Complete 2014 New York Jets Offseason Preview and Predictions
It's going to be a wild offseason for the New York Jets and their fanbase.
For the first time in years, the Jets are out of salary-cap hell and have money to spend in free agency. And after three season without a postseason berth, the team is finally back on the upswing.
Expect general manager John Idzik and head coach Rex Ryan to build a strong, young foundation of talent through free agency and the draft, as they look to reinvigorate the proud franchise.
Click through to see six predictions for New York's 2014 offseason.
Gang Green Releases Antonio Cromartie, Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes
Before the Jets become active in free agency, re-sign their own unrestricted free agents and look toward the draft, they will cut some of the most high-profile players on their current roster.
Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie are all coming off tough years plagued by injury and disappointment. The three have done more harm than good in recent seasons, as they have brought unnecessary distractions to the locker room.
The three veterans are also some of the most overpaid players on New York's roster, making them virtual locks to be cut as soon as the offseason officially commences.
Sanchez, Holmes and Cromartie will save the Jets a combined $25 million in cap space if released.
That kind of money can be used to sign one or two high-profile players in free agency and turn the Jets into a serious contender.
Nick Folk, Austin Howard and Jeff Cumberland Are All Quickly Re-Signed
After saying sayonara to the trio of disappointing veterans, John Idzik and company will look to bring back some of the team's premier unrestricted free agents before they can test the open market.
Austin Howard has emerged as a solid starting right tackle in recent seasons. The 26-year-old can be inconsistent at times, but he's usually solid in both run blocking and pass protection. There's no reason why he shouldn't get a multi-year extension to stay in New York.
Nick Folk's first three years in the Big Apple were nothing to write home about, but the kicker seemed to figure it all out last season. Folk hit 33 of his 36 attempts in 2013, including three game-winners and 14 from more than 40 yards out.
The 29-year-old should be signed to a multi-year deal, as he has continually improved and been phenomenal in the clutch over his career.
Jeff Cumberland hasn't contributed as much as Howard and Folk over the last couple of seasons, but the 26-year-old is still a solid possession receiver with good athleticism and size for a tight end.
While he's best suited for a backup role, Cumberland should be re-signed at the right price.
Muhammad Wilkerson's Contract Is Extended
Muhammad Wilkerson has improved dramatically in each of his three seasons in the NFL.
The Temple product has gone from a solid rookie to a young playmaker to one of the best defensive ends in football.
If Wilkerson can continue to develop, he could realistically become one of the most impactful defensive players in the league.
Coming off his third season, Wilkerson is now eligible to be signed to a contract extension.
If Idzik and company have any brains, which I'm sure they do, they will extend Wilkerson quickly, as the 24-year-old's price tag will only continue to go up.
Wilkerson is a franchise cornerstone who deserves to get paid. Expect New York to give him an extension that pays him around $10 million a season for four or five years.
The Jets Sign Either Eric Decker or Jeremy Maclin
Even the most casual Jets fans know the team desperately needs some playmaking offensive skill players.
Stephen Hill is just terrible, Santonio Holmes won't be on the roster in a month, and David Nelson and Jeremy Kerley are best reserved for secondary roles.
With money to spend, expect the Jets to be aggressive in pursuing some of the top-notch wide receivers available in free agency.
Decker will be the most expensive, as he is coming off consecutive seasons of over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, the Jets will almost certainly give the Minnesota product a look.
Decker got to try out New York's facility in preparation for the Super Bowl, as well.
The Jets will also look at Maclin in the coming weeks. He is coming off a torn ACL, but the Missouri product is an explosive playmaker who knows Marty Mornhinweg's offensive scheme well.
I'd be shocked if New York isn't a major player for either, or even both, players.
New York Makes a Play for an Elite Safety in Free Agency
The Jets went from having one of the league's most dominant secondaries to one of the NFL's weakest.
While the loss of Darrelle Revis and the struggles of Antonio Cromartie definitely contributed to the drop in production, the main issue was the team's lack of stability and talent at safety.
Dawan Landry was a middling option throughout the season, and while Antonio Allen showed growth, he isn't quite ready for a starting role.
Don't be surprised if the Jets look to make a major upgrade at the position via free agency.
Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Donte Whitner, Bernard Pollard and Chris Clemons are some top-notch options due to become free agents.
While their respective teams will undoubtedly try their best to re-sign them, the safeties may decide to look for greener pastures, as none of the aforementioned players, outside of Whitner, plays for a true contender.
The Jets have the money and the need. It's up to Idzik to connect the dots.
The Jets Select Eric Ebron in the First Round of the Draft
The biggest key to a successful offseason for New York is a solid draft, and there would be no better way for the Jets to kick it off than by selecting Eric Ebron.
Ebron is a physical freak who reminds many of Vernon Davis.
The North Carolina product has a scary combination of size, speed and athleticism, and his collegiate production wasn't too shabby, either.
Ebron is a mismatch for any defensive player lining up across from him. He would immediately open up the passing game for Geno Smith and company.
If the Jets can get Ebron with the 18th overall pick in the draft, the Gang Green faithful should be ecstatic.