No crazy signings or trades have happened yet, as far as we know. No, the New York Jets have spent this offseason much more quietly than the last few.
That isn’t to say they haven’t made the right moves so far. Former general manager Mike Tannenbaum and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano have been replaced by John Idzik and Marty Mornhinweg, respectively, giving the Jets some semblance of a fresh start. The cuts of linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, backup safety Eric Smith, backup tackle Jason Smith and backup tight end Josh Baker were smart moves too. The Jets entered the offseason more than $19 million over the salary cap, the worst situation in the league. Now they are $8.1 million under the cap, with still more room to improve.
That being said, the Jets can’t simply stop now and cruise to the draft. Too much else is going on – the Darrelle Revis saga, the quarterback carousel, and the futures of several free agents all still need resolution. If the Jets follow these seven steps, they’ll be in the best position they can be in come draft time.
1. Cut Tim Tebow.
We know it’s coming. The Grand Experiment failed. The Jets, like the rest of the NFL, no longer has use for Tebow. When the Jets cut their losses, they’ll gain $1,055,000 in cap flexibility. Sorry, Tebow fans. Watch for him in the CFL next season.
2. Restructure Santonio Holmes’ and Sione Pouha’s contracts.
Holmes may not be a West Coast-type receiver, but he is still arguably the most dangerous offensive weapon the Jets have when he’s healthy. He’s also set to make $12.5 million in 2013. Cutting him would only save the Jets $1.25 million in cap space, the other $11.25 million becoming dead money. Restructuring Holmes’ contract to save money but still keep him on the team and happy, while easier said than done, is a must for New York. Sione Pouha is the Jets’ only viable option at nose tackle. But he’s 34 years old and about to make $5 million in 2013. This is another contract the Jets should restructure, and if they’re going to do so, it needs to be by March 15, the third day of the new league year, before his salary becomes fully guaranteed.
(Quick tip for Jets fans: Check out nyjetscap.com for some excellent analysis of your team’s current financial situation!)
3. Trade Antonio Cromartie.
The New York Jets had the second-best passing defense in the NFL in 2012, with Darrelle Revis out for most of the year, and Antonio Cromartie was named a Pro Bowl cornerback. Still, Revis is the best cornerback in the league, and the only true star the Jets have on the roster, and it’s way too expensive to keep both him and Cromartie. The Jets should be trying to find a trade partner to whom to deal Cro, not Revis. He’s still good enough to get the Jets a draft pick or two in return, or maybe a starting-caliber linebacker, but most importantly, this trade would save the Jets even more cap space.
All of the above moves, particularly trading Cromartie, would save the Jets enough cap to give Revis the long-term deal he wants and deserves. Any Jets fan would be happier having Revis and Kyle Wilson as their starting cornerbacks than Cromartie and Wilson. The Jets’ front office, one way or another, needs to end the saga right now to prevent it from being a problem in training camp and beyond. If they’re going to part ways with Revis, let it be so, though I don’t think it’s the right move. There hasn’t been a single player as good as Revis that Jets fans can root for, no matter how bad the rest of the team is, since Curtis Martin. Trading Revis for whatever reason would isolate whatever remains of the fan base. (Jets fans: Get #keeprevis trending on Twitter!)
5. Sign back these three key free agents:
Braylon Edwards, LaRon Landry and Dustin Keller. Edwards is in his second stint with the team; he wants to be a Jet, something that can’t be said for tons of players. Edwards gives the Jets a reliable tall guy opposite Holmes while Stephen Hill still develops. Edwards, a healthy Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Hill combine to be a better receiving corps for New York. Dustin Keller is the best tight end the Jets have had in a while, and Jeff Cumberland is a good backup, but no starter should Keller get away in free agency. Tight end is especially important in Mornhinweg’s West Coast offense. LaRon Landry is a Pro Bowl safety the Jets simply can’t afford to lose after one productive season. Many of the other guys currently out of contract (I’m looking at you, Bryan Thomas) need to be let go.
6. Go ahead, sign David Garrard.
I don’t even mind. If a Matt Flynn trade is not going to happen, the least the Jets could do is a sign a system quarterback like Garrard to compete with Sanchez this year. Sorry Jets fans, but quarterback is the most difficult position to improve this offseason. If the Jets do fall on their faces again this year, with a better team around him, Sanchez can be unloaded much more easily for the Jets, and Rex Ryan will be gone as well.
7. If the cap allows, go after Andy Levitre.
The Buffalo Bills free agent left guard is one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the league, and the Bills just franchise tagged safety Jairus Byrd instead of Levitre, meaning he’ll most likely be on the open market. While the Jets should avoid a bidding war or an overpayment, if Levitre is a doable signing, it should be done. Guard is one of the Jets’ weak spots right now, and unless they draft Alabama’s Chance Warmack ninth overall in April, it’ll be tough to find a better guard who will drastically improve this O-line.
Adam Zielonka is 18 years old and lives in New Jersey. He is currently a freshman at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, studying communication and sport management, and has always been an avid writer. He was named a Hot 500 Contributor for the months of July 2012 and February 2013.