A Review of the Jets 2012 Offseason
For the first time since 2007 the Jets had a very quiet free agency period. The Jets spent a lot of money in 2010 and 2011 extending former draft picks D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis, and David Harris as well as re-signing Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie so perhaps the well has run dry. The biggest free agent acquisition this offseason was S Laron Landry who will cost the Jets only $2.625 million in cap room (with the ability to earn more if he remains healthy). Though Landry has health issues he is an upgrade at a very thin position for the team. The Jets protected themselves in the contract in case of injury and he protected himself from the franchise tag next year. It was a win-win situation for the team.
The “splashy-est” move of the offseason came in the form of a trade for QB Tim Tebow, who will eat up about $2.57 million in cap space and is also responsible for a $500,000 dead money hit due to the signing bonus paid to Drew Stanton. I found this to be a strange move from a football perspective, but sometimes I think front offices can get overcome by a few small samplings that are impressive and maybe that is what happened here. Tebow’s fourth quarter comebacks last year were incredible and he did it against Jets coach Rex Ryan as well as Jets OC Tony Sparano so they both had first hand viewings of his heroics. Tebow’s game against the Steelers in the playoffs was more impressive than anything Mark Sanchez did in his four playoff wins and may have stood out as well. Ryan clearly was upset with losing the option QB last year and seemed to force it back in the games last year with Jeremey Kerley and Joe McKnight playing the Wildcat role, so maybe bringing in Tebow is a way for him to regain that aspect of the game.
Still Tebow is the most inaccurate passer in the NFL and his throwing motion seems incredibly long winded compared to other QB’s. It is hard to imagine a team that has had a terrible time developing anyone at the QB position will be able to tighten up the biggest project in the NFL. Maybe they see plays where he and Sanchez are on the field together though I have to think, that in the grand scheme of things, the Jets have Tebow pegged as their starter the second things go south for Sanchez.
The Jets are an interesting team in that they are extremely top heavy in salary cap dollars. The top 11 players account for about $69 million in cap dollars while 18 of the Jets top 51 are basically on minimum deals of the UDFA variety and 3 players are on the veterans minimum deals. That’s 21 players that could have a difficult time making a team elsewhere. In contrast New England’s top 11 costs about $63 million, Miami’s $65 million, and the Bills $59 million. Neither New England or Buffalo look to have any players in the top 51 earning less than $540,000, while Miami has 5. The Jets have 12. Those are probably the sacrifices teams must make when they decide to retain all of their best talent the way the Jets have and clearly the Jets need big contributions from the high priced guys to win.
The team has a large number of draft picks and need to make the most of them this season. The 2008 thru 2010 drafts really hurt the team as the contributions from them have been minimal. The Jets are still in desperate need of quality depth at the WR position. The WR corps of Holmes, Kerley, Patrick Turner and Chaz Schilens has more or less put the Jets almost right back to where they were in 2009 with Jerricho Cotchery, Chansi Stuckey and Brad Smith to begin the season. Could they revisit Braylon Edwards? Possibly, but if you follow him on Twitter you get the idea that he is in no way ready for an NFL season and perhaps could be done for good due to his knee problems. It seems they have no choice but to draft a WR. Safety is still limited even with the addition of Landry as the team only had 3 listed on the roster. Even if they decide to sign Jim Leonhard for the minimum it still does not fix the problems of last season. Tackle has also been a well-documented issue.
I get the feeling that the Jets are viewing this year as a hold the fort kind of season. It’s essentially the same team as last season with a potential change in the way they run the QB position. For the Jets to really improve this season it looks as if they will need to get A plus efforts out of Holmes and Ferguson, neither of whom played well last year especially Holmes. They also need contract year performances out of Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller, in addition to some more growth out of Muhammad Wilkerson, plus a couple of nice surprises out of the 2012 draft class. To ask for all of these things might be a little much. Some might say Sanchez is the key, but really there is no real reason to see a 4th year QB make some gigantic leap off year 3. Its small steps for him from here on out.
One other thing I would like to touch on is the Jets 2013 salary cap. There have been a few articles floating around about the problems the Jets will have with their cap in 2013 because of the low growth in the salary cap. My estimates have the Jets committed to about $127 million in salary for 30 players. Assuming all 10 rookies make the team that will grow by $7 million and we can estimate an additional $5.5 million to fill out the roster, bringing the total to $139.5 million. Barring some dramatic change in play the Jets will immediately cut ties next season with Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Wayne Hunter, and Eric Smith. That will save the Jets about $21.1 million in cap room assuming they are replaced by minimum salary players. That will bring the Jets down to $118.4 million in cap commitments. The Jets will also carry over additional credits from 2012, and if they make minimal moves from here on out should be around $4 million. Harris, Holmes, Mangold, and Revis can all be negotiated downward if necessary as well. Due to this I don’t see 2013 being some major problem for the team. It is a situation that maybe looks bad at first glance but is by no means a debilitating issue.