The New York Jets Free Agents in 2013 and Their Destinations
Some analysts call it "doom," but new Jets general manager John Idzik does not see it as a problem.
Even though the Jets' salary cap issues, a result of ill-formed long-term deals in free agency, will force Gang Green to say goodbye to many of its starters, Idzik remains optimistic.
Still, this will be a tough year for Idzik. The year after, he will have a boatload of salary cap money to spend. But for now, he must be as frugal as possible.
Unfortunately, many of the team's top players are entering free agency, and the Jets may have to let most of them hit the open market.
Addressing the Salary Cap
- Cut Jason Smith and save $12 million with no cap penalty.
- Cut Bart Scott and save $7.15 million, with a $1.5 million cap penalty.
- Cut Calvin Pace and save $8.56 million, with a $3.01 million penalty.
- Cut Eric Smith and save $3 million, with no cap penalty.
- Trade Tim Tebow and save $2.57 million.
- Trade Sione Po'uha and save $6.17 million.
The Jets seem to be in salary-cap doom, but could create much more cap room if they make cap-saving cuts.
Mike Tannenbaum was brought in to be a capologist. After building a formidable offensive line and defense, Tannenbaum tried to rid the team of salary issues, but it was too late. With Idzik (another capologist) in place as general manager, the team will likely be extremely limited in available salary cap room at first, but should have a lot more free space in the 2014 offseason.
The Jets will need to clear about $19.4 million to be under the limit, which won't be set until early March but is expected to be slightly more than $120 million, according to ESPN. These six moves could quickly rid the Jets of their salary-cap issues.
With all of those transactions, the Jets would have shed $39.45 million and would be $20.05 million under the cap. With the recent NFL rule that all teams need to save cap space for their draft picks, that leaves the Jets with $15.05 million to spend on free agents.
RB Shonn Greene
Shonn Greene is coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. In Greene's case, however, that does not tell the whole story. Greene ran hard, but did not have the speed to break any big runs or strength to truck defenders.
His paltry 3.9 yards per carry reveals his inability to take his game to the next level. Of the top-20 rushers in the NFL, 3.9 yards per carry was the second-worst yards per carry, behind only Trent Richardson's 3.6.
Greene was supposed to be a tough bell-cow back, similar to Alfred Morris. This season, Morris rushed for 1,613 yards. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry, had nine runs of more than 20 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. In comparison, Greene ran for 1.063 yards. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, had two rushes for of more than 20 yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
Morris also ran for 83 first downs, another important statistic for a bell-cow back, while Greene only ran for 52. The Jets need a back who can pick up tough yardage on key downs (think Brandon Jacobs in his prime), as well as a lightning-fast back who has big-play potential (similar to Leon Washington in his prime).
Still, of all the running backs in the free agent market, Greene had the second-most rushing yards this season. He should get a hefty contract and will likely be on his way out of Gotham.
Projected Contract: Four years, $14 million with the Cincinnati Bengals.
FB Lex Hilliard
At first, he seemed to be a worthy replacement of John Conner. As the season wore on, his game became one-dimensional. He constantly dropped passes but blocked well.
With fullback being a somewhat needless position in the West Coast offense, look for the Jets to sign an undrafted free agent at the minimum price.
Projected Contract: None
WR: Braylon Edwards and Chaz Schilens
Braylon Edwards just plays better when he dons green and white. After being waived by Seattle earlier this season, the Jets picked him up and "reaped" the benefits.
While his play was only slightly above average, it was enough to be one of the better receivers on the Jets. They would be foolish to let him leave again when he will likely take the veteran's minimum.
Projected Contract: One year, $800,000 with the New York Jets
I was a major proponent of signing somebody like Chaz Schilens, who has the potential to be a third wide receiver on a run-first team. But after another season and another injury for Schilens, his production was very underwhelming.
Sanjay Lal, a talented receivers coach who helped develop Oakland receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore, was unable to bring out the full potential of Schilens, another ex-Raider.
He will likely be signed at veteran's minimum as a reserve receiver. He would be an interesting candidate to take over as the Jets' fifth receiver, behind Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and Braylon Edwards.
Projected Contract: One year, $800,000 with the Miami Dolphins
TE: Dustin Keller, Jeff Cumberland, Tanner Purdum
The loss of Dustin Keller earlier this season showed the Jets' lack of a true receiving tight end. Jeff Cumberland stepped up, but was a pretty poor replacement. He was a mediocre blocker and his route running was subpar.
Dustin Keller's 815 receiving yards in 2011, his most recent healthy season, is the second-highest total of all tight ends in the free agent market, behind only could-be-retiring Tony Gonzalez. As a result, he could re-sign for $5 or $6 million with a team devoid of playmakers on offense.
With the emergence of athletically gifted tight ends such as Aaron Hernandez, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Vernon Davis, some team will definitely be willing to overpay the former Purdue tight end.
Projected Contract: Four years, $27 million with the New York Giants
Jeff Cumberland is still young and developing. Therefore it would be unfair to place the "useless" label on him. He does, however, still have a lot to prove. He just does not really serve a purpose, unless the team wants to use a set featuring two receiving tight ends.
If he is re-signed, it would likely be after the draft and free agency. According to SBNation, the tender for an undrafted restricted free agent is $1.33 million. That number is far too high for a backup tight end of his caliber.
Projected Contract: Two years, $1.7 million with the New York Jets
Tanner Purdum has been an above-average long snapper Although three field goals and a punt were blocked this season, the fault lies with the interior guards, not Purdum's snaps. Similarly, the Jets have had few impromptu fake punts or kicks because of Purdum.
He should stay, But with a new general manager, anything is possible.
Projected Contract: One year, $750,0000 with the New York Jets
OL: Matt Slauson, Brandon Moore, Austin Howard
The offensive line has been called putrid by many fair-weather (and even some die-hard) fans. In actuality, the Jets' line was ranked the third-best in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Matt Slauson had an above-average season, recovering from arm surgery. He had trouble manning the left guard position, at times losing his job to Vladimir Ducasse. But Ducasse was never able to win the job.
Having played on such a potent line and only 26 years old, Slauson could command big money in free agency.
Being one of the top offensive guards available, Slauson could be making north of $4 million wherever he goes next season.
Projected Contract: Three years, $11 million with the New York Jets
Brandon Moore is one of the few free-agent offensive guards better than Slauson. It would likely take the Jets a lot to re-sign him. He will be 33 by the start of the 2013 season and might be looking for a Super Bowl ring. If so, fans can say goodbye to Moore.
The free agent market will likely treat Moore nicely, since he can be a veteran leader on nearly any offensive line. Look for him to sign with a playoff team in search of guard help.
Projected Contract: Two years, $11 million with the Indianapolis Colts
Austin Howard was the third-best run-blocking right tackle, according to Football Outsiders, but he did allow 13.5 sacks, more than Wayne Hunter allowed in the past two seasons combined. At 25, he still has a lot of time to strengthen as a pass-blocker.
Keeping him in Gotham, where he will be able to learn fro D'Brickashaw Ferguson, will work wonders for his career.
Projected Contract: One year, $1.2 million with the New York Jets
DL Mike DeVito
The Jets had the 29th-ranked run defense in the NFL this year. That must be fixed. Losing the best run defender in Mike DeVito does little to help this unit that has struggled the past two seasons.
He is a phenomenal rotational linemen who performed so well that he is ranked the third-best available interior defensive linemen, according to Pro Football Focus.
Of all the Jets' free agents, DeVito is the most likely to take a hometown discount because he was born in New York, but money does go a long way. He is not quick enough to be a defensive tackle or defensive end in a 4-3, and not big enough to play nose tackle in a 3-4.
It seems as if New England and the New York Jets (two teams who use the hybrid scheme) are his most likely suitors.
Projected Contract: Three years, $8 million with the New England Patriots
LB: Bryan Thomas, Josh Mauga
The linebacking corps, the obvious weak link of the defense, must be revamped. David Harris has lost a step, Bart Scott has lost 10, making it questionable whether any of last year's starting linebackers will return.
Bryan Thomas had an OK career as a Jet. He never was much of a pass-rusher as an outside linebacker, but did have 8.5 sacks in one season at right end. He was re-signed last season, but performed very poorly. His presence on the team is no longer needed.
He will likely not be kept. If he is, it should be for the veteran minimum in a backup role.
Projected Contract: None
Josh Mauga has played pretty convincingly as a reserve. In a perfect world, the Jets would keep him. But a reserve linebacker and special-teamer may not seem integral to the team's success in John Idzik's eyes.
In the 4-3 defense, he could be the strong side linebacker, with Harris moving to the weak side and DeMario Davis playing middle linebacker.
Projected Contract: One year, $750,000 with the New York Jets
DB: LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Isaiah Trufant
- Ed Reed, FS, Ravens, $7.2 million
- Antrel Rolle, SS, Giants, $6.75 million
- Charles Woodson, SS (on a cornerback's contract), Packers, $6.5 million
- Troy Polamalu, SS, Steelers, $6.25 million
- Dashon Goldson, FS, 49ers, $6.21 million
- Antoine Bethea, FS, Colts, $5.025 million
- Eric Weddle, FS, Chargers, $5.00 million
The defensive back corps is one of the best in the NFL. The problem, however, is that three of the four starters may be playing for a different team next season.
LaRon Landry, the Jets' most valuable safety, was finally healthy this season and made it to the Pro Bowl. While this means that a lot of money will likely be thrown his way, his level of play was not very strong.
According to Pro Football Focus, Landry is the 38th-ranked safety hitting free agency.
Maybe his price tag will not be as high as many expect. His play is nowhere near Eric Weddle's, who made $5 million this season and signed a contract making him the highest-paid safety. The only safeties who make more than $5 million a season are:
Goldson's $6.2 million is from being given the francise tag last year, which is the average of the five highest contracts at that position. Landry is not a top-five safety and should make less than $6.21 million a season.
That, of course, is If he is willing to take less than $5 million a season (reasonable, seeing as how this was his first full season since Barack Obama took office).
Projected Contract: Four years, $25 million with the Carolina Panthers
Yeremiah Bell is a completely different situation. He played pretty well this season for what he was asked to do. He was able to help in zone coverage and was pretty good at preventing long runs. His lack of speed hurt him, but he can still offer a lot to any team that signs him.
If the Jets do retain him, it would likely be for less than $2 million per season. Bell, 34, only made $1.8 million this past season.
Projected Contract: One year, $1.6 million with the New York Jets
When most fans hear Isaiah Trufant's name, they immediately say "who?" or they remember him for his blocked punt return for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys two seasons ago. Few actually realize that he was the team's best nickel back this season before he suffered a leg injury that put him on injured reserve.
He should come back next season, especially if Antonio Cromartie or Darrelle Revis is traded away. His presence is invaluable.
Projected Contract: One year, $750,000 with the New York Jets
In sum, the Jets would retain:
- Braylon Edwards, WR
- Jeff Cumberland, TE
- Tanner Purdum, LS
- Matt Slauson, OG
- Austin Howard, OT
- Isaiah Trufant, CB
- Yeremiah Bell, SS
- Tim Tebow, QB, to the Arizona Cardinals
- Shonn Greene, RB, to the Cincinnati Bengals
- Chaz Schilens, WR, to the Miami Dolphins
- Dustin Keller, TE, to the New York Giants
- Brandon Moore, OG, to the Indianapolis Colts
- Mike DeVito, DT/DE, to the New England Patriots
- Bryan Thomas, OLB, to retirement
- LaRon Landry, FS, to the Carolina Panthers
- Jason Smith, OT
- Bart Scott, ILB
- Calvin Pace, OLB
- Eric Smith, SS
and would be left with $11.45 million to spend on free agents. Take away the $5 million for draft picks and the Jets still have about $7 million to lure in free agents and potentially re-sign Revis.
What do you think? Am I making a huge mistake by not re-signing or signing somebody? Leave me your opinion in the form of a comment. Thanks for reading!