5 Mistakes the New York Jets Can't Afford to Make This Offseason

John Shea@real_johnsheaContributor IIIJanuary 28, 2014

5 Mistakes the New York Jets Can't Afford to Make This Offseason

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    After finishing the season with a surprising 8-8 record, the New York Jets enter the offseason with high hopes.

    The Jets have an abundance of cap space, enabling general manager John Idzik the ability to be aggressive in free-agent negotiations this spring. New York has several key needs it needs to address in order to contend for a playoff berth next season.

    The most pressing team need has been well-documented since the start of 2013. The Jets desperately need playmakers on offense, specifically at wide receiver and tight end.

    New York should be able to address a majority of its depth issues during the draft, where it holds four picks in the first three rounds and could collect as many as 12 selections in total.

    Revamping the depth chart at receiver, tight end, linebacker, cornerback and safety will highlight the Jets' presumably successful offseason. But certain crucial mistakes also need to be avoided in order for New York to return to respectability in the AFC East next season.

    The following slideshow examines five mistakes the Jets cannot afford to make this offseason:

5. Drafting a Defensive Lineman in the First Round

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    The Jets desperately need a top-tier playmaker capable of making a big-time impact on offense as a rookie.

    In the previous three drafts, the Jets have used a first-round selection on a defensive lineman. New York's front three is stout, featuring should-have-been Pro Bowl pass-rusher Muhammad Wilkerson, brute defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and run-clogging nose tackle Damon "Big Snacks" Harrison.

    Head coach Rex Ryan has an obvious affinity for drafting defensive players in the first round. The Jets offense ranks among the worst in the NFL, though.

    Rookie quarterback Geno Smith was surrounded by a decrepit band of so-called playmakers in 2013, disabling the dual-threat signal-caller from reaching maximum development in his first season as a starter.

    Smith is a far cry from a permanent long-term solution for the Jets at QB, but it's arguable that his gameplay suffered on a week-to-week basis because of a lack of surrounding talent.

    Drafting a wide receiver or pass-catching tight end is an absolute must for the Jets in the first round. Opting to bulk up an already beefy defensive line would be detrimental.

4. Failing to Re-Sign Nick Folk

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    It might not seem like a big deal and it certainly won't make headlines, but place-kicker Nick Folk is an integral proponent of the Jets' ability to score points.

    Folk pinned down a career-high 91.7 percent of his field-goal attempts in 2013, ranking fifth in the league with 33 makes. It was the best season of his pro career.

    New York blatantly needs to prioritize improving its offense this offseason. Failing to re-sign Folk would be a move in the wrong direction.

    The Jets have consistently brought in nonroster competition to push Folk in training camp. That likely won't be necessary come summertime, when Folk should enter the new season with a multiyear contract.

    The 29-year-old veteran kicker has made 80.3 percent of 208 career attempts. He's also nonchalantly converted every extra point he's ever tried.

    Kickers don't reap glory unless they legitimately deserve it. But Folk has proven to be a vital aspect of the Jets' ability to score points when drives stall inside opponents' territory.

    As the Jets plan to replenish their cast of playmakers on offense this offseason, it's important not to lose sight of their reliable kicker.

3. Ignoring the Safety Void

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    The Jets' secondary struggled in the absence of Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, ranking 22nd overall in pass defense.

    New York consistently had difficulty forcing opponents off the field, mainly because of mediocre cornerback play, but also because of a severe lack of help over the top.

    Former seventh-round draft pick Antonio Allen was mostly efficient, racking up 39 tackles, seven passes defended and one interception in nine starts, but wasn't reliable enough to man his position in various defensive formations.

    The Jets brought in future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed midseason to help supply leadership to players like Allen, while also easing the pressure. New York needs more than that in order to solidify its defense as one of the best in the NFL, though.

    The Jets' most vital need on defense is safety. A tandem consisting of Allen and veteran Dawan Landry won't be sufficient enough to shore up the Jets' middling pass defense, especially if cornerback play doesn't improve. Landry combined for 100 tackles, proving himself as a dependable open-field tackler, but struggled in coverage.

    The Jets need a player who can help prevent opponents from sustaining a high completion percentage. A majority of Landry's tackles came in desperate chase-down situations.

    This year's first-year player draft features a decent number of top-tier safeties, such as Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and USC's Dion Bailey.

    The Jets would be ill-advised to pass up an opportunity to greatly improve their secondary by ignoring their safety void.

2. Allowing Santonio Holmes to Return

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    Former No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes has been a virtual nightmare for Jets front office personnel. Holmes started 11 games for the Jets in 2013, catching 23 passes for 456 yards and a touchdown.

    His up-and-down season was highlighted by seemingly inconsistent efforts. It's arguable the only reasons the Jets opted to hang onto Holmes this season were because of their depleted receiving corps and his contract, of which $7.5 million was guaranteed.

    Now, Holmes is bound to become a salary-cap casualty. He's owed $8.25 million in 2014. The Jets could ultimately save the entirety of his base salary by granting him his outright release before training camp.

    Holmes was mildly effective in a Jets uniform, registering 14 receiving touchdowns in his first two seasons. He's managed to play in all 16 games just once during his four-year stint in New York, though.

    He's become a cancer in the locker room and a headache for team decision-makers.

    Holmes is reportedly open to taking a pay cut in order to remain in New York, but the likelihood of the Jets taking that route are slim.

    It would be a catastrophic mistake to deliver Holmes a reprieve. His talents as a receiver have noticeably depreciated over the past two seasons as he's become increasingly injury-prone.

1. Prioritizing an Additional Quarterback Acquisition

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    The worst mistake the Jets front office can make this offseason is prioritizing the acquisition of another rookie signal-caller.

    According to Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com, the Jets will be in the market for a backup quarterback this offseason in attempt to propel Smith's development. New York has been down this road before, though.

    Former GM Mike Tannenbaum foolishly acquired sideshow QB Tim Tebow while preaching the move would push former starter Mark Sanchez into further developing his skill set. The Jets bit the bullet big time, as Sanchez regressed while Tebow floundered on the bench.

    Drafting a player like former Clemson QB Tajh Boyd wouldn't come close to the circus that ensued following the infamous Tebow trade. But such a decision has the potential to cause serious dysfunction within the Jets' locker room.

    New York will likely add an experienced QB as opposed to acquiring another project via the draft, but it isn't entirely erroneous for Idzik and Co. to explore the possibility of improving the depth of that position in the war room.

    The free agent class of quarterbacks is painfully weak, headlined by guys like Josh McCown and Michael Vick. If finding a suitable backup who can mesh between Smith and probable third-string QB Matt Simms on the depth chart is the Jets' definitive goal, adding a player of McCown's caliber would be a smart move.

    But the Jets cannot fall into the seemingly inevitable trap of prioritizing a QB upgrade over several pressing needs this offseason, especially if they plan to invest in developing Smith.