New York Jets 2015 NFL Off-Season Preview

Positions of Need

Quarterback

Geno Smith didn’t really work out. In 2 seasons with the Jets, he completed 57.5% of his passes for an average of 6.88 YPA, 25 touchdowns, and 34 interceptions on 810 pass attempts, while rushing for 604 yards and 7 scores on 131 carries, an average of 4.61 yards per carry. This shouldn’t be a surprise as the track record of quarterbacks drafted in the 2nd and 3rd round over the past decade and a half isn’t much better than the track record of guys selected in the 4th round or later. With both Rex Ryan and John Idzik gone, the current regime has no loyalty to Smith and will try hard to replace him this off-season. Unfortunately, they might have won too many games at the end of the season to get either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston, but if one of those two falls to them at 6, I expect them to pull the trigger and either way this is going to be tops on their to do list.

Cornerback

Gone are the days of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. This year, Darrin Walls led all Jets cornerbacks in snaps played with 776. Going into this season, he was a 2011 undrafted free agent who has played 391 snaps in 3 seasons combined and he predictably struggled in 2014. After him, their next three players in terms of snaps played at cornerbacks were converted safety Antonio Allen, undrafted rookie Marcus Williams, and journeyman Philip Adams, all of whom also graded out below average. Dee Milliner was drafted 9th overall in 2013 to be a long-term starter at cornerback, but he’s played in just 16 games in 2 seasons combined thanks to injuries and hasn’t been that good when he’s been on the field. He could put it together in his 3rd year in the league in 2015, but there are no guarantees, especially since he’s coming off of a torn Achilles tendon. Even if he does, they’ll need another cornerback this off-season. A reunion with Cromartie would make sense, as Cromartie was dominant for new Jets head coach Todd Bowles last season when Bowles was the defensive coordinator in Arizona.

Guard

Right guard Willie Colon struggled last season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 66th ranked guard out of 78 eligible. After missing 36 out of a possible 48 games from 2010-2012 with injuries, Colon has made all 32 starts over the past 2 seasons, but it’s very possible that he’s simply not a starting caliber player anymore psychically, with his injury history and going into his age 32 season. He’s a free agent this off-season and the Jets should not bring him back as a starter. Meanwhile, at left guard, Brian Winters has been a disaster since they drafted him in the 3rd round in 2013. He was Pro Football Focus’ 77th ranked guard out of 81 eligible as a rookie and last year he was 65th out of 78 eligible, despite playing just 381 snaps. Oday Aboushi, a 2013 5th round pick, took over the starting job from him week 7 and was better, but only by default. Guard help is needed this off-season.

Wide Receiver

The Jets have made two big moves to add to their receiving corps over the past year. They signed Eric Decker to a 5-year, 36.25 million dollar deal with 15 million guaranteed and they traded a mid-round pick to the Seahawks for Percy Harvin mid-season. Decker has worked out fine, catching 74 passes for 962 yards and 5 touchdowns in his first season in New York, despite horrible quarterback play, but Harvin was a weird move to begin with and could easily be an off-season cap casualty. Harvin was traded by the Seahawks mid-season even though they were contenders because he missed 15 games with injury in 2013, got into conflicts with his teammates, and had just 22 catches for 133 yards and no scores in 5 games to start 2014. The Jets traded for him even though they were out of the mix and even though he had a non-guaranteed 10.5 million dollar salary schedule for 2015. Harvin wasn’t bad, catching 29 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown, but the regime that brought him in is gone and he’s not worth 10.5 million. He could easily be cut if he doesn’t agree to a paycut and if the Jets do that, they’ll need to add another receiver so they can keep Jeremy Kerley in the slot. Amari Cooper makes a lot of sense at 6th overall if he’s still available.

Safety

Calvin Pryor looked like a keeper in his first year with the Jets, after they drafted him 18th overall in 2014, but they have a hole next to him at safety. Dawan Landry was Pro Football Focus’ 9th ranked safety in 2014, but he has an inconsistent past and he’s a free agent going into his age 33 season. If he’s not brought back, he’ll need to be replaced and even if he is brought back, adding depth and a long-term successor makes sense.

Middle Linebacker

Another veteran who is a free agent this off-season is David Harris, who is going into his age 31 season. Harris finished up a 4-year, 36 million dollar deal in 2014, but he was never really worth that kind of money, grading out below average in 2 of 4 seasons and maxing out as Pro Football Focus’ 18th ranked middle linebacker in 2013. Even if he’s brought back, depth and a long-term successor opposite Demario Davis are needed.

Outside Linebacker

Quinton Coples, Calvin Pace, and Jason Babin were their primary edge rushers last season. Babin played very well in 2014, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 9th ranked 3-4 outside linebacker, despite playing just 470 snaps, with no one playing fewer snaps and grading out better than Babin at his position. However, he’s going into his age 35 season, as is Pace, who struggled in 2014. Coples, meanwhile, has been decent in 3 years with the Jets, but he hasn’t quite lived up to his billing as the 16th overall pick in 2012 and the Jets have a big decision to make on his future this off-season, as he heads into a contract year. Long-term depth is needed at the position.

Running Back

The Jets signed Chris Johnson to a 2-year, 8 million dollar deal last off-season and it didn’t really work out. Johnson finished 2nd on the team to Chris Ivory in both carries (155) and rushing yards (663). Owed a non-guaranteed 3.5 million this off-season, the Jets could easily cut him and add a cheaper complement to Ivory, who rushed for 821 yards and 6 scores on 198 carries, but is useless outside of the tackles and in the passing game.

Key Free Agents

MLB David Harris

As I mentioned earlier, Harris signed a 4-year, 36 million dollar deal 4 off-seasons ago and played out the entirety of the contract despite never really being worth that money, grading out below average in 2 of 4 seasons and maxing out as the 18th highest ranked middle linebacker in 2013. Now he hits free agency going into his age 31 season. He’s still a starting caliber player, but he’s on the decline and shouldn’t be given a deal with much if not any guaranteed money beyond 2015.

S Dawan Landry

Landry was Pro Football Focus’ 9th ranked safety in 2014, but I have skepticism over his ability to keep that up. For one thing, he’s going into his age 33 season. He also graded out below average in 4 of 5 seasons from 2009-2013 before last season, though he did rank 4th in 2010 and he’s played in all 96 games over the last 6 seasons. He should still be a starter next season, but, like Harris, he shouldn’t be guaranteed anything beyond 2015 on his next deal.

QB Michael Vick

Strictly a backup at this stage in his career, Vick completed 52.9% of his passes for an average of 4.99 YPA, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions last season on 121 attempts. Going into his age 35 season, he isn’t going to draw much interest as a starter and will likely have to be a backup somewhere again and won’t make nearly the 5 million he made in 2014.

G Willie Colon

Colon could be done as a starting caliber player in the NFL. He’s going into his age 32 season and coming off of a season in which he graded out 66th out of 78 eligible guards. He’s made all 32 starts over the past 2 seasons combined, but he has the type of injury history (36 games missed in 2010-2012 combined) where it’s definitely plausible that he could be done at his age. He’ll probably be signed at some point, but he could have to wait a while and he won’t get a guaranteed starting job or more than a one year deal.

DE Leger Douzable

Douzable has never played more than 423 snaps in a season (which he did in 2011) and he didn’t even play in 2012, but he’s graded out above average in every season in his career other than that 2012 season when he didn’t play and 2010. Only going into his age 29 season, Douzable is a valuable reserve who specializes in stopping the run. He’d be a solid cheap signing for a team.

CB Kyle Wilson

Wilson was a bust as a 2010 1st round pick. He’s graded out below average in each of the last 4 seasons and made just 27 starts in 5 years with the Jets, including just 1 over the last 2 seasons combined as he could barely get on the field, despite massive issues at the cornerback position. 2012 was his only season as a starter, as he played 966 snaps and made 15 starts, and he graded out 72nd out of 115 eligible that season. He’s going to have to look at short-term deals with little guaranteed money this off-season.

Cap Casualty Candidates

WR Percy Harvin

This seems logical. Harvin is owed a non-guaranteed 10.5 million in 2015 and hasn’t been close to worth that over the past 2 seasons since signing a 6-year deal worth 63 million 2 off-seasons ago. He missed all but 1 game with injury in Seattle in 2013, reportedly caused locker room problems that got him kicked out of Seattle, and combined for 51 catches for 483 yards and a touchdown in 2014 between the Seahawks and the Jets. Even in brighter times in Minnesota, he never went over 1000 yards in a season, missed 10 games in 4 seasons with injury, and had issues at times with his coaching staff. Some kind of restructured contract could be in order, but the Jets would only owe the Seahawks a 6th round pick if they cut him, whereas they’d owe them a 4th rounder if they keep him on the roster.

RB Chris Johnson

CJ2K is long gone. He’s still incredibly durable, having missed just one game in 7 seasons in the league, and he totaled 1000+ rushing yards in 6 straight seasons from 2008-2013, but, by the end of his time in Tennessee, that was mostly on volume than anything. In his final season in Tennessee, before they cut him, he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, including just 1.8 yards per carry after contact. In his first year in New York, he was more efficient, averaging 4.28 yards per carry, but that was because of decreased volume as he had just 155 carries. Going into his age 30 season, with 1897 career carries, he’s only a part-time player at this stage of his career and he’s not worth the non-guaranteed 3.5 million dollar salary he’s owed in 2015. He was also recently arrested.

TE Jeff Cumberland

Cumberland played all 16 games in 2014, playing 926 snaps, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst overall tight end. He caught just 23 passes for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns on 369 routes run and struggled as a run blocker as well. Cumberland is owed a non-guaranteed 1.9 million dollars in 2015 and could be cut, a move that would save that total amount on their cap immediately. With 2014 2nd round pick Jace Amaro set to have a bigger role in 2015, the Jets could easily let Cumberland go.

OLB Calvin Pace

Pace wasn’t horrible last season, grading out 39th out of 46 eligible 3-4 outside linebackers, but he wasn’t very good and he’s going into his age 35 season. He’s graded out below average in each of the last 3 seasons so the Jets could cut him and save 2.125 million in cash and cap space immediately. They might also opt to keep him for the final year of his contract or he could just outright retire.

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