Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comWhile the majority of the splashy signings of free agency are now done, let’s take a look at how the dust settled for the Jets. Did the Jets upgrade their roster? What might it mean for other acquisitions between now and camp?
Moves: Cut M. Sanchez, signed M. Vick
Assessment: After clearing $8.3 million off the books by cutting Mark Sanchez, the Jets signed Michael Vick only moments later. The Jets have been loosely linked to Vick for more than a year. After Vick agreed to return in Chip Kelly’s first year as the team’s coach, Vick and the Jets were finally able to work out a deal.
Vick’s new Jets contract is telling; while the quarterback received a one-year $5 million deal, that’s not the whole story. Vick’s contract consisted of a $2 million signing bonus, $2 million in guaranteed salary and then he can earn up to $1 million in playing time incentives. What does this mean? It means that the Jets are on the hook for $4 million which is only slightly more than many teams pay for a veteran backup quarterback.
The Jets badly needed to address quarterback depth and Mark Sanchez wasn’t going to be the right answer. Both sides needed a fresh start and Vick was by far the best quarterback on the free agent and/or trade market. Geno Smith showed promise late in the 2013 season and while we’re told he’s ahead of Vick on the depth chart and that Vick was brought in as a mentor to Smith, expect an open competition between the two quarterbacks.
Regardless, the Jets lessened the gap between whoever becomes the starter and backup substantially with this signing. From a pure football standpoint, this was an excellent move for a team badly in need of stability at the game’s most important position and unlikely to be able to draft an impact quarterback come May 8th.
Moves: Cut S. Holmes, signed E. Decker
Assessment: Cutting Holmes was two years in the making and finally provided cap relief for which the team was waiting. Holmes production slipped drastically after his free agent contract in 2011, regardless of his 2012 season-ending Lisfranc injury. Adding Eric Decker over Santonio Holmes is a big upgrade for the Jets and they did so by giving Eric Decker a very Jets friendly deal that lets the team out of the contract with potential savings after just two years if necessary.
At 6’3″ 214 lbs Decker provides the Jets a versatile starting receiver who can contest passes in traffic, work well in the red zone and occasionally get behind a defense. Decker will take some attention away from Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson and allow them to be more productive but look for the Jets to add another receiver who could be the second starter between now and day two of the NFL Draft. The Jets were rumored to be interested in DeSean Jackson and the Jets front office and coaching staff have been diligently checking out many of the top receivers’ pro days. With a receiver rich draft class, the Jets should feel confident in the level of player they could add before the fourth round of the draft.
Assessment: The Jets have made no moves at the running back spot but have expressed interest in Maurice Jones-Drew, former Jaguar standout. Jones-Drew would be the perfect short-term answer for this team, a versatile running back who would likely be asked to play a third-down role but could perform expanded duties if required, a necessity with the oft-injured Chris Ivory as the team’s lead runner. Jones-Drew is one of the best pass-blockers in the league and has played behind a poor offensive line in Jacksonville for years. Jones-Drew would be a dynamic addition for the Jets but Jones-Drew is looking for the team willing to pay him the most. There’s been a number of teams interested in MJD, but the Jets aren’t in a rush to add the veteran it seems … they might look for a player with similar skillsets through the draft, or hope that either Mike Goodson or John Griffin can bounce back and be a durable and reliable player for this team.
Moves: Re-signed J. Cumberland
Assessment: Prior to the start of free agency, the Jets re-signed Cumby to a deal that seemed well below what might have turned out to be his market value. While Jeff Cumberland might see a more featured role in the Jets offense in 2014, the team’s fleeting interest in Brandon Pettigrew and Jermichael Finley would suggest that the team would consider upgrading the position given the right circumstance.
Zach Sudfield might be a compelling project for the Jets, and he seemed to get more reps as the season wore on, but going into 2014 with just Cumby and Sudfield seems unlikely. At present, the free agent prospects are pretty slim, so look for the Jets to either upgrade during the NFL draft or after any future cuts that might take place as fallout from the draft.
Moves: Re-signed W. Colon, signed B. Giacomini
Assessment: Losing out on bringing back Austin Howard might sting a little, but the money that the Raiders paid him to become a guard was not plausible for the Jets to match. Howard was a good two year holdover for the Jets, but his athletic upside was limited and he was breaking down by the last four games of the 2013 season. Re-signing Colon and adding Giacomini are short-term solutions for the Jets. Giacomini received a four year deal but the structure of his contract provides no barrier to cutting him in the second year of the deal if the Jets so choose. The right side of the Jets line won’t be great in 2014, but it won’t be outright bad either.
We suspect that the Jets will try and give some of their second year players shots at winning the right guard spot during training camp. Look for Oday Aboushi and Will Campbell to be in the mix come the preseason games. These moves are likely lateral, but until we see it on the field the group feels weaker. The Jets didn’t draft three offensive linemen in 2013 and stash another (Colts 2011 second rounder Ben Ijalana) all last season for no reason, the team wants to grow at least some of those players into eventual starters for this team. The Jets had some brief discussions with Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz among others, but it would seem that while players of that caliber would have provided major upgrades to the group, John Idzik was unwilling to tie up the money and roster spots with such player … giving us a strong indication of how he perceives his project players. Time will tell.