Creating New York Jets' Free Agency Fallback Plan
In the hours leading up to free agency, excitement and anticipation are at an all-time high for the offseason. Grand plans are put in place to upgrade a team's roster, but rarely does a free-agency period go according to plan.
With so much competition for top talent this year, there is no certainty in the shark-infested waters of free agency. With the salary cap getting a significant boost this year, there will be as much competition as ever as more teams get in the running for free agents they would not have been able to afford otherwise.
As a result, every team must have backup plans to ensure that it is at least able to round out its roster going into the draft. Even if a team misses out on "its guy," going into the draft with a gaping hole at a position can be a recipe for disaster, as it sometimes forces a team to "reach" based on need.
The New York Jets are no different. Here are some fallback options the Jets should have in place as free agency kicks off on March 11.
Wide Receiver: James Jones
Primary Target(s): Emmanuel Sanders, Golden Tate, Eric Decker
No matter what happens over the next few weeks, the Jets simply cannot end their signing period without adding some proven veteran talent at the wide receiver position.
Because of the unusual depth at receiver in Green Bay, Packer wideout James Jones has always had a ceiling as to how big his on-field numbers would be. But when given the opportunity, Jones has been productive. Even without Aaron Rodgers for an extended stretch, Jones posted 817 yards on 59 catches in 2013.
In previous seasons, Jones had developed a reputation for occasionally dropping passes, but according to Pro Football Focus, he dropped just two passes all year (subscription required).
An ideal No. 2 receiver, Jones could provide more value than someone like Eric Decker.
Wide Receiver: Brandon LaFell
Primary Target(s): Emmanuel Sanders, Golden Tate, Eric Decker, James Jones
Since getting drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft, Brandon LaFell has developed nicely into his role opposite Steve Smith for the Carolina Panthers. The big-bodied receiver has consistently posted over 600 yards in each of the last three seasons along with a career-high 49 receptions in 2013.
LaFell may not quite have what it takes to be a No. 1 target, but if put in a position in New York where he has someone opposite him to draw away coverage, LaFell could fill in nicely as a No. 2 for the Jets.
The Jets having any interest in LaFell could very well stem from whether they have already added a big-time receiver, someone whom LaFell could complement, as he did with Steve Smith.
In addition, the fact that LaFell has yet to post chart-topping numbers would make him a much cheaper option as well, allowing the Jets to spend more on acquiring a potential No. 1 receiver.
Guard: Willie Colon
Primary Target(s): Jon Asamoah
Because of a torn biceps he suffered in the season finale, the Jets appear to be moving on from their starting right guard from last season.
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
While the Jets are sound in their reasoning for moving on from a player who suffered a serious injury so late in the season, Colon should not be kept completely off the radar. One of the best bargain buys of last year's free agency period, Colon started all 16 games and allowed just two sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Jets appear to already have their Willie Colon replacement in their crosshairs in Jon Asamoah, but they should not sever ties with Colon in case they fail to land their guy in free agency.
Jets plan to make an offer to Jon Asamoah http://t.co/cfgvlsidwZ— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 8, 2014
Colon would be an injury risk if he was brought back, but he has rewarded the Jets for their belief in him in the past—maybe he overcome the odds to start all 16 games next season one more time.
Cornerback: Captain Munnerlyn
Primary Target(s): Vontae Davis, Alterraun Verner
With Antonio Cromartie officially out of Florham Park, the Jets have a gaping hole at cornerback that must be filled prior to the draft.
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is on their list of targets. Munnerlyn would be their secondary option to Alterraun Verner, who is considered to be one of the top free agents at the position.
Munnerlyn may not be a household name, but his production in 2013 is difficult to ignore. The 11th-best cornerback, according to the metrics of Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Munnerlyn had seven passes defensed and excelled as a run-defender.
The downside to Munnerlyn's game can be in his pass defense; quarterbacks completed 67.3 percent of passes thrown against his coverage, a measurement that would put him in the second tier of free-agent cornerbacks this year.
Even with his flaws, the Jets can feel comfortable if they are able to have Munnerlyn and Dee Milliner as their starting cornerback tandem heading into the draft.
Cornerback: Antonio Cromartie
Primary Target(s): Vontae Davis, Alterraun Verner, Captain Munnerlyn
Once again, the Jets won't have to go far to find a fallback option at one of their need positions.
Antonio Cromartie was released on Sunday because his play no longer justified his outrageous cap number. After allowing a 100.7 quarterback rating when thrown against (according to Pro Football Focus) last year, there was no way the Jets were going to pay him his $14.9 million cap number.
There is reason to believe that Cromartie's lingering hip injury was the primary cause of his struggles. The fact that he won't need hip surgery bodes well for his ability to make a full recovery.
To replace Cromartie, the Jets will look for younger options who won't come with the same injury concerns, but the team's familiarity with Cromartie and his medical situation would make him a good fallback option in case they miss out on other targets.
Offensive Tackle: Breno Giacomini
Primary Target(s): Austin Howard
The Jets are hoping that they can lock up Austin Howard, so they won't have to worry about filling their right tackle position, but they need to have a contingency plan in case Howard chooses to test the open market.
Breno Giacomini may be the least-known player on the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, but he is one of the better free-agent options at right tackle this year. A former fifth-round pick in 2008 by the Packers, Giacomini found a home with the Seahawks, seizing the starting right tackle job in 2012.
Giacomini missed nine games during the 2013 season while recovering from knee surgery, but he was more than a capable player when he was on the field. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) he allowed just four sacks in 2013 and ranked as PFF's 41st-best tackle in football (among both right and left tackles).
Giacomini is not a bulldozer in the run game or a shutdown pass-protector by any means, but he is the quintessential capable starter who can hold down the fort until a better option comes along.
With a young right tackle prospect in Oday Aboushi already on the Jets roster, Giacomini would be the perfect insurance for a season or two in case the younger offensive linemen are not ready to start.
Backup Quarterback: Mark Sanchez
Primary Target(s): Josh McCown, Michael Vick
As much as Jets fans are tired of seeing his name on the roster, Mark Sanchez is actually a tremendous fallback option for the Jets as they sort out the backup quarterback position.
The Jets are reportedly very much interested in the services of Josh McCown, possibly Michael Vick, but they already have on their roster a player who fits the bill as a high-end backup. Sanchez may have worn out his relationship with Jets fans, but he has won in the NFL before and may have beaten out Geno Smith for the starting job last year had he not gotten hurt.
After all, Sanchez is only 27 years old. As unlikely as it may seem now, there is still plenty of time for him to make an Alex Smith-esque career resurgence before he is relegated to backup duty.
The problem with Sanchez staying on the roster is that his cap number is a staggering $13.1 million in 2014, an indigestible number for a player the Jets hope never has to take a snap.
The Jets will certainly look to upgrade the No. 2 quarterback spot with a fresh new face, but bringing back Sanchez makes more sense than it initially may seem—assuming they can rework his contract.