5 Questions the New York Jets Must Answer This Offseason
After a disappointing 6-10 finish this season and a tumultuous couple of weeks with a series of firings, the New York Jets should be one of the most interesting teams to watch this offseason.
Chief among the major areas of concern for the team are the the starting quarterback spot, the continued presence of Tim Tebow and the status of some of the team's unrestricted free agents.
It wouldn't be the New York Jets without media frenzy and constant speculation, even in the offseason.
How Much Longer Will We Have to Hear About Tim Tebow?
The extent to which the Tim Tebow experiment failed in New York has been discussed ad nauseam by everyone and their mother.
Rex Ryan passing over Tebow in the depth chart in favor of Greg McElroy, then re-knighting Mark Sanchez the starter after McElroy's injury cemented Tebow's status as a player that will never start in New York, and signaled the end of his time as a Jet was rapidly approaching.
Now in the Jets general manager search, Woody Johnson reportedly told candidates that he was not responsible for the Tebow trade, and that the deal was "forced" on him.
As time wears on, this controversy will dissipate and another page six story will emerge concerning the Jets front office, Tebow, Ryan or some combination of the three.
It's clear at this point that the Jets have no on-field use for Tebow, and that Tebow himself doesn't want to stick around to play second-fiddle to a mediocre quarterback. The question becomes: How quickly can the Jets find a suitor for him and end the media frenzy?
Who Is the Starting Quarterback Entering the Preseason?
Assuming Tebow exits at some point during the offseason, the Jets will have Sanchez, McElroy and either a rookie they presumably took in the third round or later, or a cheap veteran free-agent acquisition filling out the depth chart at quarterback.
Sanchez is owed $8.25 million next season. Comparatively, the Jets will pay McElroy $555,000 in 2013.
On contract obligations alone, Sanchez may earn the starting spot. The Jets front office may simply be unwilling to allow an $8.25 million player to sit on the bench, especially as all of his 2013 contract is guaranteed.
With just under $9 million already committed to the quarterback position, it's hard to imagine the team will be capable of bringing in someone that will have a legitimate shot at earning a starting spot. Unless the Jets find a Russell Wilson-type talent in this year's draft, Sanchez and McElroy will be the only contenders for the starting job.
Will the Jets start the season with the $8 million dollar man on the bench?
Will This Be the End for Several Fan Favorites?
In this article, fellow Jets Featured Columnist Aidan Mackie details some cost cutting measures the Jets can pursue this offseason.
Primary among them is purging their books of the non-guaranteed contracts of some of the team's elder statesmen. These include Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Eric Smith, among others.
The three have been staples of the Jets defense for the past several seasons, and fan favorites of Gang Green Nation.
The unfortunate fact is that the offseason is dominated by business, not emotional decision making, and while all of these players have been big contributors, it would be surprising to see any of them in a Jet uniform come next season.
Bart Scott acknowledged the likelihood of this earlier in the season when speaking to the New York Times, saying:
"I understand they can’t pay me $7 million next year. I understand that. I accept that. My numbers and age don’t warrant that kind of money. If I was hoping to get that, I’d have to make an argument for it, and I don’t have the numbers, the game-changing plays, to do that."
Will Rex Ryan and the Front Office Clash?
With the team's current contract obligations and limited cap space, it may not be until next offseason that the Jets are able to begin making the franchise-altering moves that current conditions seem to necessitate.
By then, the Jets will have a more flexible salary cap position and Mark Sanchez's contract will be more manageable if the team is looking to get rid of him.
Rex Ryan is in a contract year, and his future with the franchise likely hinges to some extent on his ability to get results in 2013.
Given the head coaching uncertainty for the future, will there be a clash in the offseason between a front office looking to re-balance the books and a coach in desperate need of a winning season?
Which Free Agents Can the Team Afford to Keep?
The list of Jets that become free agents come season's end include:
Offense: RB Shonn Greene, TE Dustin Keller, WR Braylon Edwards, WR Chaz Schilens, G Brandon Moore, G Matt Slauson.
Defense: LB Bryan Thomas, S Yeremiah Bell, S LaRon Landry, DE Mike DeVito.
These lists comprise long tenured Jets, and several key contributors.
On the offensive side of the ball, Keller and Edwards are two of Sanchez's favorite weapons. Greene hasn't quite lived up to expectations following his rookie year, but he has eclipsed 1,000 yards both of the past two seasons. If Moore and Slauson both walk, the Jets will have serious offensive line issues to address in free agency and the draft.
Defensively, Thomas is expendable, but Bell, Landry and DeVito are all players fans want to see in Jet uniforms next season.
With cap constraints, the team won't be able to keep everyone they'd like to, which begs the question: Which of the aforementioned players will we see in green and white next season?