By Paul Wanecski
The New York Jets surprised a lot of people in 2015. A new head coach, new general manager and a total change in the coaching staff and a free agent quarterback who is seeing his forth team in four years is not typically a recipe for success. Above all that, the Jets roster has been a disaster for the last several years with awful investments in free agency. Along with that, they have been terrible on draft day. So, can they maintain the success they saw this last year into 2016?
Head Coach: Todd Bowles
Offensive Coordinator (Rank): Chan Gailey
10th YPG, 13th Pass, 10th Run
Defensive Coordinator (Rank): Kacy Rodgers
4th YPG, 13th Pass, 2nd Run
Make no mistake, the Jets know they need to win this year. They are an aging team who is on the verge of cleaning house. They have very little cap space and large commitments to some very old players. They will be aggressively restructuring contracts of veteran players to free up space this year and they are likely willing to trade any player for draft picks given the lack for money. While some free agent investments make sense, they will need to get creative.
The Jets gave the “poison pill” to Muhammad Wilkerson by way of the non-exclusive franchise tag. He can sign with any team that wants him at the $15.7m tag number for one year, however, the signing team would give up two first round selections. That is simply not going to happen.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson has been solid the last few years,however, no way he is worth the $14m he is set to count against the cap this year. Actually, Ferguson along with Nick Mangold (who will count $8.6 and $9m this and next year)and Brandon Marshall ($9.5 and $7.5 this and next year) might actually get their contracts extended a few years to spread the salary cap figure out a little, even if the team doesn’t anticipate these players seeing the end of that deal.
Darrelle Revis is, amazingly enough, only 30 years old. His contract is fully guaranteed this season and the Jets are strung to his contract until after 2019. They could convert some of the base into a signing bonus to free up some money, but, that means that he will cost money to trade or release until 2018 at the earliest.
Buster Skrine’s contact made zero sense when they it was signed. The Jets were clearly overpaying him. Now at only 26 years old, if they think he is going to be worth keeping around, they could add on one more year to his current contract, restructure some of this guaranteed money into signing bonus and tag a roster bonus to the final year to free up some space.
A simple restructure of Marcus Gilchrist means the team will not save as much money if they release him in future years, but it’s not like he is signed until forever; his final year is 2018. Taking his $5m base salary and converting as much as $4m into a signing bonus almost $3m this year.
Geno Smith’s release will save $1m. To define his tenure as dreadful would be an improvement on the words that I want to use, but find unprofessional.
Breno Giacomini is a not worth $5.625, so his release is $4.375m.
Jeremy Kerley is not worth the $3.1m he is set to make if he is going to produce like he did in 2015. His release saves $1.3m.
Speaking of overpaid wide receivers, Eric Decker is a great number 2 next to Brandon Marshall. If Marshall is ever moved, Decker should be next in line. His cap number is $8m this season. The Jets could trade him, but his salary in future years is pretty high. It would be impressive if they found someone to take him. They could release him and save $3.5m
Ryan Fitzpatrick should be resigned, unless the team things Bryce Petty is really ready to take the reigns. Even if he is, signing Fitz-Magic is still the best bet. His salary is going to seem high, but no one is going to pay more than $9m per season to him, even with the contracts of Sam Bradford raising the value of the average quarterback.
They cannot afford to resign Demario Davis with the investment they made in David Harris last season. He will not be brought back.
Erin Henderson, if signed less than $2m a season, is a great value signing.
Calvin Pace will not be brought back. This draft is loaded with outside talent.
Damon Harrison is among the best tackles in football, if not one of the premier nose tackles playing right now. He did not play every snap last season but was a terror when he was on the field. He is a great run-stuffer, which inside AFC East is pretty important. They need to find a way to bring him back.
Willie Colon’s time with the Jets is over.
Chris Ivory was….fine. They were running him like they stole him last season, so they might look to grab a younger back in the draft. With the salary cap restrictions, they will be out of the running for the top three free agent backs, but could be in play for someone like Arian Foster.
This could go anywhere. The logical choice is that the team will snag an outside linebacker to replenish the depth and youth of that position. Leonard Floyd from Georgia will still be on the board.
And why not draft a running back, right? If Ezekiel Elliott is on the board, he is the right mix of bust-potential that usually makes the Jets drool. While many scouts look at the hands and power, I don’t see the vision that I would want as a first rounder. This has never stopped the Jets.
If Miami doesn’t trade back, Reggie Ragland from Alabama is a fit here. They might also roll the dice and draft Jaylon Smith. The Jets might think they can wait a year. The defense with Bowles will consistently be a force. The offense not so much. While the team might THINK they can invest a year, it is not a great idea.
And with a mess at the tackle positions (and not a free agent group that you can depend on), if Taylor Decker slides down, he would move immediately to the vacant right tackle spot. Jason Spriggs will also still be on the board at this position.
One concern is that the team will target the freak athlete and no one in this draft fits that as much as Emmanuel Ogbah from Oklahoma. Knowing that Wilkerson is really just here for this year (players really hate the non-exclusive tag because of the cost that teams must give up to acquire, no one is ever really a serious player), they might look to get a guy who could just be an animal to replace Calvin Pace outside.
They will not want to make an investment in any running back. They will kick the tires on Doug Martin, Matt Forte, Arian Foster, but the real target is likely Alfred Morris, who will come at next to nothing.
Sean Weatherspoon is a forgotten man, after missing a lot of 2013 and 2014 due to various injuries. He will be affordable and would love to play in a system like Bowles’, which depends so heavily on the linebacker play.
Junior Galette will interest most teams in the NFL. He is young and was a monster with regard to getting after the quarterback with New Orleans. A torn Achilles took his 2015 season and he has a suspension that is pending to start in 2016. His issues have been off the field, but for near league minimum, you would be foolish to pass on the talent that was so impactful in 2013 and 2014.
by Mario Granata, Paul Wanecski and Ryan Lasal
For much of the past 16 years, the Buffalo Bills were hammered for letting talent get away and move onto to greener pastures across the NFL landscape. Well, in 2015 they opened up their checkbooks and bought some new toys. They re-signed Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes to keep their (at the time) 4th ranked defense in tact, trading for and extending LeSean McCoy from Philadelphia, stole Charles Clay from Miami, and took a gamble on two others with Richie Incognito and Percy Harvin. All of those moves were a direct result of not having a 1st round pick in 2015 (which was part of the cost in acquiring WR Sammy Watkins in the 2014 NFL draft). The aggressive offseason last year places the Bills in a less-than-ideal salary cap situation now, which will require additional focus on acquiring talent in the draft and in reworking contracts of current players that will either need to be extended, restructured or released. It is about to be very interesting at One Bills Drive.
by Ryan Lasal
From being a game away from the Super Bowl to out of the playoffs, the 2015 campaign for the Colts was as disappointing as they come. The fact that Chuck Pagano still has his job shows either an extreme faith in the coach, or an extreme stupidity on the part of the front office. Either way, one has to assume that Pagano is on his last legs in Indy. If things don’t turn around fast, and another year of Andrew Luck is wasted, Pagano will be out and this article will look vastly different next season.
by Mario Granata
Jekyll and Hyde could be used to describe a lot of teams in the NFL, however that moniker couldn’t be truer than for the Detroit Lions. One week they would perform well, and the next it is like they are an expansion team. Newly anointed GM Bob Quinn has a tall task heading into the 2016 free agency period, as he will have to answer some questions as to the state of his team. Calvin Johnson’s impending retirement, resigning Haloti Ngata or not, and will Jim Bob Cooter be the shot caller for Matt Stafford in the long run are all on the table for him, but with his resume of being a scout and executive for the New England Patriots from 2000-2015, he might just be the man that the Lions need.
by Mario Granata
As the Rams pack up the trucks and make the move from the midwest to Los Angeles, they do so with some uncertainty. The hot button topic happens to be the fact that RGIII needs a team, and the Rams, who orchestrated the most forgettable swap of picks for player might be his landing spot is just to funny to write about. So, I promise to only mention it about 10 times in this article. In all seriousness, the Rams who were in the toughest division in football for the past few years are in a position to make a run if they can cross their T’s and dot their I’s.
by Mario Granata
Now, I will admit there are some articles or stories that I just don’t ‘feel’ when I start to write. Ray Rice, Johnny Manziel, and Tom Brady are just players that I don’t want to even approach for various reasons, but when it comes to the current article that you are about to read, I circled the date on the calendar. Why, you ask? Because the Raiders are on the verge of being a potential powerhouse, yes, powerhouse in the NFL and I am pushing all my chips to the center of the table on that. Am I foolish for such a prediction? Maybe. However, Mel Kiper Jr. is wrong all the time, and he still manages to hold down a steady paying job, so I am not too worried if the Raiders fail me, but I have a feeling that they won’t. Here is why:
by Mario Granata
Now that the Chip Kelly experiment is over in Philadelphia, the Eagles are primed to start anew, with a completely revamped coaching staff and a new direction as they head into 2016. The one thing that is working in the Eagles favor is that new coach Doug Pederson doesn’t have a resume large enough for the rest of the league to calculate his tendencies, although he should have the pulse of Philly having coached there under Andy Reid from 2009-2012. As for the fans of Philadelphia, there might not be any ‘Brotherly Love’ if the Eagles stumble out of the starting blocks in a questionable NFC East.
By Paul Wanecski
New Orleans Saints general manger Mickey Loomis might be my favorite general manager in the NFL, but not for the reasons that you might think. He has negotiated some of the worst contracts in recent memory while living in the fantasyland that his team is still competitive. Honestly, if it was not for Tom Benson and his family internally (and legally) struggling for control of the franchise, I doubt Loomis would still be employed. The Saints are, and have been, in serious trouble.
By Mario Granata
The Monsters of the Midway haven’t been a team to reckon with since 2010, and with an aging quarterback at the helm, and a switch at coordinator, it’s no surprise that the Bears are picking outside of the Top 10 in this year’s NFL Draft. Can the Bears turn it around for the 2016 season? They have a lot of new faces not just on the coaching staff, but also on the field that could make an impression going into another year. They have cap space, they have talent, but will they make it all come together to take on the division?
By Paul Wanecski
Out with the old, in with the new. Let’s get this out of the way early; the New York Giants are not rebuilding. The have plenty of cap space (over $40m) and they will be players in the free agent market in support of first year head coach Ben McAdoo. With the 10th overall pick, the only thing they won’t be doing is drafting a quarterback.