New York Jets' Free Agency and Draft Wish List
Following last night's Super Bowl, the 2013 season is in the books and the 2014 season has officially begun.
Despite missing the postseason for the third consecutive season, the New York Jets are back on the upswing following a surprising eight-win year.
However, the Jets are still a lot of talent and growth away from being Super Bowl contenders.
To continue to develop into a contender, New York needs to address the areas of need on the current roster.
Fortunately for the Jets, they have the cap space to splurge in free agency and a decent position in this year's draft.
Click through to see which players Gang Green should target this offseason in both free agency and the draft.
The Jets two-headed rushing attack of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell exploded late last season, but the team still lacks a third-down backfield threat who can be a major factor in the passing game.
Joique Bell: Bell is just a restricted free agent, so the chance he leaves Detroit is minimal. However, if Bell does hit the open market, John Idzik and company should make a major play for his services. Bell is a phenomenal pass-catcher, having recorded 105 receptions for over 1,000 yards in the last two seasons. Even better, Bell has a nose for the end zone.
Toby Gerhart: Gerhart has never been able to build off his historic collegiate career at Stanford in Minnesota because of the presence of Adrian Peterson. However, Gerhart has been terrific when he does see the field. The 26-year-old has averaged 4.7 yards a carry and reeled in 77 of his 103 targets in the passing game in his career. Gerhart would immediately improve New York's backfield talent and depth.
De'Anthony Thomas: Thomas will never be able to emerge as an every-down option at the NFL level because of his small stature and lack of strength. However, Thomas' unbelievable speed and elusiveness would make him a terrific third-down option for Geno Smith, as well as a dangerous return man. Most importantly, Thomas can be had in the fifth or sixth round.
Devonta Freeman: Freeman will be more desired by NFL teams in the draft than Thomas because of his above-average size and speed, so the Jets would likely have to use a third-round pick to get him. The Florida State product would be worth it, as he possesses all the tools to be a strong third option in New York's running game.
Eric Decker: Decker will be the most-desired wide receiver in free agency this offseason, and for good reason. The Minnesota product is much more than a product of the Peyton Manning system, as he boasts phenomenal hands, size and route-running ability. Decker is also a top-notch red-zone target, as he has scored 32 times in the last three seasons.
Jeremy Maclin: Maclin has never eclipsed 1,000 yards and he is coming off a torn ACL, but he would be a terrific signing for the Jets. His injury will likely mean he will be underpaid in free agency, and he played under Jets' offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg for four years in Philadelphia. Maclin is an electric playmaker, and he would immediately provide a spark to New York's offense.
Hakeem Nicks: Nicks has dealt with injuries and inconsistencies thus far in his career, but he possesses perhaps the most natural talent of any receiver available in free agency. He's a big, lean target with big-play ability, and he would be a phenomenal No. 2 receiver for Geno Smith and company.
Marqise Lee: Lee's production fell off in 2013 following two consecutive phenomenal seasons, largely due to injuries. However, Lee is still one of the best wideouts available in the draft. The USC product has top-notch athleticism and elusiveness, and he can turn any short gain into six points. New York could do much worse with their first-round pick.
Mike Evans: Evans doesn't have the same kind of athleticism as Lee, but he boasts amazing size and strength, and he's a freight train in the open field. The Texas A&M product would give Geno Smith a huge deep threat and red-zone target.
Dennis Pitta: Pitta's never been a monster statistically, but he's a solid player who would immediately upgrade New York's receiving corps. Pitta is a big, athletic target who can move the chains and make plays in the red zone. The Ravens will try their best to re-sign Pitta, though, so it's tough to think he will be available in the open market.
Brandon Pettigrew: Pettigrew has largely been a disappointment throughout his career, due to his tremendous physical ability. Despite playing in a pass-happy Detroit Lions offense, Pettigrew failed to play up to his potential outside of his 2011 season. However, Pettigrew would still improve New York's receiving corps significantly, and he won't be costly.
Eric Ebron: Ebron is incredibly reminiscent of Vernon Davis. The North Carolina product is too athletic and fast for linebackers to defend, and too big and strong for safeties to cover. He's a mismatch for every defender on the field. Ebron is the ideal selection for the Jets in the first round of this year's draft.
Jace Amaro: Amaro is another standout tight end prospect who would immediately improve Gang Green's passing game. Amaro was incredibly productive during his collegiate career, as he recorded 106 catches, 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns this past season. The Texas Tech product has top-notch physical tools as well, as he possesses great speed and route-running ability.
T.J. Ward: The Browns will do everything in their power to re-sign their franchise safety, but Ward may decide to test the open market given his performance last season. Ward emerged as one of the league's best safeties in 2013, especially against the run. The 27-year-old has the ability to immediately improve New York's secondary from a weakness to a strength.
Chris Clemons: Clemons is nowhere near Ward's level, but he's a much more complete player than either Antonio Allen or Dawan Landry. Clemons has been a solid starting safety since his rookie year, and he can make an impact in both the running and passing game.
Donte Whitner: Whitner can sometimes make costly mistakes in coverage, but he more than makes up for them with his big-play ability and bone-shattering open-field tackles. No matter how you cut it, Whitner is a Rex Ryan-type of player. However, it's hard to envision the 49ers letting Whitner walk after seeing Dashon Goldson leave in free agency last offseason.
Deone Bucannon: Bucannon is similar to Whitner in terms of his sheer physicality and tools. Bucannon is a terrific open-field tackler and has ideal size for the position, but he can sometimes get lost in coverage. Bucannon has room to grow, though, and he can be had with a second- or third-round selection.
Ed Reynolds: Reynolds has a ton of upside on the NFL level, especially in Rex Ryan's defensive scheme. Reynolds was an integral cog in Stanford's vaunted defensive unit the last few seasons. The Florida native has solid size and his tackling ability is top-notch. Reynolds will likely cost a second-round pick for John Idzik and company.
Chris Harris: Harris has emerged as one of the league's premier young corners in the last few seasons. However, he tore his ACL in December, which assuredly send his open-market value tumbling. The Jets would be smart to make a play for the University of Kansas product, as he would shore up the team's secondary if he recovers as expected.
Walter Thurmond: Thurmond didn't even start this past season, but he emerged as a critical part of Seattle's feared Legion of Doom. Thurmond was phenomenal in coverage throughout the season, and he appeared more than capable of manning a starting job. If Gang Green strikes out on Harris, Thurmond would be an adequate consolation prize.
Bradley Roby: Roby's value has dipped since September because of a disappointing season in coverage and nagging injuries. However, Roby is still one of the finest talents in this year's cornerback classes. His speed and athleticism are unparalleled, and he's hard to beat in man coverage. If Roby falls to the second round, the Jets should pounce on him.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste: Baptiste doesn't have the same upside as Roby, but he projects to be a solid starting corner at the NFL level if he can improve his tackling ability. Baptiste has tremendous size and good ball skills, and he would bring a physical presence to New York's secondary.