After String of Free-Agency Losses, Where Do New York Jets Go from Here?

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IMarch 14, 2013

Feb 21, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New York Jets coach Rex Ryan waits to speak at a press conference during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets were not a very good team last year. Couple that with season-ending injuries to their two best players, and the results are what we have before us today: trade rumors around the team's best player and a free-agency purge that has left the Jets absent five starters thus far.

Defensive tackle Mike DeVito, nose tackle Sione Po'uha, running back Shonn Greene, free safety LaRon Landry and strong safety Yeremiah Bell all started at least 10 games, and Po'uha's back injuries made him the only one who started fewer than 13.

That's a combined 68 starts the Jets are going to have to replace, but given the situation—a lackluster roster and a frustrating situation with the salary cap—that's quite alright.

This is not to say the Jets are problem free—far from it—the mass exodus is an example of how bad things got for them, both with the cap and with their overall talent. 

But even the losses of Landry and DeVito, being regarded by some media as epic failures, aren't all that disappointing in context.

Landry was not as good as the money he was given. According to, his 0.92 yards per cover snap was sixth-worst at the position, and the 448 passing yards into his coverage was eighth-worst among safeties. His 4.1 rate of first downs and touchdowns allowed into his coverage was also the 10th-worst at his position last year.

That being said, Landry is a good player for what he is—much better in the box than in coverage. The Jets still need a ball-hawking safety, and could either look to Josh Bush to take on a serious workload next year or draft a safety in what's considered a deep crop. 

For the Jets, this wasn't about having a better option waiting in the wings; this was about a cap-strapped team not wanting to pay a player substantially more than he's worth to the team.

The same could be said of Mike DeVito, who is good as a run-stuffer but is limited as a pass-rusher.

DeVito's departure is lessened by the presence of both Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson on the defensive line. Wilkerson emerged as one of the top five-technique defensive ends in the game last year, while Coples played just 516 defensive snaps (47.5 percent) in his rookie season.

Coples is certainly a more talented player than DeVito, and should be asked to take on a larger share of the workload, but he could also be asked to move around a bit as well. This is where his motor questions leading up to the 2012 draft will come into play.

Even with those considerations, the Jets weren't ever going to pay DeVito $4 million a season to be a backup, even if they had the money.

What of the nose tackle role left vacant by Po'uha?

The Jets probably feel good moving on from their 34-year-old above-average nose tackle with back problems, seeing as they turn to Kenrick Ellis, a 25-year-old above-average nose tackle who had a nagging knee injury that should clear up this offseason. Ellis played fewer snaps than Po'uha despite being active for more games, but the Jets could be looking to utilize him more frequently in the same role.

In losing Yeremiah Bell, the Jets can turn to Antonio Allen, a seventh-round draft pick from last year. Although Allen played just 72 defensive snaps in 2012, he has the skill set to fill the strong safety role for the Jets. If the Jets feel otherwise, they can do what they did with Landry and Bell—wait for the market to die down, and strike on a cheap one-year deal with a good value free agent. 

The Jets were wise to move on from Shonn Greene, as well. He could be a nice complementary back, but the Jets don't have a primary back to complement. Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight create a solid foundation for a stable of backs, assuming the Jets give McKnight more access to that role. Powell will be the one to fill the between-the-tackles role Greene leaves vacant, and he showed more decisiveness and burst as a runner than Greene. 

Even with all the departures, the Jets haven't taken any significant steps back over the past few days. Of course, it's hard to take a step back when you're close to the back of the pack.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.