New York Jets: Latest Combine News and Rumors
The NFL combine is more than just a showcase of football players doing a bunch of gym exercises—it is a chance for coaches and high-ranking personnel to meet some of the top prospects for the first time and get a chance to see them in person.
It is a convention for rumors as teams open up trade talks with each other and begin to gauge contracts for pending free agents.
While much of the information that comes out of the event is superfluous, the combine can be a useful tool for predicting how the draft will play out if the information is interpreted correctly.
Here are some of the latest news and rumors to come out of the combine as they relate to the New York Jets.
All combine results are courtesy of NFL.com.
Meeting the Quarterbacks
With a need to bring in competition for Geno Smith, the Jets are in the process of determining which (if any) of the quarterback draftees could fill their need at the position.
According to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, the Jets have met with "at least two" quarterbacks this weekend, including Zach Mettenberger and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Meetings at the combine are often of little significance, especially given the quantity of interviews conducted. The fact that the Jets have met with a few quarterbacks is hardly news. What is noteworthy is the caliber of quarterback the Jets are taking the closest look at.
Instead of looking at first-round prospects, the Jets are looking at more of the mid-round flavor, suggesting that the Jets have little interest in using their top pick on a quarterback if they have the chance.
There is no telling whether or not the Jets will draft any of these players before the draft, but this does give us a clear picture as to what their plan may be to upgrade the quarterback position.
Sniffing Out the Running Back Market
According to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, the Jets have started to gauge the market for a pair of free-agent running backs, Donald Brown and Ben Tate.
Brown is coming off the best season of his career, wresting away the starting job from Trent Richardson with an impressive 5.3 yards-per-carry average. Tate had a solid season in his own right, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
This comes as a bit of a surprise, as the Jets already made a handful of moves last offseason to address the position, including trading for Chris Ivory and signing Mike Goodson. There is some concern with Goodson coming off an ACL injury, but based on the way Bilal Powell and Ivory played as a tandem, it would make more sense for the Jets to invest in more pressing areas of their offense.
Adding a player like Tate or Brown would certainly give them a ton of security at the position, but rounding out the bottom of their running back depth chart should be a much lower priority given their other pressing needs.
Watching the Wide Receivers
The Jets picked a good year to be in desperate need for help at wide receiver. The quality and depth of talent at the position this year is as good as it has ever been, with the top analysts in the industry raving about this group of pass-catchers:
"This is one of the best wide receiver drafts I've ever seen." - Mike Mayock— Dan Leberfeld (@jetswhispers) February 23, 2014
Thanks to a strong group of underclassmen, Mayock may not be far off in his claim. Clemson's Sammy Watkins leads the pack, while the second tier features roughly five or six players who are true first-round talents, including Marqise Lee and Odell Beckham Jr. Beyond them, there is not much of a drop-off with players such as Jordan Matthews and Jared Abbrederis.
According to Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, the Jets have wasted no time getting to know these players with confirmed interviews with Matthews, Beckham Jr., Kelvin Benjamin and Brandin Cooks.
While there are certainly no guarantees about anything when it comes to the draft, it seems extremely unlikely that the Jets would make it out of the first two days without adding a receiver with one of their picks, considering the amount of quality prospects at the position.
The Return of Mark Sanchez?
Just when you thought Mark Sanchez's days as a Jet were done, there are signs that point to Sanchez wearing green and white beyond this offseason.
According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, Sanchez's representatives and the Jets met at the combine to discuss his future with the team. No resolution was reached in terms of a contract restructure or anything of that nature, but the fact that the two sides met suggests that there may be more to the rest of Sanchez's career in New York than a simple contract termination.
With Sanchez's recovery from shoulder surgery going rather smoothly, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, keeping him on the Jets (on a much smaller contract) to compete with Geno Smith may not be the craziest arrangement ever conceived. After all, if he does hit the open market, Sanchez would be a relatively hot commodity as a potential starter.
Plus, if the Jets had just planned on releasing Sanchez, why would they bother meeting with his representatives?
Perhaps this was a gesture by the Jets to confirm his release, but this is a situation that bears watching with free agency just around the corner.
Jets Eyeing Josh McCown?
If the Jets do as everyone expects and decide to part ways with Mark Sanchez, they will need to find a veteran quarterback who is capable of competing with Geno Smith for the starting job and competent enough to win games if called upon.
It appears as if the Jets are starting their search by testing the free-agent market at the combine.
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Josh McCown may be the man the Jets are eyeing to fill that role.
McCown would be a perfect fit for what the Jets are looking for in a free-agent quarterback. With 12 years of experience under his belt, McCown kept the Chicago Bears afloat for the 2013 season despite losing Jay Cutler to injury. McCown played so well that had their defense not been the worst in the league at defending the run, the Bears might have made the playoffs.
The problem for the Jets is that they will certainly not be the only team interested in him, as competent quarterbacks are worth their weight in gold in a scarce market. If the Jets want McCown, they will have to pay more than they would a typical quarterback, eating into the resources for other positions.
Eric Ebron on the Radar
"Boasting" the worst group of tight ends in football, the Jets have more reason to use their top pick on the position than any team in football.
North Carolina product Eric Ebron would make plenty of sense for the Jets in the first round. According to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, both New York teams, the Jets and the Giants, are interested in him.
The problem for the Jets is that the better he looks in workouts, the further out of reach he can be on draft day. At 6'4", 250 pounds, Ebron ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash among tight ends (4.60 seconds), only confirming his rare athleticism and drawing comparisons to a young Vernon Davis:
If the Jets are serious about drafting Ebron, they will likely have to trade up to do it. Trading up has gotten the Jets in trouble in the past, but with their glaring need at the position, Ebron just might be worth it.
Re-Upping with Jeff Cumberland
The Jets are also using the combine to initiate contract talks with one of their top pending free agents, tight end Jeff Cumberland. According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets are "in discussions" to retain Cumberland and believe that he will take a significant leap in his development heading into his fifth season.
Cumberland may be one of the Jets' top free agents, but holding such a title is relative. He caught a pedestrian 26 passes for 398 yards, losing a significant amount of snaps to Kellen Winslow. Cumberland has already surpassed expectations as a former undrafted free agent, but the Jets are being naive thinking that he will transform into anything more than an average starter in his fifth year.
However, because neither of their starters from last season is under contract, keeping Cumberland in the fold does give them some insurance in case they miss out on their other targeted players in free agency or the draft.
Still, the Jets would be making a huge mistake if they believe that Cumberland is going to be their sole long-term answer at the position.