Coming off a miserable season, the Jets are in a difficult offseason position. They don't project to have much cap room, at least until they start cutting some high-priced players. And whatever cap room they do create might have to be spent on the quarterback they so obviously and desperately need.
And since they'll have to replace many of the players they cut, they may not have much room to re-sign their own players. The good news, though, is coming off a miserable, 5-11 season it's not like they have a lot of unrestricted free agents they absolutely can't live without.
There are a couple worth bringing back, though. Here's a look at their list of free agents, and how hard they might try to re-sign them:
G Brian Winters - The Jets' offensive line was a mess and will almost completely be rebuilt, but the one young player they can't afford to lose is the 6-4, 320-pound right guard. He's shown steady improvement over his four-year career, and at age 25 he'd likely be a coveted player if he hit the open market. The Jets may have to replace both tackles this offseason. Some stability on the interior would help.
NICE, AT THE RIGHT PRICE
QB Geno Smith - Go ahead and laugh if you want, but remember that head coach Todd Bowles originally tapped Smith as his starter in 2015 before the infamous punch that broke his jaw, and he got a second chance midseason before he injured his knee. He was once a second-round pick and is still only 26 years old and, for whatever it's worth, has proven to be better than Bryce Petty (and probably Christian Hackenberg, too). If the Jets bring in a veteran quarterback (Mike Glennon, maybe?) Smith would be a solid backup. If they go young (Petty, Hackenberg, the draft?) Smith could be a good option to start until the new guy is ready. Of course, all this is assuming he even wants to come back.
T Ben Ijalana - He filled in admirably for 13 games this season, including seven for the injured Ryan Clady at left tackle. Though he's a former second-rounder and has good size (6-4, 322) he's not an elite tackle and probably would be better on the right side. He could be a good shorter-term option there, or would provide some nice depth, which the Jets also need.
LS Tanner Purdum - He's been a steady presence for the Jets since 2010 and likely wouldn't cost much to keep. Good long-snappers don't get noticed until they're gone. With all the Jets' other problems, they shouldn't mess with one of the things that actually works well.
LB Josh Martin - He's a good special teams player who wouldn't cost much at all. He also likely won't drum up much interest on the market, so he could be a late-spring signing.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - The Jets were iffy on bringing him back last offseason after his outstanding 2015 when they were 10-6. There are no ifs about it this offseason. The Jets need to move on from the 34-year-old and finally find their quarterback of the future. Fitzpatrick's future is likely as a backup (again), but he'll be better off filling that role someplace else.
S Antonio Allen - He's a replaceable special teams player whom the Jets initially didn't bring back last season. He ended up rejoining them in Week 2 after he was cut by the Houston Texans, but he hardly played safety at all.
TE Kellen Davis - He's 31 years old, spent the second half of the season on injured reserve with an elbow injury and caught zero passes this season. The Jets need to upgrade this position (and use it more in the passing game) and Davis won't be part of that plan.
LB Bruce Carter - He's a depth player and special teamer, but still useful in those roles and is only 28 years old. The Jets have a lot of linebackers on their UFA and RFA list, most of whom are younger with more upside.
LB Corey Lemonier - Played one game with the Jets and had one sack. Sure he's only 25 years old and was once a third-round pick, but in 2016 he was cut by both the Browns and Lions. Maybe at some point he gets an invitation to training camp. Maybe.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
The Jets have four of these, but only two who are really worth the tender price, which might be $1.8 million. And since they don't have a ton of cap room -- and have a lot of needs -- they have to be careful even with tenders to the two worthy RFAs -- C Wes Johnson and CB Marcus Williams.
Johnson filled in well for the injured Nick Mangold last season. Even if the Jets bring back Mangold at age 33 -- far from a lock given his age and recent injuries -- they'll need a good backup, and Johnson might be their center of the future. Williams, meanwhile, has shown flashes of being a solid cornerback, even as the entire Jets secondary struggled. As they move on from Darrelle Revis -- at least as a cornerback -- they'll want to have a stable of young, promising corners from which to choose.
Meanwhile, LB Mike Catapano is a fine reserve and young, but the price is just too high. They certainly won't tender TE Brandon Bostick given how useless all their tight ends were this season.