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Thoughts on the Jets Free Agents

Iíve gotten more than a few requests to post some thoughts on the Jets free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, so away we goÖ

Restricted Free Agents

Austin Howard- He started all 16 games last year and is definitely someone the Jets will want to keep even if they intend to draft another player that may play tackle in the future. I would not see interest in Howard being high around the NFL as he has had stints in Philadelphia and Baltimore before signing with the Jets in 2011 when they plucked him off the Ravens practice squad. While the Jets could consider protecting their investment with a second round tender of $2.023 million I think the better option is to just go with the right of first refusal tag for $1.323 million. Nobody would offer him such a deal that the team couldnít match anyway since he is not a high level player.

Jeff Cumberland- Cumberland didnít play terribly last season and the Jets are going to be short on Tight Ends so you could do worse than Cumberland back again. Iíd guess he will get the ROFR tag and the Jets will end up negotiating that number down to around $900,000 and will guarantee him a spot on the roster.

Tanner Purdum- I donít think the Jets will tender Purdum and will instead see if they can reach a 3 year contract agreement with him. The average long snapper makes in the range of $900,000 a year so if they are happy with the way he plays doing a deal worth between $2.4 and $2.7 million with a small signing bonus is probably best for both cap considerations and the future of the team.

Josh Mauga- No chance he will get a tender, He will get a camp invite for the minimum salary but I can not see anything more than that.

Unrestricted Free Agents

LaRon Landry- I think Landry is probably more popular with the fanbase than he is with NFL execs. Originally seeking top tier money, which I discussed a long time ago as being a dream, Landry seems to have backed way off those numbers now looking for a more reasonable $6 million a year. Landry negotiated a no franchise tag clause in his contract, but at this point I wonder if he wished he did not do that. He played last season on a deal for $3.5 million as a prove your worth deal and even though he lasted the year healthy and made the Pro Bowl you just donít hear his name mentioned as a prime free agent target. There are a number of better Safeties who are free agents and I think he is lost in the shuffle. At this point taking the $6.483 projected tender and trying again next year might be best but that isnít an option.

I tend to think the Jets like Landry, but with the team rebuilding would not want to commit long term to him. I could see him approaching the Jets about playing on a 1 year deal worth around $6.5 million just as if they tagged him which they can probably make work if he holds off for a week while they get their cap in order. Id say its 50/50 he comes back.

Dustin Keller- The fact that the Jets did not re-sign Keller last year tells me they donít expect him back. Normally the Jets would have torn up a contract last year and done the extension but they didnít and allowed him to take up a larger percentage of the salary cap to play out his rookie contract. While his injury hurts his value I cant imagine it pushed it lower than clearly inferior players like Marcedes Lewis of the Jaguars. That is too rich for the Jets blood. Most likely he walks away and the Jets will get draft pick compensation for him.

Yeremiah Bell- The veteran was a solid addition to the Jets secondary and an upgrade over 2011 Because of his age Bell will not have many suitors so I would expect him to stay in NY, though it may take a two year contract to ensure it, though its going to be a pretty cost effective contract.

Mike DeVito- Personally I think the Jets need him back. He is versatile and can play the inside where his lack of pass rushing ability is not a problem. I still say their best defensive front next year would be Coples, DeVito, Pouha, and Wilkerson playing the 4 man front but I donít think it will happen. The Jets seemed to nearly cut DeVito last season when they forced him into a small paycut after drafting Coples. Had he refused my assumption is he would have been cut. There may also be some concerns about his long term durability. Buffalo has more cap room and I think will offer him a contract that the Jets wonít think is reasonable to match based on their internal projections of his abilities.

Matt Slauson- Slauson is another player I would not mind having back as he is underrated in pass protection which in todayís NFL is far more important than run blocking. That being said he also fell victim to the paycut or be cut strategy last year and was getting pulled every few series for Vlad Ducasse last season. While Slauson wonít have a high price tag I think he was done with the Jets last season and I donít think he would come back unless he had no other offers. I think Rex wants big mauling linemen and that is not Slauson who at times gets manhandled at the point of attack against the run.

Brandon Moore- I thought it was clear that Moore slowed down last season and having completed 10 years in the NFL starting to take a toll on his body. The difficult part of this for the Jets is that they are losing a leader if they do not bring him back as neither Ferguson nor Mangold seems to have taken the mantle of leader in the manner the team would have hoped. While Steve Hutchinson has more name value Moore is the far better player and younger so I have to think he will push for a bigger deal. Hutchinsonís deal was a 3 year contract worth $16.5 million with $6.5 million in guarantees. 4 years for $22 million and $9 million or so in guarantees for a 33 year old guard seems like a bit too much for a rebuilding team. I donít think its really a salary cap issue as they can just push money off into 2014, but more of a feeling that its time to move on. My guess is they draft his replacement.

Shonn Greene- You simply do not pay players like Greene once their rookie contracts expire and I find it hard to believe that the Jets will bring him back. He isnít explosive nor a punishing runner. He is a non-factor in the passing game. There will likely be a team or two that falls in love with the fact that he ran for over 1000 yards but it wonít be, nor should it be, the Jets.

Braylon Edwards- I think its important to bring Edwards back for a number of reasons. The guy loves the team and will be a major locker room plus. He meshes well with Sanchez and even with the injury potential is a big target for a 4th WR. He will only cost the veterans minimum which this year means a cap charge of just $620,000. Iíd be disappointed if he doenst come back this year.

Nick Folk- Iím 50/50 on Folk. If the Jets were a more competitive team I think it would be important to find someone with a bigger leg that may be able to handle the elements better. But since they are not competitive is it going to really hurt the team to bring him back for $620,000? Probably not. This isnít a developmental position so it could be a situation where they do bring him back with minimal guarantees and bring in a younger leg to compete with him. If he wants more than $65,000 in guarantees I would let him walk.

Lex Hilliard- He was a midseason acquisition that could get an invite to camp but I wouldnít be surprised if the Jets donít even extend him an offer until after the draft and they look at a number of UDFAís. He may not even fit in with the new offensive system .

Chaz Schilens- The knock on Schilens has always been durability and he did nothing to change that perception. Doubt he comes back unless he needs to fill in for injuries during the season.

Bryan Thomas- The Jets probably should have walked away last season. His off the field issues now keep him from getting a little retirement ceremony.

Overall

Itís certainly an interesting free agency period for the team. Including special teams that is 11 starters from last season. If it was up to me I would likely keep 5 of them (Howard, Purdum, Bell, DeVito, and Slauson) and make offers to Cumberland and Edwards to come back. Iíd explore Landry and Moore and see if a decent financial agreement could be made but Iím not really tied to either guy. To some this probably seems like too few guys to bring back as we are all fans of the team and I think we grow attached to our guys. But the fact is the Jets need new blood. This is a team that has not competed for the last two years and you donít overpay for name value mid tier free agents when this is the position you are in.

The way I look at it is if the Jets were to catch lighting in a bottle as they did in 2006 it would have nothing to do with having a player like Greene or Moore on the team and unfortunately they will clog your future cap when that lightning subsides. If this was the 2010 Jets I could see a stronger case being made to bringing certain players back, but its not 2010. Its 2013 and these Jets are eons away from a championship game. At this point you only bring back long term solution guys or those willing to do one year contracts. Anything more than that will not help the team get back on track after two disappointing years.

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