Here’s some thoughts about the Jets free agency now that all the franchise tags are settled. In total, 21 team used the tag this season and here’s some quick hits about what I think some of the moves mean to the league, and even possibly the Jets.
In the East — The only other player franchised in the AFCE was Welker, which seemed like an obvious choice. Welker has been the lifeblood of the Patriots offense and while the team might look to try and sign Welker to a longer-term deal, I don’t expect Welker would do anything like Matt Light did back in 2010 when the Tackle held out for much of the season due to a long and ugly contract dispute. Welker seems like too much of a gamer to miss out on time on the field.
Receiver Set — Other than Welker, there were two other receivers franchised: Dwayne Bowe of the Chiefs and DeSean Jackson of the Eagles. Neither were considered options for the Jets, but look to see where some of the other receivers move to this offseason. As of now, they have a hole at the WR2 spot, assuming that they don’t bring Plaxico back.
Marques Colston,Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Mario Manningham, Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon will all be looking for paydays and some of them might find homes in the AFC East. Most notably, there’s now rumors that the Bills might make a serious run at Vincent Jackson. Colston might be someone the Jets consider, but the Jets ought to consider how effective he can be outside of Sean Payton’s system … and without Brees throwing to him. Due to his age and under-utilization Mario Manningham seems like the player most likely to break out in 2012 of that group.
Cool Brees — Allowing Drew Brees to hit open free agency would have been madness by the Saints, so to see them tag their star QB was no surprise. What it of course means is that players like Marques Colston and Carl Nicks will get to walk free to free agency in just over a week. Of the two, I’d only expect the Jets to have eyes for Colston since the Jets issues aren’t on the interior of their line, but their Tackle spot … in other words, Nicks wouldn’t solve any problems.
Safety Dance — With Dashon Goldson, Tyvon Branch and Michael Griffin all getting tagged, it pretty much ensures that the free agent safety class is going to be sparse at best. This of course might drive the Jets to re-sign players like Jim Leonhard and/or Brodney Pool and also might drive up the demand for a player like Mark Barron during the draft process.
Can’t Keep Running Away — Ray Rice and Matt Forte were both tagged, while Peyton Hillis was not. The Browns tagged K Phil Dawson instead, meaning that Hillis will get a chance to see what his value on the open market might be.
In Like Flynn — Matt Flynn was not tagged by the Packers, which means that he will be able to walk free. Does this make it more likely that he will end up in Miami and playing the Jets twice a year? Better Matt Flynn than Peyton Manning? Yeah, I thought so too. Flynn will be looking for a starting job, but what if he can’t find one? Would he consider a backup job on a team where support seems to be in question for the starter … like say … New York?
The Specialists — This year saw a raft of special teamers getting franchised, ironically two of which were former Jets. Punter Steve Weatherford (NYG) and Kicker Mike Nugent (CIN) both were tagged on their teams, in addition to Phil Dawson (CLE), Connor Barth (TB), Josh Scobee (JAC) and Matt Prater (DEN) all got tagged, which is more about keeping special teams consistent since the money is so low. It’s interesting since Mike Westhoff said he thinks that this might be the best specialist class he’s seen in years … expect the Jets to find a punter or kicker in the draft this year.