Of the Jets 13 impending free agents there's not a single player that I'd argue the Jets have to keep. Once they extended Brian Winters this list turned into a few 'should keep,' a few more 'sure, okay as long as it's a cheap, short deal' and a couple flatout 'nopes.'
Obviously even the ones that fall into the 'should keep' category come with the distinction of the price has to be right, because while I'll say the Jets should keep them none of them are anything close to irreplaceable. I'll get right to it starting with the 'should keep' guys.
Wesley Johnson (RFA) - Johnson could actually belong in the 'sure, okay' category if the Jets decide to keep Nick Mangold, but I don't think they should keep Mangold so that elevates Johnson to the number one priority on this list. Mangold is set to count $9 million against the cap next year, the Jets can release him and clear all $9 million from the cap. Sure, if you could pick between Mangold and Johnson with the same price tags for one more season then we'd all take Mangold, but even if Mangold takes a pay cut it would be more than what Johnson will get and let's be honest, at this point in their careers the difference between the two is negligible.
Johnson filled in for Mangold quite well this season and with Mangold coming off an injury at the age of 33 it makes far more sense for the Jets to sign the 26-year-old Johnson to a fair deal. The Jets could still look to draft a center to groom for the future, but for right now Johnson can hold the fort, come reasonably priced and won't be a liability.
OT Ben Ijalana (UFA) - The Jets should keep Ijalana, but the should sign him as depth and still look to find another tackle to start. Sign Ijalana to a deal worth slightly more than a backup tackle would normally get and reward him for being able to be an excellent backup/extra lineman in jumbo sets and an adequate replacement if another tackle gets hurt.
TE Brandon Bostick (RFA) - Okay listen, I'm probably stretching it here because as a receiver Bostick is not much of a help. The Jets clearly and obviously need to find an actual quality receiving tight end they can rely on to make plays, hell they really need two. But they'll still need a tight end that can block and Bostick can do that. If they re-sign Bostick, he won't be expensive, that can free them up to focus on finding a play-making tight end. They aren't likely to find one in free agency, but this year's draft is full of them. The Jets tight end group has been a laughing stock for years, but Bostick, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and either O.J. Howard, Bucky Hodges, David Njoku, Jake Butt, Evan Engram, Gerald Everett would make for the best tight end group the Jets have had in forever.
DE/OLB Mike Catapano (UFA) - Again, re-sign him but to a cheap deal. Catapano provides quality depth on the line or as an outside linebacker and is excellent on special teams. Of course there are better players but winning teams are filled with versatile quality backups and the Jets would be wise to keep him around.
LS Tanner Purdum (UFA) - Okay, I'm cheating here but only because I don't feel like trying to figure out if there's a big upgrade out there. Purdum is fine, just fine.
SURE, OKAY AS LONG AS IT'S A CHEAP AND SHORT DEAL
(Editor's note) The title of this category should really be longer to include, 'but if they want to move on that's perfectly fine too.
DE/OLB Corey Lemonier (UFA) - Lemonier joined the Jets late in the season, but he played pretty well in that short amount of time. Lemonier is a talented player who has never been able to live up to his full potential, but I'd keep him around for depth and see if they can max out his potential.
LB Bruce Carter (UFA) - Pretty much the same as with Lemonier. Carter played well as a backup, don't expect him - or sign him to be - an impact starter or anything but good backups are important as mentioned with Catapano. Re-signing these guys wouldn't be sexy signings, but getting quality depth from in-house will make it easier to focus on finding those impact players in free agency or the draft.
LB Josh Martin (UFA) - I actually don't have an opinion on him one way or another, I simply haven't seen enough to form one. But the Jets liked him enough to keep him around and develop him so if they think he can develop into a quality player than they should sign him, he'll be cheap, and if they don't then let him go. Sounds simple, huh?
S Antonio Allen (UFA) - Blame Rex Ryan for this. It's all his fault. I'm still clutching onto what I saw from Allen at the end of his rookie year when he looked to be developing into a quality safety with the ability to cover athletic tight ends. I know those days are likely over, thanks to Ryan ruining him by having him switch to cornerback, but I remember what it looked like before the switch and it was promising. But realistically he can be an adequate backup, special teamer and it actually probably doesn't actually make much sense to keep him.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (UFA) - 2016, ignore the mirage of 2015, and the rest of his career. That's my case, I rest it,
QB Geno Smith (UFA) I actually still think under the right circumstances Smith could be a competent starting quarterback, not great or anything but competent. Coming back to the Jets is not the right circumstances though and more somfor his sake that the Jets. He's still a better option than Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg but for his own sanity he needs to move on.
CB Marcus Williams (RFA) - Williams joined the Jets in the middle of Rex Ryan's last season and was a pleasant surprise, he continued that pleasantness in his first year with Todd Bowles but yikes did that come to a screeching halt this past year. It started in the offseason, he was constantly getting beat and it somehow got worse during the season. The Jets need a lot of cornerback help, just not his help.
TE - Kellen Davis (UFA) - Just nope. That's all he gets.
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