The good news for the New York Jets this free-agent season is that they have plenty of cap room. The bad news is that free agents alone won't turn a .500 team into a Super Bowl contender.
That doesn't mean that Super Bowl teams don't use free agents. According to the NFL.com photo essay "Mind-blowing Stats for Free Agency," the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks entered Super Bowl XLVIII with a combined 15 free-agent starters.
However, the essay offers a sobering thought on free agents' impact.
Teams expecting an immediate impact from free-agent signings might want to temper their expectations. None of the 2013 free agents to sign with new teams ranked in the top 10 in passing yards, rushing yards, receiving yards or interceptions.
The highest-ranked passer was Ryan Fitzpatrick (26th), the highest-ranked rusher was Reggie Bush (13th), the highest-ranked receiver was Mike Wallace (28th), and the highest-ranked interceptors were Brent Grimes, Quintin Demps, Mike Mitchell, Jim Leonhard, Karlos Dansby and Keenan Lewis (all tied for 11th).
The lone exception to this trend was pass rusher John Abraham, tied for 7th in the NFL with 11.5 sacks after signing with the Cardinals.
It concludes with a warning to potential big-spending teams and their fans:
The Miami Dolphins spent the most money in free agency in 2013, signing a crop of players that included Mike Wallace, Brent Grimes, Dustin Keller, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. After going 7-9 in 2012, the Dolphins improved their 2013 win total by only one game.
New blood, in other words, does not a winner make.
The Jets still must weigh each new player's pros and cons carefully. They've experienced the consequences of overspending on an unproductive player in 2013 when they couldn't release Santonio Holmes because of the salary-cap consequences. If they haven't learned from history, they're bound to repeat it.
Here are some possibilities. It's not a top-five list, but some thought went into the sequence. First is a personal favorite. Next is a player discussed in a prominent Jets blog. Quarterbacks who mainstream sites' reports who are of interest come next, followed by a player who will provide an instant defensive upgrade.
We've heard about the Jets' needs for what seems like forever.
They need offensive game-breakers, offensive linemen, safeties, possibly cornerbacks and perhaps an outside linebacker. They also must retain enough cap room to cover the franchise tag they gave to Nick Folk, the possible extension of Muhammad Wilkerson's contract, the required rookie cap and the re-signings of free agents such as Austin Howard and Jeff Cumberland.
They have cap room now and will most likely make more. At the same time, they have a long laundry list.
Check out these players and decide if they'd fit the bill.