New York Jets: Buying or Selling Latest Buzz on the Free Agency Rumor Mill
Just days before free agency, rumors are swirling around the NFL at maximum speed as teams and agents begin to leak information about their plan of action over the next few weeks.
Unlike last year, the New York Jets will find themselves involved with a lot of premium free agents as opposed to scavenging the bargain bin for value buys.
While their increased cap space gives them a chance to attack more prominent players, it also means they will be going up against much more competition to sign those players. How the Jets handle this competition will determine how much value they get out of their new players, which is the ultimate indicator of success in free agency.
Alterraun Verner to Replace Antonio Cromartie?
Now that the Jets have finally made the release of Antonio Cromartie official (as announced via the team's website), they find themselves with a gaping hole at the cornerback position opposite Dee Milliner.
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets are hoping former Titan Alterraun Verner can be their guy.
While he may not yet be a household name, Verner has established himself as one of the top young cornerbacks in the league with his play over the past two seasons. Verner ranked 12th among all cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus' rankings allowing a mere 55.8 passer rating when he was targeted.
Of course, the Jets will hardly be the only team in the market for such a young, quality player at a premium position, and they may find themselves in a bidding war for Verner's services.
While he may not be cheap, the importance of having good cornerbacks in Rex Ryan's system makes a cover corner like Verner worth more to the Jets than other teams.
Maurice Jones-Drew in the Backfield?
Most of the players the Jets have been connected to make logical sense so far, but the Jets' alleged interest in Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew (via Mehta of the New York Daily News) is one of the most surprising rumors so far.
The writing on the wall for MJD's future in Jacksonville has been apparent all season long. After posting one of the worst statistical seasons of his career (803 yards, 3.4 yards per carry), the re-building Jaguars have little use for a declining player who will be 29 in less than a month.
While he may no longer be "feature-back" material, Jones-Drew could still give the Jets value as a rotational player alongside Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory.
Still, while it makes sense the Jets will be in the market for offensive skill players, it is unusual the Jets are this focused on one of the few positions on the team that does not need immediate attention. With two proven, starter-quality players on the roster in Ivory and Powell, adding a veteran runner should be much further down their list of priorities.
Brandon Pettigrew to Pair with Jeff Cumberland?
This year's tight end market is a bit watered down because of the absence of Dennis Pitta and Jimmy Graham, but the Jets need to find a viable starter at the position to pair with the recently extended Jeff Cumberland.
As Mehta explains in the above video, the Jets are looking to add former Detroit Lion Brandon Pettigrew to continue to bolster their tight end depth chart.
Pettigrew is coming off a somewhat pedestrian season for a former first-round pick, racking up 416 yards and just two touchdowns, but he is a two-way tight end that doubles as a capable blocker—a dying art in today's NFL.
Pettigrew may have disappointed his fantasy owners this year, but there is no doubt he is a talented player who would be an upgrade over what the Jets had at the position last year. Pettigrew's receiving numbers may have been down last year, but much of that can be allotted to how he was used in the Lions' offense rather than his ability.
If the Jets can land a player like Pettigrew, they will have given themselves a ton of flexibility going into the draft with two starting-caliber tight ends on their roster.
Donte Whitner to Upgrade the Secondary?
Despite the struggles of the secondary as a whole, Antonio Allen and Dawan Landry did at least a serviceable job at their respective safety positions. Allen is also a young player who flashed brilliance at times in coverage.
Still, it is understandable the Jets would want a more menacing force at the position, but Whitner may not be the best fit for their needs. Whitner is more of an in-the-box enforcer—a role that Landry and Allen are capable of playing.
Whitner is an exceptional hitter, but if the Jets are going to splurge on a safety, it should be more of a ball-hawking coverage specialist rather than a big hitter.
Josh McCown as Geno Smith's Backup
As Mehta reports in the video above, the Jets are interested in bringing in Josh McCown as their backup to Geno Smith.
The veteran brings everything the Jets are looking for to the table. Experienced and skilled enough to win games (as he proved he could do in Jay Cutler's absence last year), McCown fits the perfect profile in a backup quarterback for the Jets' unique quarterback situation.
At the same time, while McCown is good enough to get the Jets through a stretch of games, he also will not outshine the young Smith to the point where he wins the job in training camp. The Jets want Smith to compete, but they won't want to toss him aside just yet if they can help it.
However, McCown's attributes that make him an ideal backup will provide him with plenty of suitors. If the Jets really want McCown, they will have to pay a premium for a player they hope never sees the field.
Moving on from Willie Colon?
One of the best value signings from 2013, the Jets appear to be ready to move on from their starting right guard.
Playing on a one-year "prove it" deal after being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers in large part because of his inability to stay healthy, Willie Colon turned in a stellar performance as a pass protector, allowing just two sacks all year, according to Pro Football Focus.
However, because he suffered a torn bicep in the season finale, the Jets are not convinced Colon's health concerns are or will ever be behind him. According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, the Jets and Colon have not even been in contact about an extension.
The #Jets are planning to let RG Willie Colon hit the open market, per source. No surprise. Recovering from biceps surgery.— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) March 7, 2014
Instead, the Jets have their eyes on Kansas City Cheifs guard Jon Asamoah as a possible replacement for Colon, Mehta of the New York Daily News reports.
Colon could still be on the radar if their preferred plans for a replacement fall through, but Colon's days as a Jet appear to be over.