why hunt for wide receivers when there's one at your doorstep?

    When the Jets claimed Braylon Edwards after Seattle released him on waivers, the consensus reaction was, "What took you so long?"

    Edwards, despite a reputation for bad hands, had been one of Mark Sanchez's favorite targets, especially in 2010 when he caught 53 passes for 904 yards and seven touchdowns. Edwards averaged 17.1 yards per catch that year, a career high.

    In 2012, Edwards started the Jets' last three games, catching 10 balls for 125 yards.

    Equally significant, Edwards' base salary was $825,000, an eight-year veteran's minimum wage.

    Imagine Edwards and Santonio Holmes as starting wide receivers for the Jets, with Stephen Hill as backup. A position that was weak in 2012 would strengthen.

    According to rotoworld.com, "Re-upping cheaply with the Jets would be Edwards' best bet if he has designs on being a starting wide receiver next season." Hopefully both the Jets and Edwards are listening.

Spare the Franchise Tag

3 of 8

    The NFL's franchise tag is supposed to let teams retain players who might otherwise be lost to free agency. In return for remaining with his team for another year, The player receives either a 20% raise or the average of his position's top five salaries, whichever is greater.

    Using this tag is optional. It's likely the Jets will not apply a franchise tag this year for the following reasons:

    1. One candidate's contract prohibits it. LaRon Landry would be a great candidate otherwise.
    2. Another candidate doesn't want it. Dustin Keller is on record as preferring to test the free agent market.
    3. The Jets can't afford it. They don't have the cap room for the dramatic salary increase the franchise tag provides.

    For example, if Landry's contract allowed the Jets to tag him, his compensation would more than double.

    - If the Jets used the less restrictive "transition tag," Landry would earn roughly $5.9 million in 2013.
    - The "franchise tag" rate for a safety: $6.8 million.
    - The same pay would go to Yeremiah Bell were he so designated, an even bigger pay raise for him.

    In other words, don't expect the Jets to use this tool to keep any of their free agents.

Wait for Discards

4 of 8

    The best free agent options for the Jets may not be available yet. These are the players other teams waive in February because of salary cap or personnel considerations.

    Quarterback names such as Philadelphia's Michael Vick, San Francisco's Alex Smith and Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick are the most intriguing.

    Vick and Smith are frequently mentioned as alternatives to Mark Sanchez. However, Vick wants to be guaranteed the starting job and Smith is probably unaffordable.

    It will be interesting to see who else becomes available when waiver announcements are made.

    They could be the offseason's biggest bargains.

Keep Those Draft Picks: Avoid Restricted Free Agents

5 of 8

    The NFL's newest Collective Bargaining Agreement made signing draft picks more affordable.

    The victims are restricted free agents-players eligible for free agency with less than four years of service.

    Teams that would once willingly part with draft picks to sign a restricted free agent like the Giants'  Victor Cruz are hesitant to part with potential bargains.

    The Jets' salary cap crisis makes finding bargains essential. Giving up draft picks is not the way.

    If anything, the Jets should attempt to stockpile draft picks as they trim their cap burden.

    However, don't count on it.

    Teams know the Jets' plight.

    They won't part with draft picks for someone going on waivers, unless they value that player too highly to risk other teams claiming him first.

    However, that's secondary to emphasizing that the Jets shouldn't give up the picks they have.

    They need all the low-priced bodies they can get.

Matt Moore Illustrates Jets' Fiscal Dilemma

6 of 8

    Quarterback Matt Moore Illustrates the fiscal dilemmas the Jets face as they try to navigate the free agent market. The five-year veteran will never be confused with an elite quarterback. Yet his price tag may still be too high.

    Moore has started 25 NFL games, winning 13. His 13-12 record is misleading, as it includes his 2010 season with the Carolina Panthers in which he was 1-4.

    Moore has compiled quarterback ratings ranging from 55.6 in 2010 to 98.5 in 2009. His career rating of 80.5 surpasses Mark Sanchez's 71.7.

    In 2012, Matt Moore's cap value was $2.5 million compared to Sanchez's $7.85 million.

    Moore sounds affordable. Is he?

    It will be tough, especially if the Jets re-sign safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell.

    Moore would be entitled to a minimum salary of $715,000. If the Jets could entice him to accept that in exchange for a starting position, that would be wonderful. But Moore wants more.

    Suppose he wants $2.75 million a year for three years. That's $8.25 million.

    The Jets would counter with less, in the form of a low base salary and large signing bonus. For example, the base salary might be the minimum $715,000 and the bonus could be $4.8 million. Total: $6.945 million.

    That would be a cap hit of $2.315 million each year.

    Moore gets a smaller amount than he wanted, but he gets the $4.8 million signing bonus up front.

    In short, the Jets get Moore at a lower cap value than 2012. Is it enough of a discount?

    Probably not.

    $4.8 million would pay for five veterans with 10 or more years' experience at their minimum rate of $940,000. Actually, that would cost $4.7 million, leaving a $100,000 surplus.

    That's closer to the approach I think the Jets will take. Expect them to look at recently waived quarterbacks like Brady Quinn, Donovan McNabb and Vince Young.

    They'll probably do the same with other positions. Maybe they'll consider the familiar faces on the next two slides.

Bring Home Some Giants I: RB Brandon Jacobs

7 of 8

    The San Francisco 49ers suspended Brandon Jacobs three weeks before the 2012 season's end, then gave him his outright release on New Year's Eve.

    On December 10, 2012, USA Today reported that Jacobs wanted to return to New York–to play for the Giants.

    Could the Jets persuade Jacobs to don green and white instead?

    It would be risky. The 49ers used Jacobs sparingly in 2012. He rushed for seven yards on five carries.

    That's a far cry from the Jacobs of 2007 who gained 1,009 yards on 202 carries or the Jacobs of 2008 who gained 1,089 yards on 219 carries. His per-carry-average both years was 5.0 yards.

    The Jets would even be happy with the Jacobs of 2010. He gained 823 yards on 147 carries that year for an average of 5.6 yards per carry.

    Jacobs is 30-years-old. The problem is that his yardage was hard-earned. The wear and tear on his body would be less were he more of a breakaway back. However, a Jacobs run typically had him dragging defenders with him as he fought for additional yardage. He may be an "old 30," with his best years behind him.

    It still wouldn't hurt to invite him to training camp for a look.

Bring Home Some Giants II: TE Jeremy Shockey

8 of 8

    Did a divorce end Jeremy Shockey's football career?

    Shockey recently filed for divorce from his bride of eight months. With teams looking to sign free agents in March, he doesn't have much time to resolve his personal matters before turning to football.

    Shockey missed the 2012 season after the Carolina Panthers released him and the Philadelphia Eagles did little beyond talk.

    Granted, Shockey can be outspoken. However, his statistics indicate he can also perform. In 2011, he caught 37 passes for 455 yards. His 12.3 yards per catch was  the second highest of his career.

    He only surpassed that figure once, in 2005. a Pro Bowl year, Shockey caught 65 passes for 891 yards. That's 13.7 yards per catch.

    In other words, Shockey averaged more yards per catch in 2011 than in three of his four Pro Bowl seasons.

    Rex Ryan has never shied away from strong personalities. If Shockey demonstrates that he can be an asset on the field and in the locker room, he would be a welcome addition.