Welcome to part two of my six-part series on the state of the Jets. In my first article (which can be viewed here) I took a look at the defensive backfield. In this one, I take on the linebacking corps.
As I said in my last article, the linebacking corps is an atrocity. Nobody is elite; David Harris has somehow regressed at 27 and two of the four starters—Calvin Pace and Bart Scott—were cut last week.
The position, in short, is an absolute mess. But in a time where underachievers are cut in the middle of their contracts and the draft yields more and more success every year, teams are able to go from worst to first with a little bit of work and a lot of luck.
First, I will show the statistics of last year's linebacking corps:
Grading the Position
By far one of the worst groups in the league, the Jets' outside linebacking corps graded out to be a D-. The inside linebacker corps receives a slightly above-average grade of a C+. At this point in time, only three of the eight linebackers are still under contract, and only one is an outside linebacker.
A recent report by Rich Cimini states that John Idzik does not intend to spend more than $1-2 million on any free agent. While it does not specify if homegrown players are included, it does factor into what the Jets do this offseason. Here are three outside linebackers who could be had for a pretty reasonable price:
1. Victor Butler, OLB, Dallas Cowboys -- Few people know him, fewer have seen him. But Victor Butler could very well start on a 3-4 team next season. He is overshadowed by DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, two of the best pass rushers in the entire NFC. His skills have been compared to those of Elvis Dumervil, according to NFL.com. For less than $2 million a year, the Jets could sign Butler, a pass rusher with a lot of potential.
2. Connor Barwin, OLB, Houston Texans -- If the opportunity presents itself, the Jets must take a long look at Barwin. He burst onto the scene in 2011 with an 11.5 sack season. That statistic alone will keep teams calling, but it is also worth noting that he has been a mainstay for one of the best defenses in the NFL. According to Matt Miller's 2012 NFL 1000, he predicts that:
"A player to watch in 2012 as he gains more experience in the 3-4 defense of the Houston Texans. Connor Barwin has the skill set to become an elite outside linebacker in the league."
Luckily for the Jets, he performed poorly in a contract year and could be taking a considerable pay cut.
3. Antwan Barnes, OLB, San Diego Chargers -- The Jets, just two years ago, were one of the teams who showed interest in Antwan Barnes, a seemingly failed project player, but were unsuccessful. Two years and 14 sacks later, Barnes may be on his way to a payday. Don't fall for it, though, he is not a good run stopper and greatly struggles in coverage. A situational pass rusher is not what the Jets need anymore; instead, they need to take a star linebacker who can stop the run but is potent against the pass.
Jarvis Jones and Dion Jordan: If available at No. 9, the Jets have to seriously contemplate drafting Jarvis Jones. Compared to Von Miller, Jones is easily the best pass rusher in the draft, but a rare neck condition, spinal stenosis, will hinder his draft stock. Months ago, draftniks projected him to go No. 1 overall, but recently, he has been mocked as low as No. 17. He could immediately step in and be a star.
Dion Jordan is on a similar boat. A shoulder injury will keep him out for the next 3-4 months. John Idzik should take my advice: trade down. If they are both there, move down to No. 14-20 and take Jordan or Jones, whichever one is still on the board. Bring in a second-round pick, move down to No. 16 and give up a sixth-round pick to secure one of the best rush linebackers to enter the draft in years.
Although I am not a huge fan, Alex Okafor is one player who is a popular second-round pick for the Jets in mock drafts. CBSSports's Rob Rang sees Okafor better suited to be a 4-3 defensive end, not the stand-up rusher that the Jets need. In Rang's words:
[Okafor] COMPARES TO: Ray Edwards, DE, ex-Atlanta Falcons -- A team expecting Okafor to become a lightning-quick speed edge rusher will be disappointed. However, his strength, length and high effort could make him a fine addition as a left defensive end capable of holding up against the run and proving a solid supplemental pass rusher.
He has been projected to go late in the first round and may not be available when the Jets pick. Hopefully, that is the case.
The most underrated outside linebacker in the entire draft, Sean Porter, is currently slated to be a third- to fourth-round pick. He is often overshadowed by teammate DaMontre Moore but is better suited for the Jets. Why? He was the top pass rusher at Texas A&M in 2011-2012, but their shift from the 3-4 to 4-3 defense led to Porter being asked to drop back in coverage.
So why do I want the Jets to draft Porter? Simply, he was a semi-worthy replacement to former Aggies "joker" Von Miller. In addition, he has the ability to drop back in coverage but also the instincts and block-shedding ability to help out in the run game. If he is there in the fourth round, he is the most qualified candidate.
My Projected Starting Lineup
OLB: Jarvis Jones, Garrett McIntyre
ILB: David Harris, Josh Mauga
ILB: DeMario Davis
OLB: Victor Butler
So, what do you think? For a very fair price, the Jets would be acquiring the best pass rusher to come out in the past two seasons and would acquire a potentially gruesome OLB in Victor Butler.
Do you know of something better (and realistic)? Leave me a comment so I can hear your opinion.