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Free Agents New York Jets Should Avoid at All Costs

Philip SchawillieContributor IIIJanuary 29, 2013

Free Agents New York Jets Should Avoid at All Costs

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    When the New York Jets go free-agent shopping this offseason, new GM John Idzik will operate with a limited budget. He must avoid mistakes. He can’t afford them.

    If the Jets cut Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, Eric Smith and Jason Smith as projected, he’ll have $10 million to allocate between free-agent signings and the draft. Cutting Sione Pouha and Tim Tebow gives him $5 million more.

    To make more cap room, Idzik will have to restructure or extend the contracts of veterans like Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis.

    A limited budget means that the actions Idzik avoids are as significant as the actions he takes.

    • Idzik must avoid free agents seeking expensive long-term contracts.
    • Idzik must avoid free agents who can’t adapt to Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense.
    • Idzik must avoid free agents with a history of injuries.
    • Idzik must avoid free agents who might stir up the locker room.
    • Idzik must avoid free agents who play positions in which the Jets are strong. That includes cornerback, defensive end and center.

    It's going to be a challenge to find talented free agents who fit the Jets' budget. However, the projected franchise and transition tag numbers reveal that there is hope. Idzik might be able to find free agents in three areas of need without breaking the bank:

    • A feature running back to replace Shonn Greene
    • A safety to replace LaRon Landry
    • A tight end to replace Dustin Keller

    Other than kicker, these positions have the lowest franchise and transition tag values. These values are based on an average of a position's top five or 10 salaries. It's not unreasonable to assume that running back, tight end and safety have among the lowest wage scales in the NFL.

    Good luck to Idzik finding players who will make the Jets younger, faster and capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Following are some players to avoid.

    NOTE: The source for player statistics not otherwise attributed is pro-football-reference.com Base salary and salary cap information come from Ask the Commish.com and nyjetscap.com.

RB Rashard Mendenhall, 2012 Base Salary: $1.8 Million

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    Over the last two years, Rashard Mendenhall’s rushing output has been roughly half of Shonn Greene’s. Yet last year, Mendenhall’s base salary was almost $1.2 million more.

    In 2011 and 2012, Greene gained 2,117 yards to Mendenhall’s 1,110 yards. Greene played in all 32 regular-season games. Mendenhall played in 21.

    Mendenhall’s peak year was 2010, where he rushed for 1,273 yards on 324 carries, an average of 3.9 yards per carry. The low yards per carry indicates a lack of breakaway speed.

    WalterFootball.com agrees, calling Mendenhall "an injury-prone Big Ten plodder with some talent, but not enough to make him very appealing."

    In short, he is not an upgrade to Greene and not worth the upgraded price.

WR Mike Wallace, 2012 Base Salary: $2.742 Million

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    The Jets would welcome a legitimate deep threat at wide receiver. This threat would combine speed, the ability to break open-field tackles and a great pair of hands.

    Mike Wallace’s 2012 numbers suggest that he is not that threat.

    In his article "2013 NFL Free Agents: Stars That Should Be Avoided This Offseason," Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Rob Goldberg reports that Wallace held out during the offseason then “did not do much to warrant a better contract.”

    Goldberg continues:

    The receiver had eight fewer catches than last year, but his receiving yards dropped from 1,193 in 2011 to only 836 this season. More importantly, he was unable to utilize his biggest skill as a deep threat throughout the year. His 13.1 yards per catch is the lowest of his career, and he had only had nine receptions of over 20 yards, which ranked fourth on his team.

    WalterFootball.com concurs:

    Mike Wallace is overrated. He has blazing speed, but he's a horribly inefficient receiver. He dropped tons of passes and ranked near the bottom of the NFL in terms of catch percentage among starting wideouts.

    The Jets don’t need another wide receiver who drops passes. They already have Stephen Hill.

    Plus, when it comes to contract headaches, the Jets already have Darrelle Revis. At least Revis is the elite performer at his position. Wallace is not.

    The Jets should avoid this combination of declining performance and administrative headaches.

OT Jermon Bushrod, 2012 Base Salary: $3.25 Million

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    The Jets may need help at offensive tackle if they lose restricted free agent Austin Howard. Despite impressive credentials, Jermon Bushrod is not the answer.

    In his article "2013 NFL Free Agents: Stars Teams Must Avoid in Offseason," Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Will Osgood writes that Bushrod "allowed 4.5 sacks” and “was also guilty of six penalties….Five of those…were false starts."

    Osgood concludes, "That…shows Bushrod struggles with concentration and discipline."

    Furthermore, says Osgood, "…as a pass protector, he is easily beaten by both power rushers and speed rushers alike."

    WalterFootball.com concurs, saying that Bushrod,

    …can’t pass protect at all. He surrendered four sacks in 2012, but that number would've been much higher if Drew Brees didn't release the ball so quickly.

    That does not bode well for an offense that will be pass-intensive next year. Despite his Pro Bowl credentials, the Jets must steer clear of Bushrod.

RB Reggie Bush, 2012 Base Salary: $4.5 Million

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    With the West Coast offense, the Jets need a feature running back that is both a rushing and receiving threat. They need someone who annually generates 2,000 yards of total offense.

    Reggie Bush wants to be a feature back. However, most of his work has been in the role of change-of-pace back or special teams threat.

    Bush has rushed for over 1,000 yards once in seven NFL seasons. In contrast, Shonn Greene has reached that mark in two seasons out of four.

    In his article, "2013 NFL Free Agents: Stars That Should Be Avoided This Offseason," Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Rob Goldberg agrees that Reggie Bush has yet to prove he is feature back material.

    Says Goldberg,

    After a big season in 2011, the former Heisman winner regressed back to his inconsistent ways in 2012….In 16 games, Bush only had over 20 carries on two occasions. In fact, he only has seven such games in his seven-year career. He also loses value at the goal line, where he only totaled six of Miami's 15 rushing touchdowns this season.

    In 2011, Bush played and started in 15 games. He carried the ball 216 times for 1,086 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. Bush added 296 yards on 43 receptions, averaging 6.9 yards per catch. His total offensive production was 1,382 yards.

    While Bush played one more game in 2012, his production dropped. He carried the ball 11 more times but gained only 986 yards, an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Receiving statistics were mixed. Bush averaged 8.3 yards per catch. However he only caught 35 passes for 292 yards.

    In other words, Bush’s total output declined to 1,278 yards. He gained 104 yards less from scrimmage despite playing one more game.

    WalterFootball.com disagrees with Goldberg, arguing that the Dolphins underutilized Bush. The site writes that Bush gained “100-plus yards from scrimmage in three of his final four games.”

    However, the Jets can’t assume Bush can maintain that form all season. He's too expensive.

    Someone else will have to give Reggie Bush another chance.

ILB Brian Urlacher, 2012 Base Salary: $7.5 Million

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    If Bart Scott leaves to free salary cap space, the Jets will probably take a look at inside linebackers. However, Brian Urlacher’s price tag is too high.

    Plus, Urlacher plays middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense. The Jets use a 3-4. However, that's only one reason the Jets should pass.

    In his prime, Brian Urlacher continued the great tradition of Bears’ linebackers like Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary. However, age and injuries may mean that his prime is over.

    After missing only seven games in his first nine seasons, Urlacher missed 19 games over his last four. He played one game in 2009 and 12 games in 2012.

    In 2010 and 2011, Urlacher played full seasons and made the Pro Bowl.

    According to WalterFootball.com,

    Based on the way he played last year, Brian Urlacher probably deserves 1.5 [of a possible five] stars. He was terrible. However, he was hurt throughout, so maybe he can recover and be at least an OK starter again.

    In other words, whoever signs Urlacher will pay a lot of money in hopes that he regains his Pro Bowl form.

    The Jets cannot afford to be that team.

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