There isn't much the New York Jets can buy this offseason. They're buried in the worst salary-cap situation of any team in the NFL and face gaping issues at multiple key positions on offense and defense.
The 2013 salary cap limit stands at $121.1 million, which is approximately $26.5 million under the Jets' current estimated total, according to NYJetsCap.com. That number is barring significant player contract restructuring and inevitable roster cuts, though.
The Jets are expected to outright release several former key contributors this offseason, like linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, out of necessity to clear enough cap space simply to fill the 53-man roster.
New general manager John Idzik needs to showcase his supposed player contract-negotiating abilities immediately and restructure certain devastating contracts currently crippling the Jets. Inside linebacker David Harris is a prime example. He's due $10.9 million in base salary for next season and might lose his starting spot to sophomore DeMario Davis in training camp.
Big decisions are about to slam the Jets' brain trust, dictating their immediate future.
The following details five free agent-eligible players that have been linked to the Jets through unsubstantiated rumors, and determines the legitimacy of whether or not each player is a realistic fit for the 2013 season.
Hard-hitting free safety LaRon Landry would supposedly welcome a return to the Jets in 2013, but it's not expected for the stud defensive back to take a hometown discount.
The Jets can't afford to re-sign their core safety.
His demonstration of athleticism and coverage ability was crucial to the Jets' pass coverage success last season.
He was chalked up as a question mark before the 2012 season because of an ACL injury that cast serious doubt over his future. He hadn't played a full season since he started all 16 games in 2008 with the Redskins.
Now, he's a perennial force in the secondary.
2012 was the first season Landry had been at full strength in two full seasons. He proved doubters wrong as a member of the Jets, thriving in Ryan's defensive scheme while mounting the best season of his pro football career.
Landry registered career highs all over the stat sheet. He racked up 99 tackles, four forced fumbles and two interceptions; but most importantly, he stayed healthy. He became elite at his position last season, anchoring a defensive backfield void of star cornerback Darrelle Revis.
His market value has never been this high, and the Jets can't slap the franchise tag on him as a short-term fix because of a clause in his expiring contract.
The Jets would buy Landry if they could afford him, but they simply don't have the spending power to drop big money on one player this offseason.
Former Giants' starting tailback Ahmad Bradshaw freely voiced his openness about landing a roster spot with the Jets in an interview on the NFL Network after being released last week.
It seems unlikely for the Jets to retain Shonn Greene at this juncture, so it'd make sense for the team to be in the business of finding a new feature back.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News recently tweeted Bradshaw won't be the man for the job, though.
His market value is marginal at best because of offseason foot surgery to replace a screw from a previous injury, and teams are unsure how the seasoned back will perform in response to the operation.
He needs to prove himself before a team is willing to commit seven figures. The Jets shouldn't be that team. They don't have the depth, or talent, to gamble on could-be success.
It would make sense, however, to take a chance on Bradshaw if he comes cheap.
The life span of feature backs in the NFL averages two to three seasons because of the demanding, physical nature that the position commands. The Jets have just two running backs under contract for next season: Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight.
Powell displayed signs of sufficient athleticism last season, but he isn't talented enough to carry the load. McKnight has breakaway speed and can slash through defenders, but he doesn't sustain the durability necessary to be an every-down back.
Bradshaw likely isn't the answer for the Jets at running back, but he'd be a smart pickup if he drops to thrift-shop value.
Mike DeVito is an excellent run-stuffing defensive end that will be highly considered for a new contract with the Jets this offseason.
DeVito has steadily emerged under the guidance of head coach Rex Ryan to become a force in the trenches.
He sustains the size and versatility necessary to be a staple in the Jets’ 3-4 base defense in future seasons and also has the potential to develop into a premier pass-rusher. DeVito is explosive off the edge, able to push offensive linemen off their heels and reach the ball-carrier in the backfield, although he seldom sacks the quarterback.
He racked up an insignificant total of one sack last season, causing some to question his overall value.
The fact that the Jets already have a prominent pass-rusher on the defensive line increases the likelihood that the team will look toward retaining DeVito, though, especially if his price tag doesn’t skyrocket.
Muhammad Wilkerson has steadfastly developed into a dominant pass-rusher, granting the Jets additional incentive to keep DeVito because of the balance he’d ultimately provide the D-front. His strength against the run combined with Wilkerson’s ability to pressure the quarterback should be enticing to the Jets.
The preconceived notion of DeVito halting Quinton Coples’ development is somewhat shortsighted. DeVito has the ability to play inside, which adds depth to the Jets’ roster, especially given the uncertainty the team faces at nose tackle.
Coples also doesn’t have the build to be an every-down player in the 3-4 at 290 pounds. He has enormous upside, but is still relatively unproven.
It would be surprising if Idzik didn’t make a hard push to re-sign the team’s only dependable run-stuffer.
Steelers feature back Rashard Mendenhall is a strong runner with cutback speed. He's the brand of back the Jets need in terms of ability, if he’s able to rekindle past success.
He isn't expected to land a roster spot in Pittsburgh next season, where he averaged 4.1 yards per attempt on 864 carries in six seasons.
The ACL injury that he suffered toward end of the 2011 season was a devastating blow to a promising career.
Mendenhall is a powerful running back when healthy, able to churn through should-be tacklers and wear down defensive fronts.
The Jets are infamous for pounding the ball between the tackles, thus making Mendenhall a seeming fit, although it would be unruly for Idzik to pursue a player devastated by an ACL injury and bad public perception.
Mendenhall is infamous for his ill-advised comments about Osama Bin Laden.
He was a nonexistent factor on the football field in 2012, suffering an injury setback that limited him to just 184 rushing yards in six games. His frustration ran rampant after being benched for fumbling twice in an ugly performance against the Browns in Week 12. He responded by refusing to show up the following week.
Mendenhall would be an absolute steal from a salary-cap standpoint if he’s able to overcome his ACL tear. Still, the Jets should be selling the buzz surrounding Mendenhall.
Ryan's locker room has already endured enough nonsense.
The trade market for Smith is marginal at best, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen (h/t Rotoworld.com).
This means the formerly embattled quarterback could soon become a free agent. Smith is due a signing bonus worth $1 million in March, but it's unlikely that he'd remain on the 49ers' roster until then.
It's common sense at this point that the Jets need a fresh start at quarterback. Sanchez is a failed project, even if he gets the nod to start next season. That wouldn't happen if Idzik decided to pull the trigger on Smith, though.
He resurrected his defunct career under the leadership of head coach Jim Harbaugh and completed 70 percent of his pass attempts before being benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick in Week 10 last season.
The most enticing statistic that Smith boasts from the Jets' standpoint is his touchdown-to-turnover ratio (2:1). Smith tossed 30 touchdown passes in 26 games over the past two seasons. He threw just 10 interceptions and lost four fumbles during that stretch.
In comparison, Sanchez coughed up 26 turnovers in 15 games last season to lead the NFL.
Smith would theoretically be an upgrade over Sanchez, but his rise to respectability has boosted his value, maybe enough to land outside of the Jets' reach.
He's likely going to seek a multi-year contract that guarantees the opportunity to start. It doesn't seem like the Jets are ready to make that type of decision, especially considering Ryan's estranged passion for Sanchez.
There's also a distinct likelihood that Smith was simply a product of the system, which is a contributing factor in why his trade value is "limited."
The Jets need a renaissance at quarterback. They should take a chance on Smith, but only if the price is right.