The Jets made it to 8-8 in 2013 and while it seemed a respectable finish, the team will have plenty of draft picks and salary cap room to get better. Beyond re-signing players like Austin Howard, Nick Folk and potentially even Calvin Pace, what other moves should the Jets consider for 2014?
1) Start the salary purge.Should he stay, Santonio will get a million dollar roster bonus if he is on the roster after March 13. That to go along with his $9.5 million cap figure. Tone's 2014 number offers $8.3 million in savings should he get cut before March 13th and a million less if the Jets pay that bonus. Mark Sanchez's contract offers $8.2 million in savings, but look to see if the Jets don't try and trade him first ... there won't be a very good veteran quarterback market this season so the Jets might see what they can get from a team like the Seahawks or Rams.
Those two moves would put the Jets at about $38 million in cap room. Cromartie is the wildcard, he offers the team and $9.5 million in savings should he get cut ... but what will the Jets do with him? Reduce his cap figure to keep him? Cut him outright? No one seems to know yet.
2) Find a competent second receiver who can produce and pay that player accordingly (not like Santonio was)
I think the Jets would be wise to draft a receiver in the first two days of the draft. This is a good class and there's a number of players who could come in and help jumpstart this Jets offense from day one. Even so, the Jets will also need to consider their free agency options to round out the team's targets besides David Nelson and Jeremy Kerley. This class might not have a Mike Wallace type receiver in it, but there are a number of decent players that the Jets can pay fair market value and expect to get some decent production from such a move. The Seahawks 2011 signing of Sidney Rice is the sort of move that I envision ... but maybe for less money. Rice got a five year $41 million deal from the Seahawks at time and Rice was injured during that year, but finished with the team's second-most yards all the same.
We won't dig in yet too much on the list of names, but there is a decent little class of free agents for the type of player whom the Jets might be in the market. Established names like James Jones and Emmanuel Sanders might be nice choices, but there are a number of other options who might be compelling to the Jets. Players like Golden Tate, Riley Cooper or Eric Decker might be of interest and might all not cost as much as others. There's also some risky players like Jeremy Maclin (ACL injury) and Kenny Britt (hot mess) who could be available for not that much money at all. Almost anyone but Hakeem Nicks, please.
3) Find one longer term upgrade at Guard from either Winters/Colon?
We suspect that the Jets are going to try and push Oday Aboushi and Will Campbell into the "competition" for guard next summer, but we have serious concerns if that would be the sole plan. The Jets would be wise to carry at least one veteran starter into the season, much like Willie Colon ended up being. Colon was fine for the Jets in 2013 and while the Jets might bring him back as camp insurance in 2014, between him and rookie Brian Winters it was a rough go for the Jets. If the Jets want to get better at the run and pass, they should consider upgrading one of the guard spots for 2014 with an outside talent. The list of free agent guards doesn't look that impressive, but others might come available due to salary crunches on other teams or back even through the draft.
4) Now that the Jets will have some money, go after a luxury signing on defense at either safety and/or outside linebacker.
There are going to be some good safeties available this season and the Jets would be smart to explore their options in that area. LaRon Landry softened the blow of losing Revis for the season in 2012 and while the Ed Reed experiment did end on a positive note, they needed a better coverage safety running the defense and doing so efficiently earlier in the season. That would have saved the Jets quite a bit of heartache.
We liked what we saw from Antwan Barnes early in the season, but he's had some injuries to battle in the last few seasons so the Jets might want to consider adding a player at outside linebacker who can rush the passer. While a Brian Orakpo type of talent might be nice, the player that the Jets would bring in need not be a Pro-Bowler, what with the stout defensive line to help the OLB get favorable matchups.
5) Invest in a third down running back and returner
Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell have their strengths but the Jets need a more dynamic presence on third down. Mike Goodson was supposed to be that player for the Jets in 2013, but now with a host of draft picks the Jets would be wise to find a player who could come in and work on returns as well as third downs.
The Jets return game was not up to their normal standards in 2013. Clyde Gates, Mike Goodson and Josh Cribbs all suffered season-ending injuries and while that was unfortunate, the Jets will need to consider finding a player who can add value to the team in that fashion through the draft. The Jets need to find another Leon Washington type player to come in and help this team on third downs. Mike Goodson was a holdover option in 2013 and might be allowed to compete for a spot in 2014, but the Jets need to consider getting younger at that critical position for a team with a young quarterback where field position counts.
There's plenty more moves that could and should be made, like adding a tight end and taking a look at available corners (should they cut Cro) but that was our five.
Add yours in the comments!