New York Jets Free Agency: 10 Free Agents the Jets Should Target in 2012

Tommy FavaloroContributor IIIJune 22, 2011

New York Jets Free Agency: 10 Free Agents the Jets Should Target in 2012

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    DENVER - NOVEMBER 09:  Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers leaves the field after the game against the Denver Broncos on during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 9, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Steelers defeated the Broncos 28
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Now that the NFL lockout has gone on longer than most people would have thought, a 2011 NFL season is looking to be more and more in doubt every day. It is mid-June and free agency has yet to take place and unsigned players are being left in the dark until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement can be reached.

    While fans do not want to think about a 2011 NFL season not taking place, it is possible that they have to wait until next year to completely enjoy football season.  Looking ahead towards next year, the free agent class of 2012 is a strong class with some great players that the Jets should look at to help bolster their roster.

    The Jets will have to replace players who will be getting up there in age, and players who will leave New York to sign a contract with another organization. 2012 free agency will also allow the Jets to add some depth to an already impressive core of young players like Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, David Harris, Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold.

    While only time will tell what will happen with free agency this year, next year the Jets should target these 10 players.

1. Troy Polamalu

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    Troy Polamalu is arguably the best player in the NFL and probably the most important player to his team on a weekly basis. While it is hard to imagine his long black curls hanging out of any other helmet than a Steelers one, Polamalu will become a free agent after his five-year/$33 million contract expires following the 2011 season.

    If the Jets want to have the unquestioned best defense in the NFL, Troy Polamalu is the guy they need to sure up the safety position which hasn’t been a strong suite for the Jets the past two seasons despite the success of the defense as a whole. Polamalu disrupts offenses and is all over the field when he is healthy.

    Health, of course, is the only question for the six-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL champion. Troy is coming off a season in which he was named 2010 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, despite missing games due to injury.

    He will get big money from whoever signs him, but the money would definitely be worth it as the Jets would get to that next level with Troy on their defense.

2. Larry Fitzgerald

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    Depending on whether or not the Jets sign Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Brad Smith, or any of the receivers, the Jets will need a receiver to in case they lose any of these key players. What other way to replace the loss of a Pro Bowl caliber player than signing Larry Fitzgerald?

    It surely won’t be cheap, but players like Larry Fitzgerald are hard to find. The current Arizona Cardinals wide receiver is in the last year of a four-year/ $40 million contract he signed in 2008.

    Fitzgerald is an unbelievable talent that the Jets should at least look at even if they might not sign him. At 27 years old, Fitzgerald is in his prime and is a five-time Pro Bowler who carried his team to a 2008 NFC Championship. He has over 600 receptions, over 8,000 career receiving yards, and 64 touchdowns since he was drafted as the third overall pick in 2004 from Pittsburgh University.

    It is the dream of Jets fans and also of Mark Sanchez to have a player like Fitzgerald to throw the ball to. It is possible that Mike Tannenbaum can sign the receiver and bring him to the Big Apple

3. David Harris

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    One of the biggest priorities for the Jets after re-signing Revis, Ferguson, and Mangold, is locking up another one of their “Core Four.” Harris has been solid on defense and is one of the most underrated linebackers in the NFL.

    Harris is entering his prime at 27 years old and it is extremely important for the Jets to keep him beyond 2011.

    While he might not get a lot of attention, this player deserves some recognition and needs to be signed by the Jets as soon as possible. He is both a run stopper and a pass defender who contributes week in and week out for the Jets.

4. Robert Mathis

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    Dwight Freeney might get all of the attention on the Indianapolis Colts defense, but Robert Mathis is also a quality pass rusher. Along with Freeney, Mathis is a nightmare for quarterbacks and is a three-time Pro Bowler the past three seasons.

    At 30 years old, Mathis still has more in the tank and would fit in well for the Jets defense. The pass-rush of the Jets has been non-existent the past few seasons and therefore they drafted Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis in the draft to try and solve the problem. These two draft picks will most likely work out in the future, but in the near future, Robert Mathis would bring instant credibility to the line.

    If the Jets add him in 2012, it would be a great addition to a defense that has everything except a good pass-rush.

5. Mario Williams

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    While everyone at the time criticized the Texans for taking Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush with the first pick of the 2006 draft, Williams has turned out to be the more consistent and arguably the better player so far in the NFL.

    Williams is a two-time Pro Bowler and holds the Texans record for single-season sacks with 14 back in 2007. He is a feared pass rusher who can play defensive end or linebacker, which would be a great fit for the Jets.

    Like I said about Robert Mathis in the previous slide, add him to a defense that has everything except a pass rush, and he would bring the team to the next level.

    Williams is in the final year of a six-year/$54 million contract signed after he was drafted. If the Jets wait one more season until he becomes a free agent, he would be just the player they need to finally get passed the AFC Championship Game.

6. Jim Leonhard

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    Jim Leonhard isn’t talked about much around the league but he is extremely important to the Jets defense. He is the captain of the defense who comes up with some great plays in the secondary. If it wasn’t for a leg injury sustained by Leonhard, the Jets would have had a better chance of making it to the Super Bowl.

    He is a bit undersized at 5’8’’ but he is the heart and he is the backbone of the defense. New York simply cannot let him walk when he becomes a free agent in 2012. Just look what happened to the secondary after he went down with a broken leg last season.

    He won’t be too expensive and you would have to think that he would want to stay with Rex Ryan, Bart Scott, and a defense that he is already familiar with.

7. Leon Hall

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    The Jets already have the best cornerback in the league but it is uncertain whether they will hold onto another one of their star cornerbacks, Antonio Cromartie. Leon Hall out of Michigan University has impressed as a first round pick back in 2007.

    He is known for some big hits and some outstanding defensive plays yet he was surprisingly not named to the Pro Bowl after a breakout year with the Bengals. He would fit in well alongside Revis in 2012 and would fill in well in case the Jets lose Cromartie this offseason.

    Hall would surely improve the secondary and cause more turnovers for the Jets defense if they decide the sign him after his five-year/$13.6 million contract expires following the 2011 season.

8. Marques Colston

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    Again, if the Jets have trouble signing any of their free agent receivers this offseason, they would be better suited to wait until 2012 to sign a playmaker at the wide receiver position. If Holmes or Edwards can’t sign, the Jets would be looking at Randy Moss or Plaxico Burress which are two gambles.

    Colston is a tall receiver and a down field threat in the air that would be a great target for Mark Sanchez to throw to. He hasn’t made a Pro Bowl yet but he is a quality player that can make a difference on the Jets offense.

    Colston has the NFL record for most receptions by a receiver in his first two seasons with 168 playing for the west coast offense in New Orleans. He burst onto the scene and surprised everyone coming out of Hofstra as a seventh round pick in 2006. The Saints wide receiver knows what it is like to win a Super Bowl and would be a good addition to the Jets passing game.

9. Michael Griffin

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    In addition to the pass rush, the Jets also need help at the safety position on defense. Jim Leonhard becomes a free agent in 2012, and if they can’t sign him, Michael Griffin would be a pretty good alternative.

    Griffin is a two-time Pro Bowler and a first round pick in the 2007 draft. He is young, athletic, and has a knack for intercepting lots of passes. He has played under Coach Jeff Fischer the past four seasons and would surely love to play for a coach like Rex Ryan in 2012.

    The Jets could use him in the middle of the field to cover big tight ends, especially Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, which has given the Jets secondary problems in the past. Brodney Poole, Drew Coleman, Antonio Cromartie, Eric Smith, and James Ihedigbo are all free agents in 2011 and it will be tough to keep all of them.

10. Chris Hope

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    If the Jets want to go another route to bolster the safety position, Chris Hope is another option. Hope made the Pro Bowl in 2008 and also won Super Bowl XL with the Steelers. The past five seasons he has been with the Titans and is a teammate of Michael Griffin.

    Either one of the Tennessee Titans safeties would be a good addition to a Jets secondary that has been vulnerable up the middle against tight ends.

    Hope would probably be the cheaper player to sign at age 31 when he becomes a free agent in 2012. He has a lot of experience and is an intimidating player who would fit in well with Rex Ryan and the Jets defense.

    The Jets have lots of options in 2012. Whether it’s the draft, through trade, or through free agency, there are players out there who can take the New York Jets to the Super Bowl.