Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comHere’s some upcoming important dates for the NFL and the New York Jets.
February 17 – Franchise or Transition Players tags begin
Comment: As we discussed last week, the Jets will likely forego Franchise or Transition tagging anyone of their free agents. Even on the open market, they should be able to retain players for less than tag costs.
February 19-25 – NFL Scouting Combine is held in Indianapolis
Comment: The Jets have done a solid job with the draft since 2011, but this year is a huge chance for them to build on some of their mid and late round successes. This draft class will offer the Jets an incredible opportunity to address depth all over the roster by finding players that fit their system to make this roster both young and deep for the next five years in all three phases. The Jets front office will sit down with some pending free agents like Austin Howard and possibly Nick Folk. Also look for rumors of the Jets trying to move Mark Sanchez here.
March 3 – Deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players
Comment: This is the more important date for the Jets as it will help them map free agency. If the Jets decide to be players in free agency, do any of their potential Jets targets in free agency
March 8 – Clubs can contact and enter into contract negotiations with agents of pending free agents. Contract cannot be executed with new teams until 4 pm (ET) on March 11.
Comment: While deals can’t be executed this is where free agency begins. With a large amount of cap space expected for the Jets, the team could be very active during this initial period as they look to set up framework deals with potential targets. Look for the Jets to make one or two big signings on the offensive side of the ball alone, let alone some sound investment in the secondary during free agency.
March 11 – Clubs must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts which they desire to retain first right of refusal by 4 pm (ET).
Comments: There aren’t many restricted free agents for the Jets this year and they might not make a single qualifying offer this year. Even so, the Jets should do their best to keep an eye on Nick Bellore. Bellore was a standout special teamer for the Jets in his kick coverage in 2013, ranking 12th on kick coverage among all qualifying special teamers per Pro Football Focus. With Ben Kotwica moving to Washington the Jets would be wise to keep the lines of communication open with Bellore.
March 11 – All clubs must be under the 2014 salary cap prior to 4 pm (ET) and all 2013 player contracts expire.
Comments: This won’t be a problem for the Jets as they expect to be well under the cap, but look to see what players are cut prior to this date. Santonio Holmes is a prime target and so is Antonio Cromartie. Mark Sanchez is chief among the likely casualties, but unless the Jets are pressed to get under the cap for some big signings they might draw it out until the the Owners Meetings to exhaust the option of trading Sanchez.
March 11 – open free agent period for 2014 begins at 4 pm (ET)
Comments: Wide receiver, tight end, safety and outside linebacker are positions of acute need for the Jets, but don’t rule out potential interest in free agent QB Mike Vick.
March 23-26 – Annual league meetings (Owners’ Meetings) in Orlando
Comments: I believe Mark Sanchez’s bonus is due during the course of these meetings, do the Jets use the 23rd and 24th to exhaust any option of moving Sanchez?
April 21 – Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs
Comments: The Jets will want to get a last look at some progress from players before they enter the draft. Expect defensive back and offensive line to be under scrutiny here if they don’t make any substantial moves during free agency.
May 2 – Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets
Comments: We don’t expect there to be any drama around this. If the Jets extend any offer sheets the players they have will likely be more than happy to get the higher dollar contract before they hit free agency.
May 8-10 – 2014 NFL Draft in New York City
Comments: While it’s not the only area of need, we expect that the pundits will judge the Jets by how much help they provide their quarterback through the draft.