by Paul "Closer" Wanecski
If you are a Buffalo Bills fan, no team should be more interesting than the New York Jets. With the hire of former Jets head coach Rex Ryan, Bills Nation stands to benefit from the inevitable annexing on the horizon within the current Jets’ roster. With a new head coach in Todd Bowles coupled with the addition of new general manager Mike Maccagnan, a purge and rebuild of the franchise is all but a match and stick of dynamite away from happening.
The Jets have fallen victim to making poor personnel decisions. Rumblings by most Jets fans call these recent years “the worst back-to-back general managers in the history for the world.” Regardless if you find that to be true or not, it is clear that football choices have not gone well. Currently the Jets have $69 million devoted to the defensive unit with only $29.5 million to the offense. They hired a defensive coach in Todd Bowles, whose system displayed the need for cornerbacks who can play man coverage with not much help over the top from the safety, requiring a high football IQ. The Jets do not have those players. The offense was near embarrassingly bad last season. They took a big chance bring in two wide receivers on massive contracts which brought minimal results. They have a lot to clean up with $48.9 million in cap space to do it.
The fact that this article is written when Percy Harvin is still on the Jets roster is mind-boggling. The Jets can cut Harvin, whose contract is the 3rd highest among his position, with no impact to the 2015 salary cap. Seattle had to absorb all his bonus money when he was traded last season. That saves $10.5 million and a 4th round pick; if Harvin is cut before this draft, the Jets send a 6th round instead of the 4th round selection. Paying someone to catch a pass means nothing when you aren’t sure if your quarterback can recognize the difference between yours and the opponent’s uniform.
C Nick Mangold’s contract is also out of hand, as he contributes $10.4 million to the salary cap. Releasing him saves $7.4 million, although restructuring his deal would be best, as the team already has a glaring offensive line need.
Chris Johnson has seen his last days as a running back in a Jets’ uniform. Set to make $5.25 million, releasing him saves over $3 million in cap space.
OLB Calvin Pace finds himself in a similar circumstance, where playing time will be given to a younger, more affordable player. Pace’s release saves $2.125 million in cap space (note: Bills fans, Pace will cost about 7 million less than resigning Jerry Hughes).
LB David Harris was among the most consistent defensive players in 2014. While his contract was inflated last year (and no team would come close to paying him the $9 million he got last season), his return is crucial for the defense. If they let him walk, do not be surprised to see the Bills jump all over him, too.
Quarterback couldn’t be a higher priority, but with the 6th overall selection it would take a pretty unique situation for Tennessee to pass on one of the top two QBs and no other team trade up ahead of the Jets. Drafting a QB in the early 1st round is unlikely unless they can find a way to move up. Sacrificing future 1st round selections would not be in the team’s best interest given the layout of the roster. It is possible the Jets do not select a QB with the 6th overall selection and instead trade back into the late spot in the 1st round for Brett Hundley (UCLA). This would give them an option year after the standard 4 year rookie contract, which is something they didn’t do with Geno Smith who was a 2nd round pick. (Check out the Rookie Wage Scale for more details).
They are desperate for cornerbacks, which will be readily available in round 3. While everyone talks about tackle Brandon Scherff (Iowa), the best fit for New York would be La’el Collins (UCLA). While Collins is projected to move into guard because he isn’t seen as being able to handle NFL edge rushers at the tackle position, he plays with a nasty streak and is a dedicated worker who is noted as a “Finisher”. Of course projections are ultimately an educated guess. He would be better than any option they have at tackle not name D’Brickshaw Ferguson.
With the new general manager coming from the Houston Texans’ organization, you have to imagine that the Jets become the front runners to sign quarterback Ryan Mallett. Houston had acquired Mallett last season from New England with 1 year remaining on his rookie contract. He is currently a free agent. Signing him would give New York a young arm with upside that was a trade target by multiple NFL teams.
Cornerbacks will also come pouring in. As Todd Bowles takes over the team, free agent and former Cardinal Antonio Cromartie is noted by fellow players to wanting to return to the team that released him less than 16 months ago. His arrival would be a major upgrade, as all cornerbacks on the current roster are making a combined $3.1 million ($620,000 each on average). You may also see the likes of Houston CB Kareem Jackson, San Diego’s Brandon Flowers, Seahawks Byron Maxwell or even the return of Darelle Revis. The cornerback position is an absolute mess currently, so this will be high on the priority list. This is a coach that, given his track record of defensive success, may make the Jets a target landing spot in free agency.
Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale