Free agency preview - Part One

The NFL free agent period begins on March 3, and expect the Jets to be active participants.

With about $10 million to spend, the Jets should be able to fill a couple of holes.

The four most pressing needs are for a big wide receiver, a shutdown cornerback, a strong safety with good range and a starting left guard. But keep in mind, one of these four needs will likely be filled with the 12th pick in the first round.

The Jets have signed a number of big wideouts over the last few months including former Cincinnati Bengal Lawrence Hamilton, but don't expect this to keep them out of the marketplace for another one. With Terrell Owens off the Jets radar screen, here are some other big wideouts the Jets might target.

The player who would be absolutely perfect for them is Baltimore Raven free agent Marcus Robinson. Honestly, they should have signed him last year after he was released by the Chicago Bears, but took a pass for some unknown reason. He signed with Baltimore for a little over the league minimum and had a terrific season. At 6-3, 215 pounds with great leaping ability and speed, he is the epitome of what they are looking for. He is great at winning jump ball situations. The Jets haven't had that type of player since the departure of Keyshawn Johnson. Robinson is a classic West Coast offense wideout. And remember the Ravens play this system, so if the Jets signed him, he would be familiar with their offense. He just had 31 catches last year, but the Ravens had a weakness at quarterback and that hurt the production of their wideouts. Six of his catches went for touchdowns. While he will demand more money than last year, he will still be affordable. The only concern about Robinson is that he's had quite a lengthy injury history, including a reconstructed knee and back issues. One factor that could help the Jets recruit Robinson is the presence of their new defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, who coached in Baltimore last year.

If the Jets fail to land Robinson, another player they would be interested in is Tai Streets of the San Francisco 49ers. The Jets were close to striking a deal for the former Michigan standout last year, but balked because they felt the asking price was too high. This year he is an unrestricted free agent, and the frugal 49ers will likely let him walk. At 6-2, 215 pounds, he is another receiver who fits the mold of what the Jets looking for. And obviously coming from the 49ers, he is well-versed in the West Coast offense. Over the last two seasons, he had 119 catches and 12 touchdowns. Like Robinson, he won't cost a fortune to sign.

Another free agent the Jets might target is Tennessee Titan Justin McCareins. Not only is he a big receiver, but also a talented kick returner. With their questionable release of Mike Bates, and the fragile nature of Jonathan Carter, the Jets are looking for a kick returner. So to find a big receiver and returner in one player, would be a nice value. He had his best season last year with 47 catches and seven touchdowns. Unlike Robinson and Streets, McCareins is a restricted free agent. However, it shouldn't be too hard to extract McCareins from Tennessee, since the Titans might have the worst cap situation in football. The Titans actually have another big wide receiver who is a restricted free agent in 6-5 Drew Bennett. It's highly unlikely the Titans will be able to sign both. The Jets might be intested in Bennett as well. He was banged up much of last year, but still finished with 32 catches.

There have been some published reports linking the Jets to Seattle Seahawk free agent Darrell Jackson. Remember the Jets attempted to trade for him last year when he was a restricted free agent. The interest in Jackson is somewhat perplexing considering he is just 5-11. If they signed Jackson, they would once again not be filling their dire need for a big target to start opposite Santana Moss. Another problem with Jackson is he's coming a bad season in Seattle where he had a number of drops.

Changing of the Guards

Right now, the Jets have openings at both their offensive guard spots with the retirement of left guard Dave Szott and the free agency of right guard Brent Smith. While Smith might be re-signed, we hear the team wants to move him back into the role he orginally signed to fill - backup swing tackle. The Jets are painfully thin at offensive tackle, and Smith would make an excellent insurance policy behind Jason Fabini and Kareem McKenzie.

The Jets feel they have an adequate replacement for Smith at right guard in Brandon Moore. The team is extemely excited about his potential. He platooned with Smith at the end of the season, and actually started the season finale for the injured Szott. But while he started for Szott at left guard, his best position is on the right side. While the Jets have a left guard candidate in second-year lineman Dave Yovanovits, the team probably won't want to go with two young guards, so expect a veteran to be added.

So look for the Jet to sign a young veteran guard with some starting experience. One possibility is Carolina Panther Jeno James. However expect the Super Bowl runner-up to try to keep the Auburn-product since the teams other guard, Kevin Donnelly, retired last week. They don't want to lose both their starting guards. But even if James is available, the Jets should not break the bank on him. One scout used the word "servicable" in describing him. He's just okay and not worth big money.

Tampa Bay's Cosey Coleman is the best athlete of the free agent guards. He moves very well for his size and has great feet. He is just starting to realize his enormous potential, so his new team could be getting a standout guard in the making.

Chicago Bear Chris Villareal has a lot of starting experience but on right side, so the Jets would have to make sure he is comfortable on the left side. The Bears would like to re-sign him.

A sleeper free agent guard is Bobbie Williams of Philadelphia Eagles. He started a few games this past year and did a good job.

Last year, the Jets made a run at free agent guard Jamar Nesbit, who was then when the Panthers. He signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but is a free agent again, and expect the Jets to have interest.

Two other possibilites are Cleveland Brown Shaun O'Hara and San Diego Charger Kelvin Garmon. O'Hara is a local product out of Rutgers, and is a player on the rise. Garmon is a great run blocker who could turn out to be a steal in free agency.

If the Jets could land one of these moderately-priced free agent guards, and team him with Moore, they should be in good shape at the guard positions.

We will have Part 2 tommorrow, with a look at defensive free agents who would interest the Jets.

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