Before training camp begins there will be the draft and free agency but the first step will be teams extending, re-signing or letting players move on to other teams. February 16, just under two weeks from now, is the first day teams are allowed to designate players with the franchise or transition tags with March 2 being the deadline to do so.
On March 7 teams will be allowed to host players they covet and even begin contract negotiations with agents of any unrestricted free agents but players can not officially sign new contracts until March 10. So, before we dive into the Jets free agent and draft needs let’s take a look at their own free agents. Who should stay and who should they let go?
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS OF NOTE:
Damon Harrison - Bring Snacks back.
The man called Snacks should absolutely return. Letting one of the best running stuffing defensive tackles in the league walk would be a huge mistake. He is a perfect match for a defensive line with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson as his bookends. Harrison is more than just a two down tackle as he has shown the ability to disrupt quarterbacks on passing downs as well.
Jaiquawn Jarrett - Re-sign for depth purposes only or let him walk.
Re-signing Jarrett wouldn’t be a bad decision as long as it’s for depth. Jarrett had the great game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and played well in spurts but he’s nothing more than a depth/rotation safety and the Jets can’t be content to rely on him. Calvin Pryor and Antonio Allen will both return but the safety position is just one of many that needs to be upgraded.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS OF NOTE:
David Harris - Time to move on unless the price is right.
Harris, an eight year veteran, has served the Jets extremely well during his career and he is still, mostly, excellent against the run and underrated and underused as a pass rusher but he is a complete liability in coverage. His speed, or lack there of, is a huge problem and even if he only plays on running downs opposing teams will take advantage of him by passing on him instead.
It wouldn’t be horrible to sign him to a really cheap deal but some team (Buffalo Bills) will offer him something better and it shouldn’t be the Jets. The Jets need to get younger, faster and much better in coverage at the linebacker position.
Michael Vick - Nope, bye Mike.
I was very impressed with Vick as an individual last year. He was a great teammate who said all the right things and is clearly a smart guy who has learned from his past mistakes but his best years are behind him and he himself admitted he didn’t prepare as seriously as he should have. With Todd Bowles intent on changing the culture he can’t possibly bring Vick back.
Kyle Wilson - Time to move on.
Another standup guy, has done a lot for communities in New Jersey and isn’t nearly as awful as most Jets fans think. They hold him to that first round pick standard, which isn’t fair since it’s not his fault Jets reached for him, but he also isn’t good. Not being as bad as many think is no reason to keep a guy around.
Willie Colon - No way.
Colon was a good signing for John Idzik. Veteran presence, rough and rugged style of play and a great teammate and locker room presence all for cheap. But Colon has also proven to be a penalty machine and struggles in pass protection. Re-sign him as a backup and okay, no problem there, but if he’s starting in 2015 the Jets offense is in trouble. The Jets desperately need to find an upgrade for Colon at guard.
Landry has never been the most consistent safety, he’s had his moments both good and awful but the Jets certainly need an upgrade over him. Ryan leaned on Landry because of his knowledge of the defense but under Bowles the Jets need to bring in some new blood, preferably someone who can be a true free safety.
Bilal Powell - For the right price yes, but would he even want to return?
The arrival of Chris Johnson hurt Powell the most. Powell got very few touches with Johnson and Chris Ivory ahead of him on the depth chart. Powell is your standard good at everything but great at nothing type running back but he does have value. He’s a shifty runner, solid receiver and still the best pass protector on the roster. For depth/injury purposes the Jets should be interested but will he want to go somewhere else and hope to get more touches? Johnson will be gone but if the Jets go the C.J. Spiller, Shane Vereen or draft a running back route he’ll be relegated to spot duty once again.
Nick Bellore - Yes, as a special teams player.
Bellore is a special teams standout, he doesn’t offer much, if anything, beyond that but great teams have great special teams and you can’t just have your star players on special teams. Pay the man as a special teams player and look to add a couple more like him.
Leger Douzable - Absolutely.
Douzable is a great fit with this line. He can serve as a great rotation player and as injury insurance. Douzable loves northern New Jersey and his teammates, especially his defensive line mates. He could certainly get more playing time, and likely more money, somewhere else, but he truly loves it here and is content in his role. He has played increasingly well in his role here and the Jets should definitely try to bring him back.
Benjamin Ijalana - Probably not coming back.
We don’t really have anything to judge Ijalana on other than training camp and some preseason snaps and neither do Bowles or Mike Maccagnan. Maybe they’ve heard he offers some promise but more likely they’ll want to bring in their own guys to try and develop instead.
Kenrick Ellis - Sure if cheap enough but let someone else offer him more money.
It’s not that Ellis isn’t good enough to return it’s that he’s good enough to get better offers from other teams. With extensions for Wilkerson and Richardson both coming in the future and assuming the Jets bring Harrison back it doesn’t make sense for the Jets to pay the money it will likely take to keep Ellis.
Tanner Purdum - Pass. Pretty sure Jets can find someone else to handle long snaps.
Greg Salas - As a fourth or fifth receiver, sure why not?
The fanfare that surrounded Salas in training camp was a typical training camp overreaction. Salas deserved his spot on the final-53 but that was also, sort of, by default. Salas is a really solid fourth or fifth receiver, he has good speed and size, but he is unlikely to ever be more than a fourth. But for depth purposes signing him to a cheap deal would be a smart move.
Phillip Adams - Probably gone but interesting depth option.
Adams got off to a strong start with the Jets last year but as the weeks went on his play started to slip. UDFA Marcus Williams, who signed a three-year deal midseason with the Jets, was the one who really stabilized the cornerback situation. Again as a bottom of the roster/depth signing Adams wouldn’t be the worst decision but one would think Bowles has his heart set on bringing in a lot of new corners to upgrade the secondary.
John Conner - Leave this decision to Chan Gailey.
Conner has improved quite a bit since his first stint with the Jets. He’s actually developed into a solid fullback. The question is, does Gailey plan on using a fullback? If he does, then yes bring the Terminator back (fullbacks don’t command a lot of money).
Jermaine Cunningham - No way.
Cunningham has talent and had a promising training camp performance but then came the season-ending injury followed by an arrest for violating New Jersey revenge porn laws and illegally transporting a handgun . New culture means no chance the Jets bring him back.
Note that Percy Harvin is not included on this list because Harvin is not, at least yet, a free agent. But there are questions around whether or not the Jets will/should bring him back and at what price. All of this will be discussed in a separate article.