NFL free agency begins next week. Will the Jets release more players in an effort clear some more room? Will they be as active as they were a year ago? Who needs to get restructured contracts? What will happen with Ryan Fitzpatrick? As we already looked at highly unlikely outcomes, we now look at some uncertain outcomes that the Jets face.
Cutting Breno Giacomini before the start of free agency
Fresh off a trip the Jets sent Giacomini on to visit the troops, cutting the right tackle offers more than $4 million in usable 2016 cap space, however cutting him would provide no benefit should they not come away from the first two days of the NFL draft with their new starter at right tackle. Giacomini was awful in 2015, but with little positional strength behind their starters, the team is likely weighing how much they'd need to pay in free agency to chase down a new one.
Mitchell Schwartz, Joe Barksdale, Chris Clark and Andre Smith are all immediate upgrades over Giacomini, so if you start to hear any of their names in conjunction with the Jets, look for the team to dump Giacomini hand-in-hand with the signing of their new right tackle.
Find a free-agent linebacker
I fully expect the Jets to be in play for the interior linebacker position in the draft, and this year's class will have talented players readily available through the fourth round. Even so, they need to find some veteran depth.
Look for the Jets to ask Erin Henderson to return after a solid season. Henderson steadily gained playing time and played well in Todd Bowles' defensive scheme, and wouldn't use up much cap space, but don't expect the Jets to be in a big rush to lock Henderson down if other teams aren't chasing him.
Sign a tight end
For a team that plans to bring back Ryan Fitzpatrick, it would be wise to provide him another option in the passing game in the middle of the field who can also block. While it's true the Jets will see Jace Amaro returning from injured reserve, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan only offered that Amaro is a "wildcard" in their 2016 plans.
Scott Chandler, who was just cut by the Patriots, had success in Buffalo with Gailey a few years back and could sign with the Jets. Beyond Chandler, there are plenty of other low-cost options, like Dwayne Allen, Zach Miller, the aged Ben Watson and even the mercurial Jared Cook, who might fit with the Jets.
Modify Brandon Marshall and Nick Mangold's deals
From a drafting perspective, the Jets are now feeling the ill effects of the 2011-14 Mike Tannenbaum/John Idzik mismanagement cocktail. Of the five first-rounders in that span, only three project to be 2016 starters. (Don't even get me started on the 2012 class or the 2014 draft class after Calvin Pryor.)
Last year, the Jets used the available cap space (granted, set up by Idzik) to quickly become competitive with a flurry of free agent signings. Now, thanks to a lack of depth from the 2011-14 (especially 2012) drafts who should now be hitting their prime, the team has to decide whether spending a lot of money in free agency will help them stay competitive in 2016. The Jets need to have another solid draft class (or two) to make up for the deficiency of young, cheap talent to avoid the temptation spend deeply in free agency.
Look to the contracts of Marshall and Mangold as the leading indicator to their plans. Should Maccagnan convert the salaries of either (or both) of these players, expect the Jets to take another serious run at free agency. In the end, I expect the Jets won't make the splashy signings that they made a year ago, but they should make strategic pickups at a number of positions. In a worst-case situation, the team modifies only one of these contracts -- more likely Marshall's, thanks to the level at which he played in 2015.