A year ago, the Jets finished the season 4-12 and were faced with serious deficiencies of talent despite plenty of cap space. They were also dealing with questionable leadership in the football operations and coaching offices.
A year later, the Jets finished off a 10-win campaign with a vastly more talented secondary and receiving groups and bolstered talent -- most importantly at the quarterback position in the form of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
But the team's first double-digit win season since 2010 wasn't without problems. Despite the rise of Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall, the team struggled to find tertiary target options and the offensive line struggled to run-block all year. For the amount of money that was poured into the secondary, this group did not hearken back to the Revis Island days of yore … that place is now crawling with young tourists named DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Odell Beckham.
With their 2016 opponents now set, the sledding won't get any easier as they pulled a schedule of games including two of the toughest divisions: the AFC North and the NFC West.
Most fans are now left worrying what the team's offseason plan may be with many key players expected to hit free agency in March.
What will the Jets do now?
FIRST STOP: PERFORMANCE AND FINANCIAL BASED CUTS
With massive contracts looming for Muhammad Wilkerson and Ryan Fitzpatrick and contract questions for Damon Harrison, draft picks and free agents, the Jets clearly have some work to do and in my estimation will want to get to around $40 million in cap space before the start of free agency.
Which pieces can the Jets move on from and replace in the offseason? I've ranked them from most advantageous cuts to the least.
Quinton Coples (already realized $7.8 million 2016 cap savings from 2015 cut) - If we are looking at the 2016 cap, we have to start with this monumental in-season waive. Whether Coples was involved in an incident, scapegoated or just underperforming is irrelevant at this point. Maccagnan and Bowles saw the $7.8 million locked in for keeping Coples in 2016 on the horizon and they nipped a potential roster clog in the bud by releasing him before an injury might have made such a move impossible. While it was a shocking turn, it was a savvy move with eyes for 2016 that might allow the Jets to secure at least one more major free agent as a result.
Breno Giacomini ($3.8 million cap savings from cut) - If nasty after-the-whistle antics were what playing right tackle was about, Giacomini would be heading to the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately, right tackle is about run-blocking and seeing an opponent's best pass-rusher on a significant number of snaps. In PFF's grades, Giacomini ranked 135th among all offensive tackles and ranked 57th of all tackles who took 50 percent of their team's snaps. Simply put, the Jets are paying Giacomini for quality production and getting replacement-level play. New York would be better off paying someone significantly less for the same work, whether that player is a journeyman or draft pick.
Antonio Cromartie ($8.0 million cap savings from cut) - Cromartie had some valiant moments this year, but his level of play has either slipped or he's made too many "business decisions" in-game -- and the Jets suffered with extended usage of him. Cromartie graded out at below replacement level in a situation set up to his advantage. At the price tag going forward, there's no reason to keep him unless it's at a severely reduced rate. There was no shame in the Jets trying to make it work with Cro in 2015, but the shame would be clogging the salary cap moving forward.
Jeff Cumberland ($1.9 million cap savings) - Cumberland had little to no role in this offense and the Jets should move on and save the money that would otherwise be applied to him.
Jeremy Kerley ($2.5 million cap savings for post-June 1 cut designation) - Cutting Kerley doesn't save the Jets much, but based on the volume of play he sees, releasing him would free up rookie pool space as a post-June 1 cut designation. They could then simultaneously draft someone like the tiny Jakeem Grant (see some eye-popping Grant highlights here) to turbo boost their anemic special teams and wait for Grant to take on a larger offensive role in time.
Marcus Gilchrist ($3.7 million cap savings or $5.0 million for a post-June 1 cut) - Gilchrist was one of the better players in the Jets secondary and I don't expect that the team will let him go. But if the team really wanted to squeeze extra cap space, Gilchrist could be on the block. The problem here is that what they'd need to pay to relatively replace him might offset any savings.
Potential cap savings on all cuts: $19.9 million