The NFL Combine is over. John Idzik must evaluate his own free agents.
Nineteen players from the 2012 Jets roster are eligible for some form of free agency. These are the more prominent names:
- Starting safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell
- Starting guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson
- Tight ends Dustin Keller and Jeff Cumberland
- Wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Chaz Schilens
- Starting running back Shonn Greene
- Starting tackle Austin Howard
- Starting defensive tackle Mike DeVito
- Kicker Nick Folk
- Starting outside linebacker Bryan Thomas
- Starting fullback Lex Hilliard
In 2012, the Jets' free agents' base salaries totaled approximately $16.4 million. Total cap value totaled about $22.2 million. Some players signed for partial seasons while others were playing under the veterans' minimum exception. Otherwise, the cap value would have been higher.
As of March 4, the Jets were approximately $8.3 million under the cap. In other words, they'd need much more cap room to re-sign everyone at 2012 levels.
Idzik has difficult choices to make. Unless he clears more room, he'll have to pass on some key players. For example, he'd pass on 12 of 19 players if he used the recommendations that follow.
In 2012, the seven players this article recommends he sign consumed about $5 million in base salary and $6.8 million in cap room. If there are no dramatic raises, the Jets could actually afford them.
That could change depending on the size of tenders for restricted free agents Jeff Cumberland and Austin Howard. They might break Idzik's bank. All the more reason for him to persist in increasing cap room. Plus, they still have draftees to sign and other free agents to pursue.
We can't solve all of Idzik's problems at once. We'll look at the Jets’ own free agents first, from the least experienced exclusive free agents to a Pro Bowler.
Unless otherwise indicated, the source for player statistics is pro-football-reference.com and the source for 2012 salary and cap information is nyjetscap.com. For a description of NFL free-agent categories, see "NFL Free Agency 101."
One catch, nine yards and a fumble will probably not keep Dedrick Epps in green and white.
If Dustin Keller pursues free agency, there will be opportunities for tight ends at the New York Jets camp. Dedrick Epps should not be competing for them.
Epps caught one pass for nine yards and a fumble in two years. Reading Epps’s statistics suggests that the only play he made on the ball may have ended in a turnover. That's not a great way to start a career.
Jordan White caught one pass for 13 yards in 2012. It's probably not enough for a 2013 roster spot.
It's probably not fair to judge Jordan White on the basis of two games. Although he was released from the practice squad in September, the Jets' 2012 seventh-round draft choice was on the 53-man roster by November.
However, in 2013, the return of Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill from injuries combined with the projected re-signing of Braylon Edwards gives the Jets depth at wide receiver that they lacked in 2012. There simply is no place for White.
He played for the minimum rookie base salary of $390,000 in 2012. In other words, White wouldn’t be expensive.
However, the Jets owe it to themselves to investigate other options. White should do the same.
Isaiah Trufant's only NFL TD was a return of a blocked punt against Dallas in the 2011 season opener. It may be the highlight of his Jets' career.
On September 11, 2011, Isaiah Trufant returned a blocked punt for a touchdown to tie the Jets' season opener at 24. The Jets won, 27-24, on an improbable fourth-quarter comeback. That may have been the highlight of Trufant's professional career.
He hasn't had many others in three years with the Jets, which is why Trufant probably won't return.
Three years, 23 games, two passes defended, nine tackles and three assists are insufficient productivity, no matter how much of a bargain he might be.
2011 was Josh Mauga's only full season with the Jets. He probably will not return.
Even when Josh Mauga played a full 16-game season in 2011, he didn't accomplish much. That's why he probably won't be back.
Mauga made nine tackles, eight assists, intercepted one pass and defended another in 2011. He was on the Jets roster in 2010 and 2012, but saw limited action.
While linebacker is an area of need in 2013, Mauga's accomplishments hardly justify his salary and cap value of $540,000, even if that represents a minimum wage. As a third-year player, the minimum would be $630,000.
The Jets can find others who will do more for less.
If Tanner Purdum signs with the Jets, he'll compete against Travis Tripuka for the long snapper job.
Tanner Purdum knows how Mark Sanchez must feel. Purdum already knows that the Jets signed Travis Tripucka to compete for the long snapper position. Unlike Sanchez, Purdum's place on the roster is by no means certain.
Sanchez benefits from the negative cap hit that would result from his trade or release. Purdum enjoys no such security. There's no requirement that the Jets tender him.
Purdum wasn't that expensive in 2012. His base salary and cap value were the second-year player’s minimum of $540,000. Next year’s minimum would be $630,000.
Tripuka represents a savings of $225,000 at the rookie minimum of $405,000.
Purdum has probably made his last long snap as a member of the New York Jets.
If Dustin Keller leaves, Jeff Cumberland may be the Jets' starting tight end in 2013.
When injuries sidelined Dustin Keller, Jeff Cumberland took over and had a career year.
He wasn't the second coming of Tony Gonzalez. However, Cumberland, who had only three catches for 38 yards in his first two seasons with the Jets, caught 29 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns. He and Mark Sanchez seemed to get more comfortable with each other as the season progressed.
The Jets will not be able to put a star in every position in 2013. If Keller leaves, they could do a lot worse than Cumberland.
If a recent Manish Mehta tweet is accurate, the Jets know this. Put it this way: Last year, Cumberland's cap value was around $541,000. According to Mehta, the Jets may make Cumberland a second-round tender offer, which would raise his 2013 base salary to just over $2 million.
He’d be a relative bargain. Keller's 2012 cap value was almost $4 million.
Austin Howard in position. The Jets should bring him back next year or at least get a second-round draft pick.
If only all undrafted players would work out as well as Austin Howard.
He became a starting tackle in his third professional season, starting all 16 games in 2012.
ProFootballFocus.coms Nathan Jahnke writes of Howard:
It isn’t all that often that you can stick an undrafted player who has yet to play an offensive snap in at right tackle and it work out well. He had the fourth-highest run blocking rating amongst right tackles behind Anthony Davis, Phil Loadholt, and Andre Smith. As the season went on, his pass blocking improved and he wound up a respectable right tackle. Anytime you can get a suitable starter for the league minimum, you’ve done something right.
Rich Cimini of espnnewyork.com concurs:
Howard came a long way in a year and, with continued development, he can be a solid starter in the league.
Lex Hilliard only touched the ball 12 times for the Jets in 2012. He'll probably move on next year.
Lex Hilliard is becoming an NFL journeyman.
Hilliard hasn't carried the ball more than 20 times a season since his rookie year. He has been a more productive pass receiver than runner, but not by much. Over his career, Hilliard has carried the ball 48 times for 163 yards and caught 30 passes for 233 yards. That translates to 396 yards of total offense.
$615,000 isn't much in NFL salary terms but it should still get better results. As Rich Cimini said of Hillilard, "The Jets plucked him off the scrap heap and that's where he'll end up."
The return of Santonio Holmes and possible re-signing of Braylon Edwards would leave little room for Chaz Schilens in the Jets' receiving corps.
Suppose that wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill are healthy next year. Braylon Edwards re-signs. Jeremy Kerley plays slot receiver and runs the Wildcat. What becomes of Chaz Schilens?
Schilens helped fill the void at wide receiver when Holmes and Hill were out. However, in his five professional seasons he's accomplished what some receivers do in one: 100 catches for 1,191 yards and nine touchdowns. Holmes, Hill and Edwards should easily absorb that load.
Schilens wasn't expensive, playing for the five-year veteran minimum of $700,000. However, the Jets could fill his role with a rookie for $405,000 or a second-year player for $480,000.
After two seasons of injuries and declining productivity, Bryan Thomas may end his 11-year Jets' career.
The last time Bryan Thomas played a complete season was 2010. Even then, his decline may have already begun.
Thomas's 31 tackles were 10 fewer than his 41 in 2009. He also contributed six sacks and eight assists. While the sacks were triple his 2009 amount, the only other statistic to improve was fumble return yardage.
Thomas played in four games in 2011 and 12 games in 2012. His 28 tackles and 12 assists over those years were similar to his 2010 statistics, while sacks declined to 2.5.
Says Rich Cimini:
He'll be 34 and his body is breaking down. The former first-round pick gave everything he had for more than a decade, but it's time to move on. Thomas could end up retiring.
Thomas wouldn't be expensive. His $925,000 base salary in 2012 was the minimum for a 10-year veteran. However, with a promising crop of linebackers in the upcoming draft, it's time for Thomas and the Jets to part.
Folk (right) celebrates a field goal with punter/holder Robert Malone. Expect Folk back next year.
Every year Nick Folk signs a one-year contract at the veterans' minimum. Every year Nick Folk improves. Why should 2013 be different?
He's still not the Nick Folk who made 20-of-22 field-goal attempts in 2008. However, 2012 was Folk's most accurate year as a member of the New York Jets. He converted 21-of-27 field-goal attempts, including three of four of 50 yards or more and six of eight of 40 to 49 yards.
What's more, Folk maintained his career-long record of perfection in extra point conversions. He's been a pro for six years.
Mike DeVito's stalwart run defense should keep him part of the Jets' defensive line.
He doesn't get the flashy sack numbers like Muhammad Wilkerson or Quinton Coples. However, Mike DeVito's skill at run defense should keep him playing with the Jets.
ProFootballFocus.com's Gordon McGuiness sums up DeVito's play as follows:
He doesn't offer much as a pass rusher (and that’s being kind) with just 29 total pressures in the last three seasons combined, but his play against the run is good enough that he warrants keeping around.
Rich Cimini concurs.
The Jets are nuts if they let him get away. He's a true hear-and-soul player, still in the prime of his career.
Granted, it will be challenging to divide playing time between DeVito and first-round draft pick Quinton Coples. However, isn't having too much talent at a position a refreshing problem for the Jets to have?
DeVito's 2012 base salary was $700,000. His total cap value was $2.5 million. He might price himself out of the Jets' budget. Let's hope not.
Yeremiah Bell (right) and LaRon Landry. Bell is priced right to return next year.
As the Jets try to add youth and speed to their roster, there's one player who defies the calendar: 35-year-old safety Yeremiah Bell.
Rich Cimini writes of Bell:
He's a good "hold-the-fort guy" as Parcells used to say.
Bleacher Report Feature Columnist John Shea appreciates Bell as well, saying:
The Jets need to inject the element of youth into a suddenly aging secondary, although Bell hasn’t displayed any signs of slowing down in the near future.
Both columnists call for a one-year deal. Given Bell's 2012 base salary of $1.1 million and cap value of $1.4 million, that should be feasible.
Age and price, not performance, will keep Brandon Moore off the Jets in 2013.
Neither his ability nor the Thanksgiving night "butt fumble" are reasons to recommend Brandon Moore's departure. However, age and price tag are.
Moore has been a mainstay of the Jets' offensive line since 2003, starting 142 of the 144 games in which he appeared. From 2005 to 2012 Moore started all 16 regular-season games.
However, as Cimini says, for 2013 the Jets "will try to get younger." At 33, Moore will be a casualty of their youth movement.
Combine Moore's age with his 2012 base salary of $2.75 million and his cap value of around $4.5 million. The result is an aging veteran who has one last chance to achieve earnings that match his accomplishments. The Jets cannot accommodate him.
VERDICT: Pass (barring a dramatic improvement in cap room)
Matt Slauson (right) with Santonio Holmes. Will they be teammates in 2013?
Matt Slauson is not a Brandon Moore. However, he has enough potential at the right price to justify his return.
Rich Cimini calls Slauson "...a smart, workmanlike player."
ProFootballFocus.com's Steve Palazzolo calls Slauson, a sixth-round selection in 2009, "one of the few Jets' few recent picks to actually overachieve his draft position."
Palazzolo praises Slauson's pass-blocking skills. According to ProFootballFocus.com's grading system, Slauson only surrendered 14 quarterback pressures in 436 pass-blocking attempts. He's not a great run-blocker, but the Jets' change to a West Coast offense will emphasize the pass, playing to his strength.
Slauson's 2012 base salary was $615,000. His total cap value was $1.075 million. He'd be less expensive to keep than Brandon Moore even at twice that price.
Dustin Keller's hopes for a big free-agent payday mean he probably won't team up with QB Mark Sanchez (right).
Should the Jets give a player who missed half the season with injuries a raise? For Dustin Keller, the answer is no.
Keller could have gotten a one-year trial at a substantial raise had the Jets imposed a franchise tag. However, even though it would have raised his salary from $3.052 million to $6.066 million, he told Manish Mehta no.
I don’t want to be franchised. You want to make sure that you’re going somewhere and you’re signing something that was your decision. You don’t want to be told that you’re doing something for whatever price. You want to make that decision for yourself. You don’t want somebody else making it for you. I would love to come back here, but when I came here, I signed a five-year deal and this is the fifth year on it.
You want to be able to make that decision for yourself. That’d be illegal in another job.
Keller was a model of durability in his first four seasons, appearing in all 64 regular-season games. In that time, he caught 213 passes for 2,559 yards. That's the durability and productivity he thinks he can reclaim. He believes someone will pay top dollar to learn if he's right.
It just won't be the Jets.
Shonn Greene's two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons were a bargain for the Jets. But he lacks the explosvieness and speed that an elite back needs.
Proponents for re-signing Shonn Greene such as Bleacher Report Featured Columnist John Shea cite his two consecutive seasons of rushing for 1,000 yards. They also cite his durability. Greene has appeared in 61 of the Jets' 64 regular-season games during his four-year career, starting in 30.
For someone with a base salary of $615,000 and cap value just over $840,000, these numbers are acceptable. Greene might even be a bargain.
What makes his detractors question if Greene has earned the designation of "feature back," with earnings to match?
Greene's detractors, such as ProFootballFocus.com's Gonzalo Estrade, cite a lack of breakaway speed, the inability to create his own holes and his one-dimensional "North-South" running style. Greene may have rushed for 1,000 yards twice, but in 2012, he made it on the last day of the season.
A 1,000-yard season isn't what it used to be. Jim Brown's first three 1,000-yard seasons took place in 12-game seasons, when a back had to average over 83 yards a game to reach that mark. In a 14-game season, that requirement dropped to over 71 yards per game.
In today's 16-game season, a back only needs 62.5 yards per game. That's over 20 yards less per game than in Jim Brown's day.
What's more, a West Coast offense feature back must be a receiving threat as well. In fact, 2,000 yards of total offense per year is a realistic target. Greene has never gained more than 1,063 yards rushing or 211 yards receiving.
The Jets need a feature back capable of generating around 1,350 yards rushing and 650 yards receiving. Shonn Greene does not appear to be that back.
Braylon Edwards needs the Jets to revive his career and the Jets need Edwards' clutch pass-catching talent.
Braylon Edwards is just what the Jets need in 2013: a player who needs the team as much as or more than it needs him. He is, in other words, a bargain.
In 2012, Seattle cut Edwards with three weeks to go in the season. The Jets claimed him and Edwards used the remaining games to surpass his Seattle output. He caught 10 passes for 125 yards, two catches and 51 yards more than he'd achieved in the first 13 games of the season. Edwards was home.
Home, because Edwards spent most of 2009 and all of 2010 with the Jets, becoming a vital offensive cog. He arrived from Cleveland with a reputation for bad hands, but became one of Mark Sanchez's favorite targets.
A rotoworld.com post from Dec. 30 reads, in part:
Edwards...is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in 2013. Re-upping cheaply with the Jets would be Edwards' best bet if he has designs on being a starting wide receiver next season.
In other words, for Edwards to rejoin the Jets is a win for both sides. He needs to come back home.
LaRon Landry's Pro Bowl season should earn him a big raise, but the Jets probably can't pay it.
You would think that the Jets would make every effort to retain one of their two 2012 Pro Bowl selections. Alas, it probably won't be enough to keep LaRon Landry.
Landry told New York Daily News reporter Manish Mehta that he wouldn't offer the Jets a "hometown discount" after his breakout year. Who can blame him? Half the value of Landry's contract consisted of weekly payments made for remaining injury-free. Granted, injuries had limited Landry to 17 games over the prior two seasons. But, perhaps he considered this provision to be his hometown discount in advance.
It's not like Landry didn't protect himself in this arrangement. That contract also prohibited the Jets from locking him up with a franchise tag. In other words, Landry pulled a Joe Flacco. He gambled on himself, won and is poised to collect the spoils.
On the morning of February 27, Mehta tweeted, "Jets have had discussions & made it known that they'd like re-sign S LaRon Landry. Unknown at this pt how much he'll command on open market." A related rotoworld.com post suggests he's seeking $6 million a year. That would be a substantial raise from his 2012 base salary of $700,000 and overall cap value just over $2.6 million.
Unless John Idzik works major restructuring magic, it's probably too big a raise for the Jets to afford.
VERDICT: Pass (reluctantly)