Self-Scouting: Unrestricted Free Agents

While free agency won’t begin until the end of February, we wanted to take some time to look at the Jets free agent lists, and write up some initial thoughts about their future status with the Jets.  Lastly, the Unrestricted Free Agents.

Bryan Thomas — Rex Ryan loves Bryan Thomas, mostly because of Thomas’s versatility.  Thomas might not be an OLB playmaker like a Terrell Suggs, but he can stuff the run, set the edge, cover the pass, and even rush the passer a little.  Mike Pettine and Rex Ryan both said repeatedly this season that they missed his versatility once he was injured and out for the year.  Thomas is in the late stages of his career, so the Jets might try and lowball an offer to him to see if he will stay.  Ultimately it might come down to Thomas.  Take the money elsewhere, or return to the Jets at a discount?
Likelihood of return — Moderate 

Sione Pouha — Despite a quiet start of his career, Pouha has become an invaluable part of the Jets defense.  The Jets have drafted what should be his eventual replacement in 2011 in Kenrick Ellis, but the team could still use Pouha and his run-stuffing skillset for a few more years.  Pouha is a business man and is smart enough to know that this is his best chance at a high dollar deal, but seems to have the loyalty to want to return to New York. The Jets and Pouha will likely strike a modest deal to keep the NT around for a few more years.
Likelihood of return — High 

Jim Leonhard — Leonhard took a discount to come play with the Jets in the first place, now two season ending injuries later, he’s a new father and staring at what will likely be his last bet shot at an NFL contract.  Leonhard’s a safety that plays bigger than his frame and who has been an important part of the Jets defensive successes in the past three years.  Leonhard will most likely have to take whatever the best offer is that comes his way, and for various reasons, I don’t know if that contract will come from the Jets.
Likelihood of return — Low

LaDainian Tomlinson — Tomlinson was clearly disappointed at the way his teammates treated their Quarterback, and that has to leave a bad taste in his mouth.  The Jets have three young running backs on their roster between Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell that would appear to have futures with the Jets.  LaDainian is contemplating retirement, and might do just that.  The way the season ended has to be hard, and Tomlinson is also still chasing that elusive championship.  He’ll either retire, or end up where the money and role is right and he thinks he stands a good chance of contending.
Likelihood of return — Low

Robert Turner — You have to feel bad for Robert Turner.  Turner wants desperately to be a starter, and this year would have been his best chance to showcase his abilities (with Mangold’s injury) it if he hadn’t been injured in the preseason.  The Jets seem set with Slauson and Moore at their Guard spots.  But the Jets are going to be cap conscious and Moore holds a $3 million savings for the team was to cut him this offseason.  Maybe Turner returns to the Jets as a starter, but as an UFA he’ll try his best to find a starting job, despite his injury, before returning to the Jets on a short deal.
Likelihood of return — Moderate

Kevin O’Connell — Greg McElroy might have made some questionable comments a few weeks ago, but in all likelihood McElroy will be vying #2 QB for the Jets in 2012.  There’s no need to pay a veteran backup like O’Connell whose promise has worn thin.
Likelihood of return — Low

Mark Brunell — Players have been anonymous, but open in saying that they thought Brunell didn’t pose enough of a challenge to Sanchez.  Brunell was a smart option when they needed a safe backup to not dangle over the head of their young QB.  If the Jets want to keep him on, they need to do so as a coach.
Likelihood of return — Low

Plaxico Burress — Plaxico might be physical and have a great span to reach out for passes, but it’s obvious he is past his prime and isn’t enough help to the Jets “star” receiver to bring him back.  The Jets need someone who can command the occasional double team, and that’s not Plax … especially between the 20s.  Plax was very helpful in the Jets red zone offense, but not enough to justify the price tag.  The Jets will be bringing back Jeff Cumberland and it’s likely Patrick Turner will return too.  For the Jets, that should be enough of the big-bodied targets … unless Plax is willing to retun on a veteran minimum deal as a third receiver … maybe.
Likelihood of return — Low

Nick Folk — Folk has been consistent for the Jets, and has been able to use the new kickoff rules to his advantage.  The Jets will likely try and bring back Folk on a short, low-money deal.
Likelihood of return — High 

Brodney Pool — I get why Rex Ryan has mixed feelings about Pool, and didn’t make him the priority in the offseason at the safety spot.  Pool has the coverage and physical skills, but seems to more routinely blow coverage due to mental mistakes than their other safeties.  Don’t mistake me, Eric Smith gets burnt, but it’s not because he doesn’t know his role, he just can’t fill it.  Pool will be someone that the Jets might have to just “think of England” until they can come up with some better option.
Likelihood of return — Moderate

Donald Strickland — Strickland was a player that the Jets brought in because they lost Drew Coleman, not for any real love of his Strickland’s skillset.  With much more time to scour the free agent lists, they’ll find someone they find more suitable and with more upside to fill the fourth corner spot.
Likelihood of return — Low