The New York Jets face one of the most important offseasons in their franchise's history this year.
After a disappointing 6-10 finish to the regular season in 2012, the Jets made more news about what they didn't do rather than what they did. It started in the offseason, it has continued through the past week and it wasn't much better in between.
With a new year comes new hope for Jets fans, though. Although quarterback Mark Sanchez will likely be back, barring a Lenten miracle for Jet fans, this team will have a whole new look in 2013.
Here's what the Jets must accomplish this offseason so 2013 doesn't end up like 2012.
The biggest piece of dead weight was already taken care of earlier this offseason and it got much better yesterday.
By cutting four players (Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Jason Smith and Eric Smith), the Jets went from $23 million over the salary cap to $7 million under it. It was a great start to an offseason that should be headlined with more big name players leaving than coming.
Lets face it, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace are over the hill so getting rid of them will make the Jets both more talented and younger. No one will lose sleep over either of the Smiths being gone either. Overall it was a good start to the offseason by new general manager John Idzik.
The cap room created by the Jets from these moves still won't be enough to fill all their needs, leaving the door open to more departures. Looking at the Jets' salary cap there isn't much they can do to free up a ton of space with one or two moves.
The biggest cap savings would come from cutting Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, Sione Pouha and Tim Tebow. I'd highly advise against Cromartie and Pouha, but the other two wouldn't exactly be catastrophic.
Tebow will be gone (as we will get to in a bit), but Holmes is the more interesting of the two. If the Jets are able to bring back Braylon Edwards for significantly less than the $1.25 million New York would save from cutting Holmes, then I wouldn't argue that Edwards is the choice. Holmes is never going to be a number one receiver and is more likely to be a headache than a superstar.
The Jets should have let Holmes walk two years ago and signed Braylon, but instead they signed Holmes to a long-term disaster of a deal. If they can get Braylon for cheap they'd have him, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley as their top three. I wouldn't mind seeing Holmes leave in that situation.
There really aren't many other places for the Jets to turn at this point. The best remaining options for cap relief are Aaron Berry's $700k and Ellis Lankster's $655k if they're cut, but that's about it.
At most the Jets are looking at about $10 million in cap space to work with this offseason, unless Idzik is able to restructure some deals. The result will be an on-field product of very young and unfamiliar faces. As much as Jet fans may hate it, they're going to have to live with some unpopular decisions being made if they want to even sniff they playoffs this season.
Mike Tannebaum's draft day trades and mega-contract bombshells have left the Jets with one of the thinnest teams in the league.
The Jets have roughly $85 million tied up in eight guys this year, when the salary cap will be around $130-135 million. That leaves $45-50 million, give or take a few, to fill the other 44 spots on the roster. Factor in the fact that the league minimum is about half a million dollars and the Jets are in a tight spot.
Therefore, what John Idzik and the front office must do is stockpile draft picks. If that means trading a few players away, so be it; but the Jets need young, cheap talent. Stockpiling draft picks has been the opposite of what the Jets have done in the past, as I entioned in an earlier article about this subject:
Tannenbaum was hired in 2006. Look at every draft before and after. Besides the 2006 team which he inherited, he drafted more than six players only once in six years. His strategy was to trade up for, what he thought, were better players and fill the holes via free agency.
Trading up has cost the Jets picks in the past and is the main reason why they are in the situation they are in now. There is no underbelly to this team, just overpriced, overrated assets, which is something Idzik must change.
The Jets have an opportunity to turn things around with a good draft. They better make use of that opportunity because they won't have many other options in free agency with their cap situation. There are holes all over this team from quarterback to linebacker to the secondary.
New York must find undervalued talent to fill the roster because signing big-name players is something they are not going to be able to do. Idzik needs to take fliers on high-risk-high-reward players in free agency (not expensive ones, just cheap guys with potential) and needs to draft cornerstone franchise guys in the draft.
That is the only way the Jets will be able to turn this thing around.
Before we start let's make one thing clear: Tebow is gone.
That's not a knock on him in any sense of the word; quite frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing Tebow take the field on opening day and throw whirly birds all over the field, but the Jets have made up their mind. It really is unfortunate too.
Brace yourself for a Tebow backing because here one comes. Tell me, what has Tebow ever done NOT to deserve a starting spot in the league? So what if his throwing mechanics look like he is fixing a leaky pipe or if he only completes 47.9 perecent of his passes? He wins games.
He's 8-6 as a starter in the NFL, 33-6 in college and has two national championships under his belt. Yet still, he never got a fair shake in New York or in the NFL. He even won a playoff game last year, against a solid team no less, and was rewarded with a first-class ticket out of Denver.
Odds are the 2012 Jets are the only team in NFL history that had their number two quarterback third on the depth chart when their number three guy had never played in an NFL game before and the number two guy has led his team to the playoffs. If they weren't going to play him then they should have never traded for him.
The Tebow fiasco was a disaster from the start and was a mistake the Jets should have never made. Everyone saw the move blowing up in their face before the season even started, and they were right. The Jets either had to commit to Tebow or avoid him, but unsuccessfully tried to do both.
John Idzik must clean up the Jets' mess because if they aren't going to play Tebow, they can't afford to keep him on the team. There's no use paying a third-string quarterback $2.5 million to play punt protector. The Jets must either cut him or trade him.
The Tebow experiment made the Jets a lot of money, but it is time that they need to focus on the on-field product not the bottom line.
The Jets are paying Sanchez $12.5 million either way, so why not hope he puts it together and plays well?
They essentially have only one other choice: Greg McElroy, who isn't going to lead the Jets to the playoffs. Sanchez is the only other option.
Here's my case for Sanchez: he's been to the playoffs twice, he's had a spotty offensive line for the last two years, his running game has been non-existant and the pressure from Tebow and the fans caused him to play poorly. With Tebow hopefully gone, maybe Sanchez can take a deep breath and play in his comfort zone rather than try to do too much.
Jet fans—the ones who will read this and will leave an angry comments about how Sanchez should be kicked out of New York—are what's going to be the problem. Not only have Jet fans caused Fireman Ed to go into hiding, but they have helped turn Sanchez from a one time top five pick into a bust.
Lack of fan support the main reason for Sanchez's downfall, his poor decision making and utter lack of awareness has contributed to that more so than the fans, but the constant degrading of his character and play from the fans certainly doesn't help.
Think about it: how would you like to be sitting at your desk all day with someone yelling at you about how you did your work wrong and how terrible you are at your job? If you say, "sounds like my boss," then you should really reconsider your job. But if you say "oh yeah, that doesn't sound too fun," then think of that the next time you go to a Jets game to scream at Sanchez.
He's been coddled, he's been terrible and he's been everything, good and bad, in between, but he's still a human being. He wakes up in the morning and goes to sleep at night just like me and you. There is only so much a man can take.
Why can't we give Sanchez a second chance instead of constantly assaulting him with verbal jabs? Jet fans are going to have to sit through Sanchez either way, so make the best out of a bad situation and support the guy instead of breaking him down.
The Jets must decide if Darrelle Revis is part of their future as soon as possible. Either decide to move forward with him or trade him, but don't let him walk away and get nothing in return.
Even if New York only gets back a first- and second-round pick for the best defensive player in the game, it is better off than getting nothing after next year when he becomes too expensive for the team to keep.
I've detailed why I think the Jets should move forward without Revis, this jist is they aren't built to win within the next five years so why waste between $15-20 million on a cornerback when they should use that money to rebuild. John Idzik, though, is the one who must decide what he thinks is best for the franchise.
The Jets are fairly deep at corner, but losing Revis would mean losing one of the best corners in the history of the game. It is a hard decision for the front office to make, but it is one they must make soon.
The Jets actually have a solid young core to their team.
Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, Bilal Powell and others have shown some talent, which can be built around moving forward. What New York must now do is bring in guys to make these players better by surrounding them with complementary pieces.
The Jets need an edge rusher at outside linebacker on defense to complement what Wilkerson and Coples bring in the trenches, and they should look to draft one with one of their first few picks.
Getting rid of Holmes would allow Kerley and Hill to gain more experience but neither are ready to be a number one threat yet (Kerley is best suited as a slot receiver). If the Jets bring back Braylon Edwards, that would allow Hill and Kerley to move to the two and three slots giving them a respectable receiving corps.
Bilal Powell is the wild card. He has shown some ability during his brief stints carrying the ball in the past, and will now get a chance to be the lead dog with Shonn Greene's likely departure. The pressure will be on him to resurrect a running game that has gone missing.
This year will be a big test to see if these players are truly guys the Jets can build a team around.
The most important thing the Jets need to do this offseason is be quiet. It seems every year the Jets are unable to keep their mouths shut during the offseason resulting in headlines and controversy.
This year, though, the Jets have to walk away from the media attention. It will necessary media attention if they make news for trading Revis, Tebow or Holmes, but anything else shouldn't be tolerated.