With Money to Spend, How Do Jets Approach Free Agency?

The landscape of the NFL changes every year in early March with the start of free agency and dozens of players changing teams. The New York Jets have over $50 million in cap space this year, and are looking to make a splash with that ammunition.

Previous Moves

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

The NFL has recently implemented a “legal tampering” period in the days leading up to the new league year. While no deals can become official until 4 PM EST on March 10, they can be negotiated and often agreed to in this time. The Jets have made a couple moves, re-signing a defensive leader, trading for a veteran wide receiver and reportedly parting ways with a big name.

Jets trade Fifth-Round Pick for Brandon Marshall:  With question marks surrounding the wide receiver position, the Jets made an aggressive move early, acquiring veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall from the Chicago Bears in exchange for a fifth round pick. The Jets will pair Marshall with Eric Decker to form what looks to be a dynamic receiver duo. Marshall comes with some slight character concerns, but has compiled seven 1,000 yard seasons in his nine year career and looks to make an immediate impact in New York.

David Harris re-signs for 3 Years, $21.5 million: The Jets retained their defensive leader in linebacker David Harris after speculation he may have been reuniting with former coach Rex Ryan in Buffalo. Instead, the Jets keep the linebacker that played 99.4% of defensive snaps last year and has had over 123 tackles each of the last three seasons. Harris is the heart and soul of the Jets defense and the team kept him for three more years on a reasonable deal.

Jets expected to release Percy Harvin: Sometime before the start of the league year, the Jets are expected to part ways with 26-year-old speedster Percy Harvin. The move should come as no surprise, as Harvin’s $10.5 million cap hit does not correlate to his production on the field. With the addition of Marshall to the receiving corps, Harvin becomes even less valuable to the team. The Jets should add even more cap room by cutting Harvin.

Targeted Players Signing Elsewhere

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

Quarterbacks Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett expected to sign in Houston: It’s no secret that the Jets are looking to add competition at the quarterback position with Geno Smith. With no top-tier starters available this offseason, adding a backup, veteran, or young quarterback are the Jets few options. Two such options, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, are both expected to play for the Houston Texans next year. Hoyer had an average season as the Cleveland Browns starter last year, and Ryan Mallett never got going in Houston before going down with a season-ending injury. Both quarterbacks had upside and could’ve competed with Geno Smith, but both are now off the board.

Devin McCourty stays in New England: Safety Devin McCourty’s services were highly coveted this offseason, and he appeared set to hit the open market after the New England Patriots didn’t place their franchise tag on him. The Jets were one of the few teams equipped to pay big for McCourty’s services with their cap space, and could’ve utilized his talents on defense. McCourty had many suitors but ultimately stayed pat in New England, signing for 5 years and $47.5 million.

Ndamukong Suh lands in Miami: While serious talks never developed, the Jets cap room made them a potential destination for Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Jets were not serious contenders in the Suh sweepstakes, but it’s notable that he signed within the AFC East. Suh adds to an already stout Miami defense and could wreak havoc on the Jets offensive line for the next six years.

Potential Targets

The News Tribune
The News Tribune

CB Darrelle Revis: The Jets are thin at the cornerback position, and a fan favorite and former All-Pro Jet is on the open market. Revis is said to be very open to a reunion with the Jets and could excel until defensive-minded coach Todd Bowles. Reportedly there will not be a league-wide bidding war for the shutdown cornerback, but rather a two team race between the New England Patriots and New York Jets. The Patriots recently gave Revis his first Super Bowl ring, and may be able to retain him based on their winning culture. The Jets, on the other hand, are still trying to build a contender, but could likely offer Revis slightly more money. It appears Revis will be staying in the AFC East, and a return to the Jets could instantly ignite their defense.

CB Antonio Cromartie: Another former Jets cornerback on the open market is Antonio Cromartie. In his ninth NFL season last year, Cromartie enjoyed a successful season under current Jets head coach Todd Bowles in Arizona. Cromartie proved he can still be a very productive player and will likely seek a payday this offseason. While it’s unlikely the Jets can reunite the Revis-Cromartie tandem, he is a reasonable and logical backup option if the Jets can’t land Revis.

G Mike Iupati: Pro Bowl San Fransisco 49ers guard Mike Iupati is reportedly garnering interest from the 49ers, Bills, Raiders, and Jets. With San Fransico likely letting Iupati walk as his price is driven up, he would be a good add to the Jets offensive line. Iupati has made the Pro Bowl each of the past three seasons and would instantly upgrade the offensive line in New York.

RB C.J. Spiller: With the arrival of LeSean McCoy in Buffalo, C.J. Spiller will not be back with the Bills and will be searching for a new team when free agency begins. Spiller has been under-utilized or injured for the majority of his NFL career, so it’s interesting to see what a change of scenery could do for the speedy, 27-year-old running back. The Jets could use an upgrade at running back after the failed Chris Johnson experiment and under the right circumstances Spiller could be a focal point of the Jets offense. As many as seven teams are rumored to be interested in Spiller, and he reportedly is looking to take his time in free agency, so don’t expect a quick signing.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: After Brian Hoyer is signed and Ryan Mallett retained the Texans are expected to part ways with former Harvard and Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Jets are rumored to have strong interest in Fitzpatrick as competition for Geno Smith. Fitzpatrick has bounced around the past few years but is a solid option under center, with a career high 95.3 quarterback rating last year along with 17 touchdowns and 8 interceptions for the Texans. Fitzpatrick could start for the Jets or provide good insurance as a backup.

Conclusion

The Jets have over $50 million to spend this offseason, but no truly franchise altering players are on the open market. Cornerback should be addressed, and could be the area where the Jets spend most of their cap room. The Jets will then look to add some depth at wide receiver and on the offensive line, and retool at running back. With so much cap room it’s a shame the Jets don’t have elite options available to them, especially at the quarterback position.

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