Over the next few weeks we will be looking at each position on the New York Jets roster and seeking your input on who you think should stay and who you think should go. Up next, the Jets' running backs.
Overview: Where to go from here? In some ways I am at war with myself. I know the current NFL to be one where running backs are mostly considered disposable commodities. Yes, the best running backs do add value to a team, though proportionally so much less than 15 years ago. I also know that the Jets' backups who are signed through 2016 are not even close to as good as the team's top two runners. Letting Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell simply hand over their duties to Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy could grind the Jets 2016 offense to a screeching halt. Should Powell and Ivory both walk, this group has the potential to be an unholy alliance of the 1995 and 2006 Jets backfields.
Expected to Return (3)
HB Zac Stacy, age 24
FB Tommy Bohanon, age 25
FB/LB Julian Howsare, age 23
Reaction: In short, this group needs more additions, through free agency or through the draft. With three halfbacks walking out the door, there's not going to be enough talent on the roster without some series of acquisitions. While Ridley and Stacy have seen extended time as feature players on other teams, their work in their first year with the Jets was not enough for me to want to see more feature work for them. Both graded out poorly in Pro Football Reference and below replacement level in efficiency on Football Outsiders. From a cap perspective these guys cost almost nothing to keep, but from a talent perspective the team desperately need to upgrade.
As far as the fullbacks, Bohanon again struggled in his work with the team and I expect they will bring in competition. One man who might get a chance at that is Howsare, who has a shot to become a special teamer but might also get an offseason to try his hand at fullback to see if he can find a place on the team.
On the bubble (3)
HB Chris Ivory, age 27 (pending free agent)
HB Bilal Powell, age 27 (pending free agent)
HB Stevan Ridley, age 27 (pending free agent)
Reaction: The Jets might only be able to bring back one player from this group and I think it might be Powell. Ivory played well during the season, but fell apart in the last month. While his running style is punishing, his history with injuries makes me wary of giving him another contract, especially in a year when cap space will be at a premium. It's likely that the Jets can retain Powell at a cheaper rate than they might with Ivory, and Powell's ability to run between the tackles or be used as a pass-catcher was a major part of the Jets' offense during the last six weeks of the season. Unless the Jets saw something different in practice than we saw in his time on Sundays, don't expect the Jets to bring back Ridley aside from on a minimum-level deal.