Several teams had worse years than the Jets, but I don’t think anyone had a weirder year. Turned into a circus in the offseason by the media, the Jets lived up to the hype. Neither Mark Sanchez nor Tim Tebow led a touchdown drive all pre-season, but after a blowout win over the Bills week 1 and another win against the Dolphins week 3, this time in overtime, the Jets stood at 2-1. However, they suffered a major loss in that win, losing Darrelle Revis for the season. The following week, they were blown out 34-0 at home by the 49ers, on the strength of a Santonio Holmes “fumble.” Holmes got hurt on the play and mindlessly tossed the ball up in the air, only to have it returned for a touchdown by the Jets. Holmes didn’t play again the rest of the year.
After winning 2 of their first 3 games, the Jets won just 2 in their next 9 games, including the infamous “butt fumble” loss to the Patriots, which caused top fan Fireman Ed to quit. Mark Sanchez was struggling mightily, but Rex Ryan was stubbornly sticking with him even though the Jets had spent significant resources to acquire Tim Tebow during the offseason, presumably to provide competition for Sanchez. However, Ryan told the media that Tebow was never brought in to be a quarterback and that his current role, a few snaps and odds jobs per game, was his intended role. That doesn’t make any sense considering what they gave up for him, but I wouldn’t put it past the Jets. They may have just brought in Tebow to attract media attention.
Of course, Rex Ryan may have been lying when he said that. It’s very possible that there was just a major disconnect between the front office and Ryan on the situation. The front office clearly wanted him there for some reason. They traded for him. But Rex Ryan wanted no part of him on the field. Unsurprisingly, the game Ryan finally benched Sanchez, a 3 interception performance in an eventual 7-6 win that might have been the worst NFL game of the season, was the game in which Greg McElroy was Sanchez’ backup because Tebow was hurt.
Sanchez got his starting job back, but not for long. After a 5 turnover performance in a very winnable MNF game against the lowly Titans, the man who apparently has a tattoo of his wife wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey finally benched Sanchez, but it was too late as the Jets had already been eliminated from the playoffs with that loss. Ironically enough, Rex Ryan completely skipped 2nd string on his depth chart and started 3rd stringer Greg McElroy over Tebow when Sanchez was benched.
McElroy played like the inexperienced former 7th round pick he was, showing no pocket presence whatsoever, taking a ridiculous 11 sacks, most of which were on him as he was only pressured on 17 drop backs. McElroy got hurt in that game and Ryan went back to Sanchez for week 17, a loss to the Bills, which ended their season at 6-10.
Rex Ryan kept his job, but everyone else was fired. GM Mike Tannenbaum, the man responsible for numerous terrible contracts over the years, was fired, as was most of Ryan’s coaching staff. Their quarterback for 2013 is still a major question mark, but it appears that Tim Tebow will not be brought back. Mark Sanchez will have to be back because of his salary, thanks to the ridiculous extension Tannenbaum gave him, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be the starter.
Where do I even begin here? Following the worst season of Mark Sanchez’ career in 2011, the Jets pursued Peyton Manning heavily last off-season, but he went elsewhere. The Jets apparently decided that was a good reason to give Mark Sanchez an extension, widely viewed as an apology extension, even though he showed major signs of stunted development. To make matters worse, the Jets then decided to trade a 4th round pick for Tim Tebow, less than a month after guaranteeing Sanchez’ salary for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. This allegedly killed Mark Sanchez’ confidence and he played like it, having by far the worst season of his career in 2013.
The worst of it all, they had no actual plans to use Tim Tebow. He played a few random snaps per game, generally ineffectively, and Rex Ryan said this was the plan all along. Because that’s worth a 4th round pick and a 2.5 million dollar salary. When Mark Sanchez was eventually benched for ineffectiveness, after the Jets season was already over, Head Coach Rex Ryan skipped right over 2nd string Tebow on the depth chart and promoted 3rd string quarterback Greg McElroy. This was apparently because Tebow didn’t look good in practice, but he’s never looked good in practice. That’s a widely known fact about him. The Jets had to have known that when they acquired him.
Tim Tebow may or may not have asked to be traded or cut this offseason, but either way, it’s hard to imagine him back with the Jets in 2013. The Jets have said they are “open” to moving Mark Sanchez this offseason, just like I’m “open” to going home with Miss Universe. Not happening. Because he’s owed a fully guaranteed 8.25 million in 2013, thanks to that ridiculous extension, no one will even give up a 7th round pick for him and they can’t cut him because that would be a roughly 16 million dollar cap hit. They may bring in competition for Sanchez and McElroy, but the early money is on Sanchez starting for the Jets week 1, especially with biggest supporter Rex Ryan being retained as Head Coach.
The Jets ranked 27th in the NFL in pass rush efficiency. Aaron Maybin, who was supposed to be a big part of their pass rush, was cut midseason. Calvin Pace is expected to be a cap casualty, owed 8.31 million in his age 33 season in 2013 after a terrible year in 2012, while Bryan Thomas is a free agent heading into his age 34 season. The only player who played a significant amount of snaps at the position expected to be back in 2013 is Garrett McIntyre, who didn’t play well in a situational role this year. They need at least one new starter at the position, maybe two. Unlikely to select a quarterback in the first round because of Sanchez’ salary, they could definitely take a pass rusher at #9 overall.
Both of the Jets’ starting safeties are free agents this off-season. Yeremiah Bell is a free agent heading into his age 35 season this year, while LaRon Landry has an injury history. Despite making the Pro-Bowl, he’s a pretty marginal player now even when healthy. Injuries have sapped his explosiveness and he missed 13 tackles last season. Injuries weren’t the only reason why he was pretty unwanted on the open market last off-season.
Mark Sanchez isn’t the only overpaid player that the Jets can’t cut this off-season. Santonio Holmes is owed 11 million in 2013. He’s not worth nearly half of that, but 7.5 million of that is guaranteed and the cap hit would be too huge to cut him. I guess he’ll be back as a starter, but I don’t think they can count on him. He’s not very good and he won’t be any better coming off a major injury. He’s also caused several locker room problems.
Stephen Hill will probably be back as the other starter opposite him. He’s not very good either, but the Jets have to give the 2012 2nd round pick another chance. He was widely considered a project and you can never write off a receiver after one year. Their top receiver last year was Jeremy Kerley and he’s the only receiver they can really count on next year, so they should add another one in the mix.
Shonn Greene is a free agent and he’s a pretty marginal talent anyway. If the Jets didn’t have so many other needs, I’d suggest they invest in an explosive running back to take some pressure off their quarterbacks, but the Jets might have to bring back Shonn Greene to continue splitting carries with Bilal Powell, a 2011 4th round pick who played well down the stretch.
Dustin Keller was the Jets’ leading receiver in 2011, catching 65 passes for 815 yards and 5 touchdowns, but injuries limited him to 28 catches for 317 yards and 2 touchdowns in 8 games this year. He’s a free agent and the Jets should try to retain him because, when healthy, he’s their best receiving option and last year was the first year he had ever missed a game in his 5 year career.
The Jets are rumored to be interested in franchise tagging him, but he didn’t seem too keen on that idea, saying “I signed a five-year deal, that’s what I agreed to. To make somebody play a one-year deal to something they never agreed to is crazy to me. It’s not legal in any other business, so it’s still, it’s just crazy to me. So no, I definitely don’t want to be franchised.” Apparently being given close to 6 million guaranteed should be “not legal.” It’ll be interesting to see if that deters the Jets from tagging him. The last thing they need is a drawn out franchise tag saga to add to all of their other drama.
Starting guards Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore are both free agents. They need to be retained and if they can’t be, they’ll need to be replaced. Who else’s ass is Mark Sanchez going to run into? In all seriousness, both Slauson and Moore are very talented players who the Jets can’t let get away. Vladimir Ducaase, a former 2nd round pick, would probably be thrust into a starting role if either one or both leaves, but he’s struggled whenever he’s been counted on to play thus far in his NFL career. Last offseason, he could even beat out the terrible Wayne Hunter and inexperienced journeyman Austin Howard at right tackle.
Both of the Jets’ starting middle linebackers could be cap casualties. Bart Scott is owed 6.9 million in 2013, his age 33 season, and at this point in his career, he’s only a two down run stuffer and not worth that amount. Meanwhile, David Harris was ProFootballFocus’ 48th ranked middle linebacker out of 53 last year and is owed 10.9 million in the 3rd year of a ridiculous 4 year deal he was given after the 2010 season. Demario Davis, a 2012 3rd round pick, played alright in limited action this year and is viewed as a future starter, but if they cut both, they’ll have to find someone to play next to Davis.
Austin Howard was a great run blocker in his first year as a starter at right tackle, but he struggled some in pass protection, allowing 10 sacks. Some of that can be blamed on poor pocket awareness by the quarterbacks and he actually graded out overall positively on ProFootballFocus (though negatively as a pass blocker), but I guess he could be upgraded if they could find an upgrade. I don’t know if it’s a pressing enough need, given all of their other needs, to be addressed this offseason.
3-4 Defensive End
Mike DeVito is a free agent. He’s a key part of their run defense and their defensive end rotation with Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson. If he isn’t re-signed, he’ll need to be replaced.
Fullback Lex Hilliard is a free agent. He was ProFootballFocus’ worst rated eligible fullback last year anyway.
Nick Folk is also a free agent. He’s had some struggles anyway.