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The Free (Agent) Market

With the NFL season over after a thrilling Super Bowl, its time for 31 teams to figure out what went wrong and work to improve their chances for 2009. So what are the New York Jets going to do? The Jets currently have several pieces in place, as demonstrated by their seven players on the Pro Bowl roster (one of those spots is for Brett Favre, who didn’t really deserve the spot, but he’s taking the Sunday off anyway) but have several roles to fill if they want to compete in the always tough AFC. The draft scene is still in the process of shaping out, with the NFL Draft Combine a big part of that. But there are plenty of veterans available on the free agent market. Many Jets fans were stoked by the recent comments by Ray Lewis saying he would consider signing with the Jets and their new head coach, his old defensive coach Rex Ryan. But who can they get with their perilous cap situation?
Starting at the top with the aforementioned Favre, if the quarterback decides to come back for another year of wildly hocking the pigskin to whoever will catch it, even if they don’t play on his team, he will count for $13 million against the salary cap, putting the Jets over the limit and out of the free agency market. If he comes back, at least the Jets have the QB question answered. If he retires, and the Jets have money to spend, there aren’t a lot of great options. The top choices are veterans nearly as old as Favre, Kerry Collins and Kurt Warner, but it is unlikely either would leave their current teams, each of whom made the playoffs, especially since their respective coaches aren’t to enamored with their young backups (Vince Young in Tennessee and Matt Leinart in Arizona). With not many to choose from, and without a top tier, the second tier includes Jeff Garcia, who is as old as Favre, and Rex Grossman, who did lead the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl, even if he deserved the MVP for being the biggest reason the Indianapolis Colts won. The C-list features retreads currently wearing headsets, including Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch, Chris Simms, J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller, Charlie Frye and do you really want me to continue? None of these options is any better than Kellen Clemens. And forget about Matt Cassell, Bill Belichick would sooner castrate himself than let Cassell go to the Jets.
Several Jets fans want a flashy wide receiver to ignite the offense, especially after watching Larry Fitzgerald lead the Cardinals to the brink of a championship. T.J. Houshmandzadeh leads the pack, but there will be stiff competition for his services. But Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles form a solid one-two punch, and the Jets would be better suited spending their money in other positions, especially if tight end Dustin Keller and all-around dynamo Leon Washington become more prominent in the passing attack. But there are several quality receivers available who could fill the third receiver slot, such as Jabar Gaffney, Miles Austin, Antonio Bryant, Devery Henderson, Amani Toomer, Michael Jenkins, Nate Washington and Michael and Mark Clayton. At the right price, one of these guys could improve the Jets receiver depth, and take a little pressure off the top. The Jets offensive line and running game are all set, with a lot of money tied up in the current crop of players.
On the defensive side, the Jets are in sore need of a pass rusher on the strong side. Carolina Panthers standout Julius Peppers is on the market, and supposedly looking to get out of Carolina. He would look great in Green and White, but he might be too pricy for the Jets. Veterans Bertrand Berry, Chris Canty, Ebenezer Ekuban, Kenechi Udeze and Igor Olshansky could be a better fit. Olshansky has been in San Diego’s 3-4 defense, which makes him perfect for the Jets system.
The Jets have gotten inconsistent play from their linebackers. David Harris is the fixture in the middle, and Calvin Pace had some great moments during the season, but Bryan Thomas has been on and off more than a light switch and Eric Barton is past his prime. Lewis would be a great fit for the Jets, even in his advanced age, as a sparkplug and motivator for his teammates. And he really could end up a Jet, as his younger linebacker teammates, Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs, are unrestricted free agents as well, and each would command large contracts, and the Baltimore Ravens can’t bring back all three, and deal with their other free agents. There is a long list of free agent linebackers, topped with Napoleon Harris, Karlos Dansby, Keith Brooking, Channing Crowder, Angelo Crowell, Willie McGinest, Zach Thomas, Takeo Spikes and Mike Peterson. Crowder would be a great fit next to Harris and out of a Dolphins uniform. Maybe the Jets can find a linebacker on their own team if Ryan can get anything out of Vernon Gholston, maybe whatever it was that caused Eric Mangini to draft him.
It seems the Jets have been looking for a cornerback forever. Darrelle Revis is a cornerstone of the defense, but he needs a corner on the opposite side to help him stop the passing attack. Jabari Greer, Bryant McFadden, Dunta Robinson, Benny Sapp, Ricky Manning Jr. and Dominique Foxworth would fit right into that spot. Abram Elam might not be the long term solution at free safety, but there aren’t any better options on the market. There are even a couple of good punters available on the market, with perennial Pro Bolwer Shane Lechler available to the highest bidder. It must’ve made every Jets fan a little sick to see Ben Graham punting for the Cardinals in the Super Bowl.
If the Jets are lucky, a couple of the players mentioned here will be on the roster for 2009. Cap space and draft positions will determine everything that happens. And how much will the impending cap-less season in 2010 affect some owners and general managers? Championships can be traced back to the off season, and what personnel is brought aboard, and how they fit into the system. Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum have a lot of decisions to make, and hopefully Favre is out of the picture so they have decisions to make. Hopefully there won’t be to much to gripe about, but being Jets fans, I’m sure we’ll find something.

Jason Levy

1 comment:

  1. Jets should sign Miles Austin RFA Dallas Cowboys he is one of the best athletes NJ has produced


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