NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — They are linked to a slew of players and have the money to pay them.
Jets fans need to buckle up, because once free agency officially begins at 4 p.m. on Tuesday there’s no telling how different the team will look in a relatively short period of time.
Second-year general manager John Idzik impressed many last offseason and during the regular season by using the limited resources he had to find temporary solutions to big problems, sometimes right off the street. And while the fixes didn’t exactly revolutionize the franchise, or turn it back into a playoff contender, they stabilized things and helped set the stage for what the Jets appear destined to do this week.
This offseason’s free agent class is not filled with stars, but it is loaded with very good players who can make differences in the right settings. The Jets reportedly have their eyes on many, both on offense and defense.
And with Monday’s release of wide receiver Santonio Holmes and the possible cut of quarterback Mark Sanchez, the Jets could be looking at in excess of $40 million to do their thing to help take the surprising 8-8 club from last season to the next level.
AREAS OF NEED AND OPTIONS
In no specific order the Jets would be wise to address receiver, tight end, offensive line, secondary and quarterback.
Right now the Jets have just two reliable wide receivers and neither are stars. Jeremy Kerley was a bright spot last season, catching 43 passes in 12 games, and is showing all the signs of becoming an elite slot receiver. Idzik took a flyer on David Nelson a month into the season and he shocked everyone by catching 36 passes.
But after those two, it’s slim pickings. Former second round draft pick Stephen Hill, despite his physical tools, has yet to take the next step and the aging Holmes was largely ineffective following a serious foot injury.
The Jets have been mentioned as having interest in, among others, free agents Golden Tate, Emmanuel Sanders, Dexter McCluster, Jacoby Jones and Hakeem Nicks. Other options could include Jason Avant, Julian Edelman, Andre Roberts and Sidney Rice.
At tight end, the Jets could target Jermichael Finley, Brandon Pettigrew or Ed Dickson, though it’s believed Idzik will look to draft a big pass-catching tight end to couple with recently re-signed Jeff Cumberland, who caught 26 balls for 398 yards and four touchdowns last season.
On the offensive line, the Jets are still trying to re-sign right tackle Austin Howard, who is coming off a very good 2013 season. He became a very reliable run-blocker and allowed just two sacks. Since line play is a lot about continuity, it would be a big loss if the Jets do not get Howard locked up.
The Jets appear ready to let veteran Willie Colon walk and have been rumored to be in the mix for any of linemen Jon Asamoah, Zane Beadles and Geoff Schwartz on the open market.
How Idzik tackles the secondary will be telling, considering it was the weakness of the defense last season, but wasn’t terrible. The Jets chose to release Antonio Cromartie on Sunday, saving them $9.5 million against the cap in 2014. Initially it was believed the Jets might try to re-sign Cromartie at a lesser rate, but it’s feeling more and more like the divorce will be permanent.
The prevailing thought is the Jets could try for one of the premier corners on the market to start opposite sophomore Dee Milliner, or they could try to hit a home run at safety and sign a serviceable corner. Names that fit into those scenarios include safeties Jairus Byrd, Donte Whitner, T.J. Ward and Chris Clemons, and corners Alterraun Verner, Aqib Talib and Captain Munnerlyn.
It is believed Byrd and Verner will command top dollars at their respective positions, so the other names listed above might make more sense.
As for quarterback, a position that always seems to dominate the drama in Jets land, the job appears to be Geno Smith’s to lose.
But who will push him? Idzik is likely taking a wait-and-see approach with Sanchez, who is due a roster bonus soon. If the Jets can land veteran Michael Vick or Josh McCown they will cut Sanchez, eliminating his $13.1 million cap hit. But if they strike out on either it will be interesting to see if they roll the dice on the Sanchez distraction or pursue someone like a Matt Schaub or draft a signal-caller earlier than they would like.
Also, don’t rule out the Jets possibly pursuing a running back to upgrade either Bilal Powell or Mike Goodson. Names that have been touched on in various reports include Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren Sproles, though both figure to be highly coveted league-wide.
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