Owner Woody Johnson, GM Mike Tannenbaum, and HC Rex Ryan will have many key decisions to make once the lockout is over.
The NFL offseason is so close to getting underway football fans around the country can taste it. NFL faithful will finally get an idea of what their team's roster is going to look like in an unprecedented, frantic micro-offseason that is sure to shake up the power structure of both conferences.
Every team has issues to address, but none may be more hectic than the potential shakeup the New York Jets face.
The Jets have a long list of players scheduled to become free agents. Key contributors like Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie and Brad Smith to name a few. Once the lockout is lifted GM Mike Tannenbaum will be under pressure to find the right formula of players to get the Jets over the AFC championship hill.
Looking at the numbers, it's going to be nearly impossible for the Jets to retain all of the people they would like to, but creativity and deal-making have been Tannenbaum's specialty, (see: Brett Favre, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, etc.) Tannenbaum has his work cut out for him, but to make it to the final game of the season there are seven moves the GM should highly consider.
Rex Ryan thinks his team will win the Super Bowl, and Santonio Holmes is a playmaker. There are not two more obvious statements a Jets fan can make. In 12 games, Holmes notched 746 yards on 52 receptions with six touchdowns, though Holmes' real value comes from his ability to make a game-changing play at any given moment.
Last season Holmes made game-winning plays for the Jets on three separate occasions, and his divisional-round touchdown against the Patriots stands as one of the most spectacular clips from 2010. Put simply, the New York Jets offense is not as dynamic when Holmes is not on the field. Throw in the fact that he's a great locker room guy and in his prime at age 27, and it becomes clear the Jets need to bring Holmes back.
Re-signing Holmes will make it very difficult to bring back Braylon Edwards. Edwards has been a very good receiver for the Green and White since arriving from Cleveland, and the idea of taking away Mark Sanchez's favorite big receiver doesn't sit well with some New York fans. However, it's difficult to argue that Edwards is a better receiver than Holmes, and with Daniel Snyder and his bankroll eyeing Holmes for the Redskins, the price tag on Holmes will go up substantially, making it even more difficult to sign Edwards along with him.
If only there was another big receiver that would play for less money...
Burress would fit nicely into the Jets offense if Braylon Edwards can not be signed.
With Braylon Edwards gone the Jets are going to want a tall receiver for Mark Sanchez to throw to, not to mention keep double-teams away from Santonio Holmes. As we all know, Burress was recently released from prison and is looking to get back in the NFL, and where better than back in New York?
From the Jets' standpoint, the move is entirely within their character. In the past two seasons the Jets have brought in a talented but troubled receiver to bolster their offense, the previous being Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. Jerricho Cotchery will be 100 percent healthy this season, but he is really most dangerous in the slot.
A big-bodied Burress would complement Brian Schottenheimer's offense perfectly and serve as an adequate replacement for Edwards.
There are always going to be questions about how effective a player can be after being away from the game for a period of time. A simple way to refute that argument is to look at Michael Vick and realize that a freakishly good athlete who goes to jail remains a freakishly good athlete after he is released. Burress was an extremely dangerous threat before his nightclub shenanigans, and he can be one again with the New York Jets.
Antonio Cromartie proved to be worth the risk with his stellar play last season.
Antonio Cromartie has made it very clear that he will not re-sign with the Jets during their exclusive negotiating period.
"I'm not giving anybody a hometown discount," Cromartie said during an interview with Sirius XM Radio, "I'm definitely going to see what the organization says and also let them know I want to go out and test the market and see where my value is."
Rex Ryan's defense is dependent on good corner play, so the team needs to find a way to retain Cromartie. After the 2009 AFC championship game the Jets front office knew it needed another corner to complement Darrelle Revis, seeing as Lito Sheppard got torched by Peyton Manning all day.
Whoever is playing opposite Revis is going to see a lot of action, and Cromartie proved he is up to the task last season. To let him walk and sign a run-of-the-mill corner would be a huge regression for Ryan's defense, and demonstrate a failure to have actually learned the lesson Peyton Manning taught them in 2009.
The price may be steep, but it will be nearly impossible to find a Cromartie-caliber corner in free agency...well except one, but we'll get to that later.
David Harris a key component of the New York Jets defense.
David Harris remains one of the most underrated linebackers in the league, but Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan know how valuable he is. Harris was voted the team's Most Valuable Player two seasons ago and, at age 27, is in the prime of his career. Harris racked up 99 tackles last season in a year he was franchised by the organization.
Harris is the final remaining member of the Jets' "core four" to sign a long-term deal with the team. The others being Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Darrelle Revis. Harris is a consistent beast on the field and wants to stay with the Jets, so locking him down will be the easiest decision Tannenbaum has to make this offseason.
"I love New York. If you're a defensive player, you'd love to play for the Jets too," Harris told NFL.com, "There's no other coach than Rex Ryan that I want to play for. He's a lot of fun. I want to play there the rest of my career."
The Jets front office should make Harris' wishes a reality. A long-term deal would lessen the blow Harris lands on their salary cap, and make sure opposing running backs keep their heads on a swivel for No. 52.
The prospect of Vladimir Ducasse starting on the O-Line is bad news for QB Mark Sanchez.
Vladimir Ducasse is not ready to start at tackle for the Jets. He's a second-year player from UMass and the lockout has severely hurt his development due to a lack of coaching time. To throw him into the mix after having barely dressed for a regular-season game last season is ludicrous and could end very badly for the Jets. Ducasse wasn't facing NFL-caliber defensive linemen every day at UMass, and he is not ready to handle that responsibility just yet.
Bring back Damien Woody for a modest salary—hell, re-sign Wayne Hunter and let him fill in capably on the line but do not let Ducasse start this season. One awkward hit on a QB can send a season into the toilet as Jets fans know all too well (see: Vinny Testaverde 1999). Mark Sanchez needs to be upright and protected while the running game needs push off the ball to get Shonn Greene running downhill.
The Jets have had some pretty damn good offensive line play this past decade, and inserting an undeveloped Vlad Ducasse (aka "King Ugly") would be a step in the wrong direction. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Veterans Jason Taylor and Shaun Ellis helped formulate a pass rush last season and can mentor rookie Muhammad Wilkerson
Jason Taylor wants to play another season, so why not bring him back to New York? It is probably his best option to get his first Super Bowl ring (sorry Miami), and Taylor contributed with some big plays in his lone season in the Big Apple. He's been around the league and knows how to play the position. He's lost some speed, but remains a viable option to make sure the Jets can generate a pass rush without blitzing every down.
Shaun Ellis was drafted by the Jets in 2000, and is the longest-tenured member of the team. He is a leader and had a monster playoffs, especially against the Patriots. If Tannenbaum can work out a deal to bring him back he should absolutely do it. "Big Katt" has been with the team since the beginning of the century and I think all fans would like to see him hoist the Lombardi Trophy wearing No. 92 in green and white.
Both of these veterans would also prove extremely valuable to rookie DE Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson is coming out of Temple University and is seen as a raw talent with great potential. Watching and learning from guys like Taylor and Ellis would be great for his development and a good move for the Jets.
Would teams be physically able to pass on a team that had both Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha?
Why are you rolling your eyes? Sure, it is unlikely that the Jets will have any chance to get Nnamdi Asomugha, but if it were even slightly possible you know GM Mike Tannenbaum has thought about a possible way to get it done. It should be noted that the previous six slides would all be disregarded if the Jets went after Asomugha; you have to sacrifice some good players to get a great one.
Imagine it—Tom Brady looking to his left and seeing Darrelle Revis, to his right Nnamdi Asomugha and then, before he can throw the ball out of bounds, he is clocked by a blitzing linebacker. That is how I imagine every down going if the Jets could somehow get Asomugha, and there's no reason not to.
Asomugha is an amazing athlete and the closest thing to Darrelle Revis in the league besides the man himself. He's an upgrade from Cromartie, and Sports Illustrated's Peter King tweeted that Asomugha wants to play for the Jets. The problem, of course, is his price tag.
Signing Asomugha would be bad news for the offensive side of the ball. Signing Holmes might prove too costly with the Redskins likely to throw ridiculous amounts of cash at him. Ducasse might have to start at right tackle, and even bringing Braylon Edwards back could be difficult. On the defensive side, Jason Taylor, Shaun Ellis and Brodney Pool might all be sacrificed.
It's fun to imagine, though. The best-ever cornerback tandem shutting down quarterbacks in East Rutherford, NJ for years to come.
A fantasy? Maybe. Unlikely? Definitely. But I've learned to never count out Mike Tannenbaum when it comes to signing a player. If it's possible and the Jets do not have to sacrifice too much, then you know Tannenbaum will pull the trigger.
Getting Asomugha is definitely a long shot, and regardless, the Jets are a Super Bowl threat again this season. "Joe Willie" Namath won the Super Bowl in his third professional season in 1969, and Mark Sanchez is trying to do the same in 2011. Whether or not a parade down Broadway is in the future rests heavily on the decisions Mike Tannenbaum makes over the next week.