The Jets are a disaster, everyone knows this, and they will continue to be a disaster unless they drastically change their approach to building a team. This team needs to be burned to the ground, with only the pieces strong enough to withstand the heat left to be the start of a new foundation to build upon. No more quick fixes, no more trying to compete while building for the future, burn it to the damn ground and start over.
Woody Johnson can't afford to worry about whether or not the fan base or the media will tolerate a complete and total rebuild, of course they'll be loud and mock every decision along the way but they're already doing that, they've been doing that and they will continue to do that forever unless Johnson allows Mike Maccagnan to hit the reset button on this roster. Obviously that by itself won't ensure success, but it's the best chance they have and they need to take said chance and they need to take it now.
The 2017 Jets will look like a completely different team, you can expect a ton of roster turnover and familiar faces replaced by new players. What Jets fans have to hope for is these new players aren't the same as the old players from the past decade plus, the Jets need to focus on young, talented players with a future in this league and let the older, still talented but becoming less talented by the day, overpaid, band-aids to give the allure of competitiveness sign elsewhere.
There is still a really talented core, albeit a small core, of players for the Jets to build around, as well as some players that are good enough to keep due to their contract situation, a few that they are stuck with because of their contract situations, but everyone else can go. So let's get depressed for a minute but then immediately after me writing/you reading this article start having some fun dreaming of all the ways to fix this disaster wasteland of a roster.
Trade/cut/don't bother re-signing/blackmail them into retirement
Ryan Fitzpatrick - This doesn't really need an explanation, does it? He'll still count $5 million against next year's cap but he needs to collect that from his couch.
Darrelle Revis - It's sort of amazing and sad how the fan base has turned on Revis. I get it, he's been awful and spent his entire career wanting more money (but don't we all), but he's the best player in franchise history and age defeats everyone. Regardless he's been so bad the Jets can't even think about keeping him, or restructuring him. Eat the dead money, hope as much of that as possible can be offset by him signing elsewhere but it's best for everyone to move on.
David Harris - Harris has had a great career, him Revis, Mangold and the already retired D'Brickashaw Ferguson will soon join the Jets Ring of Honor, but with $6.5 million cap hit next year and absolutely no dead money if he's cut his time with the Jets should be over as well. He can still defend against the run and blitz but in today's NFL you can't pay that type of money to a linebacker who can't cover anyone.
Ryan Clady - It was worth a shot by Maccagnan to trade for Clady after Ferguson retired, but he isn't the player he once was and won't ever be again and of course he got hurt again. Experiment failed. Clady is due to count $10.5 million against the cap next year, but releasing him will free up $10 million with only $500,000 in dead money.
Marcus Williams - Free agent after this season, he's had a terrible season that's completely erased all the good things he did last year. Jets need a whole new stable of cornerbacks next year and Williams shouldn't be among them.
Brandon Bostick - Free agent that would be fine as a third tight end but when he hasn't been able to contribute in a meaningful way with this god awful tight end group it's best just to move one.
Geno Smith - I still don't think Smith every got a fair shake, we haven't seen what he is or maybe could be, but it's time to move on and I say that more for him than for the Jets. The kid deserves a chance to go elsewhere.
Breno Giacomini - Set to count $5.1 million against the cap next year, Jets would free up $4.5 million by releasing him which means they'll have $4.5 million to spend elsewhere because there's simply no reason to bring him back.
Marcus Gilchrist - Gilchrist was great last season and while he wasn't great this season he was far from the biggest issue in the secondary, but with a $7,375,000 cap hit next year I'd rather pay the $2,750,000 in dead money and use the cap savings of $4,625,000 elsewhere.
Kellen Davis - Please Jets, don't make any of us watch him anymore.
Erin Henderson - Free agent, not coming back
Lachlan Edwards - He's been really bad, yeah he's a rookie but he's also a punter. Go find someone else who can punt and punt well.
Others not worth explaining
Keep them as depth, don't keep them, who cares
Bruce Carter - Free agent, if they want to keep him as a cheap depth option fine. If not that's fine too.
Freddie Bishop III - Under contract for next year at a $540,000 cap hit. No dead money if they release him but at that price he can stay as depth if they don't have numerous better options.
Josh Martin - See Bruce Carter
Mike Catapano - He's been good as a depth/rotation player but he's a free agent so welcome him back for cheap or let him walk, you can find plenty of others like him.
Sad to see them go, they've been great here but they got to go
Brandon Marshall and/or Eric Decker - With the emergence of Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, least one of them has to go and honestly they should probably both be gone if we are truly doing a complete rebuild. Marshall will be 33-years-old next year and while his numbers have slipped this year that's clearly mostly due to the quarterback play. Marshall can still help a team win, but the Jets won't be good enough to make that winning worth much. Marshall has one more year left on his contract, $7.5 million with no dead money so he should be easy to move and will probably fetch more in return than Decker will. Decker will turn 30 next year, coming off of a season-ending shoulder and hip injuries and will count $8.75 million against the '17 cap ($3 million dead money, $5.75 saved if released) and $9 million against the '18 cap ($1.5 million dead money and $7.5 million in cap savings). Coming off of those injuries Decker isn't likely to get the Jets much value in return so there's a good chance he returns, but virtually no chance both receivers return.
Sheldon Richardson - It's not that the Jets should trade Richardson, it's that they have to and they have to because they decided to pay their third best defensive lineman (Wilkerson) the big contract that they are now stuck with. It's not Richardson's fault that the coaching staff inexplicably playing linebacker but since that move Leonard Williams has become the team's best player and Richardson has been skipping team meeting, along with Wilkerson, and making dumb Snapchat videos. So they have to trade him, but in typical Jets fashion they will have to trade him when his value is at his lowest, everyone knows he has to be traded, and because they can't trade the lesser player Wilkerson.
Nick Mangold - Great career, still really good when healthy, future Ring of Honor member but counts $9 million against the cap with no dead money. The Jets can release him and free up that $9 million and that's exactly what they should do.
Unfortunately stuck with for now
Muhammad Wilkerson - Maccagnan blinked at the last minute and gave Wilkerson the deal he wanted and now the Jets are stuck with the deal for the next few years while being forced to trade the better defensive linemen.
Matt Forte - It's only a $5 million cap hit for next year ($6 million in dead money and only a saving of $1 million) so it doesn't make sense to move on from him, but he has to be a backup next year. Maybe his offseason injuries held him back and he can return stronger next year, but either way unless he decides to retire the Jets are stuck with an expensive backup running back for one more year.
They can stay (they are cheap and could potentially develop into something more or just as depth)
Jalin Marshall - The undrafted rookie took over training camp, he's had some fumbling issues that need to be fixed but he's clearly talented. He reminds me of a small Enunwa, he's tough and can help in multiple ways outside of just being a receiver and if he gets enough time he could develop until a solid playmaker at receiver. And if he doesn't he's still on his rookie deal so it won't cost the Jets much to find out.
Charone Peake - Peake is another young receiver with potential, he won't be able to stretch the field like Robby Anderson or bully defenders like Enunwa but if Decker leaves or can't return from his injury right away an offseason to further develop could have Peake playing a poor man's Decker role as his strengths are all in the intermediate routes.
Devin Smith - Yeah, so at this point no one should really have any expectations for Smith but he's signed cheap through the 2018 season so at the very least he should stay and be given the chance to prove he can stay healthy and earn a roster spot through training camp and preseason next year. If he hasn't made significant progress by then, then go ahead and move on.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins - Seferian-Jenkins has started to show some glimmer of life over the past few weeks, and again one wonders if competent quarterback play would allow for more than a glimmer, with the lack of talent the Jets have had at tight end since, well forever, it makes sense to keep Seferian-Jenkins (he signed a two-year deal) and hope spending an entire offseason with the team will help him contribute more next year. That, however, should not stop the Jets from making a concerted effort to upgrade the tight end position in the offseason.
Brandon Shell - The rookie tackle made his first start against the Dolphins and actually played really well. Rookie contract makes it an easy decision to keep him, hope he can develop into a starter or at least a really good backup. So Shell stays but as with so many others that can't stop the Jets from continuing to look to improve the position,
Ben Ijalana - Free agent this offseason, has played okay. Would be easy to say move on from him but the offensive tackle market is so thin, both in free agency and the draft, that the Jets probably need to sign him to a reasonable deal just in case they can't find someone better. If they can find a better option then Ijalana becomes really good depth in heavy packages or subbing in for injury.
Brent Qvale - See Ijalana except Qvale is still under contract for next season at an incredibly reasonable $615,000 cap hit.
Bryce Petty - Signed through 2018 Petty won't be going anywhere and should be given a shot to earn the starting job in training camp next year, almost regardless of who the Jets bring in, but if he actually wins the job well then I guess the tank will officially be on for 2017. Petty was drafted with the hope that he could be a competent backup and that still remains his ceiling.
Christian Hackenberg - Obviously Hackenberg will be on the team and like Petty he should be given a chance to compete for the starting job in training camp, but he just has so far to go to become a quality quarterback and the Jets can't just assume that will happen. I fully expect the Jets to sign a veteran quarterback, whether it's Tyrod Taylor (this is what Jets fans should hope for), Jay Cutler (hope for this if you just want to watch an all out train wreck) or someone like Mike Glennon, and if they like any of the top quarterbacks in the draft and they are available when they pick I don't see them hesitating to draft yet another quarterback.
Calvin Pryor - Pryor's regression this season has been amazing in a really bad way. Last year he looked to be developing into an all around quality safety, this year he reverted back to being really good as long as he's moving forward and the play is in front of him but if anything gets behind him it's a disaster. Pryor will be on the last year of his rookie deal, earning $2.72 million next year, so it's worth it to keep him for one more year and see what happens but I wouldn't even bother exercising the fifth-year option on it. If he wants a fifth-year here, he needs to earn it.
Doug Middleton - Undrafted rookie safety (editor's note: he was my defensive binky in training camp this year) had a great training camp, looked to me to be on his way to making the 53-man roster before getting injured. He's finally been getting a chance to play the last few weeks, including a lot of time as the single high-safety on Saturday. Maybe he won't turn into much, maybe he'll be slightly above average but the potential is there and he needs to stay and be given a shot to develop next year.
Juston Burris - Burris got his first start on Saturday, he had an up and down performance getting beat badly by Kenny Stills for a deep touchdown but followed that up with a pick (even if he got beat on the play but lucked out because the pass was underthrown). He's a talented kid with press-man ability, aggressive and physical, and he'll obviously be back next year the question is, will he develop into a starting caliber corner.
Jordan Jenkins - Jenkins has had a solid rookie year, he's sort of cut from the Calvin Pace cloth. He won't make eye-popping plays or dominate the stat sheet but he's steady and does a lot of the dirty work well. He will and should stay, should improve but just don't have expectations beyond a younger Calvin Pace. Also for the record a younger Calvin Pace is a good thing.
Lorenzo Mauldin - Mauldin started to come on strong for a few weeks this season, some of his early season issues can be directly attributed to the Jets playing more 4-3 and using Sheldon Richardson at outside linebacker. So it wasn't so much that Mauldin wasn't doing anything but he wasn't playing. Still on his rookie deal, Mauldin will return but again this doesn't mean the Jets are set at the position.
Tanner Purdum - The long snapper can stay, but he's a free agent so if they move on and bring in someone else that's fine too. He's been a perfectly capable long snapper though so just re-sign him cheap.
Darryl Roberts - Signed through 2018 ($615,000 in '17 and $705,000 in '18), Roberts has shown flashes and is cheap enough to stay. Let him compete next year and see what you have, but regardless the Jets desperately need to find new starting cornerbacks. Hope Burris and Roberts can develop into them, but don't count on it.
Khiry Robinson - Robinson's injury derailed his chance to show what he can do this season, but at $775,000 next year Robinson is a steal and could very easily take over as the backup to Powell over Forte.
Buster Skrine - Like all the Jets cornerbacks Skrine has struggled this season. It would be easy to decide to move on, but with an $8.5 million cap hit next year ($5 million in dead money) Skrine holds more value on the team than off of it, at least until they can be sure that have actually upgraded the position.
Nick Folk - Folk Hero is signed for one more year, at almost $3.6 million. They could free up $3 million in cap space by releasing him and if they can be sure of an upgrade then they should do that, but they could also keep him. Either decision would be fine.
Dakota Dozier - One more year on his contract at $765,146 so he can stay as depth for now.
Craig Watts - Another young, cheap offensive lineman to try and develop.
Keep them, build around them and be thankful for them
Leonard Williams - Big Cat has ascended to take the crown as the best player on the team. Some of that is due to the disappointment of Wilkerson, Revis, along with misusing Richardson, but Williams is a stud and his play will continue to get bettter, if the Jets could only build around one of their players, this is the one.
Darron Lee - The rookie has played really well, for the most part, this season and you can see the talent is clearly there for him to continue to grow. Obviously, seeing as he was a first-round pick this year, he isn't going anywhere but with his speed, coverage ability, football IQ and instincts he's somebody Jets fans can be thankful to have as part of their foundation to rebuild.
Steve McLendon - McLendon is the oldest player, and only one over 30, on the list of players to build around but he has been great before his injury. He has been exactly the type of 3-4 nose tackle the Jets needed when Damon Harrison left and even given the Jets an extra bump as an effective inside pass rusher. McLendon is signed through the 2018 season with a $3.875 million cap hit in '17 and $4.125 million in '18 and he's worth all of those pennies.
Deon Simon - I'm not sure he qualifies as a 'be thankful you have him to build around' but he's played really well in McLendon's absence and has developed nicely in his time here. Cheap, young and talented, he can certainly contribute next year and beyond.
Rontez Miles - Miles got his first start on Saturday and while he isn't the free safety with range in coverage the Jets really need he does have more range than most realize, has good instincts, is a devastating hitter and an absolute ball of energy. He has an infectious personality and his teammates adore him and are motivated by him in practice. He has one more year left on his contract for $615,000 and that's an excellent deal for him. The Jets should consider locking him up to a cheap long-term deal, every team needs a Rontez Miles, and look for that free safety with range elsewhere.
Quincy Enunwa - Enunwa has been the best thing about this season, Leonard Williams has been exceptional but we all expected that. I knew Enunwa had potential but I wasn't expecting this, imagine how good he could be if he had a competent quarterback. Enunwa is under contract for just $615,000 through next year, the Jets should be smart here and give him a reasonable deal now to lock him up for the next few years.
Robby Anderson - Anderson has actually been an even bigger surprise than Enunwa. Even halfway through training camp it looked like Anderson was the third best rookie receiver on the roster, he looked like a really fast and really really skinny receiver and that was about it. Now it's clear this kid has all types of talent, Enunwa is the better all around player but Anderson, and his deep-threat ability, is a perfect compliment to Enunwa.
Bilal Powell - It would've been nice if someone on the Jets coaching staff realized Powell was the best back on the roster when the rest of us did, way back in training camp, but the last two weeks are all that needs to be said for why he should stay. Fortunately he's signed through the 2018 season.
Brian Winters - Has to be the Jets number one priority re-signing. Winters has been great, the whole inside of the line has been really good. The Jets need to keep that inside group together and focus on improving the their tackles.
Wesley Johnson - Free agent at the end of the season but there has been very little, if any, dropoff between the level of play from Mangold to Johnson. Save the $9 million you get from cutting Mangold and put some of that to paying Johnson and use the rest to spend elsewhere.
James Carpenter - Signed through 2018, Carpenter has been great and well worth the price.
As you can see that's a small group to be thankful and proud to be able to build around and very few superstars (one really), which just further proves my point that it's time to burn it all to the ground, suffer through a couple more losing seasons as you start to slowly but surely build a complete, talented and competitive football team. And if you're wondering about the coaching staff, don't worry that article will come soon.
(All contract information is from Overthecap.com)
Chris Nimbley is the editor-in-chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)null