The New York Jets 2008 spending spree opened the NFL’s eyes. GM Mike Tannenbaum became a man unafraid of spending top dollar to acquire the talent his team needed to win.
With a new coach in place, a strong foundation of talented veterans and promising youth, the Jets’ holes are few. Fresh off a nine-win season, New York only needs to make some adjustments and tweaks to make life easier for Rex Ryan and friends.
The salary cap is an issue, but not an impossible one to overcome. The Jets are projected to be $10 million over the cap, but that’s settled if Brett Favre elects to call it a career. If he doesn’t, Tannenbaum will have to restructure his contract.
But that’s only one bullet on the task at hand.
Players accumulated over the previous regimes may no longer be able to call New York home. If Ryan and his staff believe they can work with certain players, then restructuring contracts will be of the essence.
However, cleaning the large contracts of players like CB David Barrett, OLB Bryan Thomas, DE Kenyon Coleman, and DE Shaun Ellis will involve either a release or a restructuring.
Assuming all of that is settled and Tannenbaum does his job as a capologist, it’s time for the New York Jets to go shopping!
ILB Bart Scott
The Ravens won’t be able to afford all of their linebackers this March. This means Terrell Suggs will be a priority, and Ray Lewis will return to make sure the Ravens’ heart keeps pumping.
Scott could be the odd man out. With Eric Barton’s contract expiring, the Jets need a young linebacker to play the inside with tackling machine David Harris.
Bart Scott fits the bill perfectly. His familiarity with Ryan’s defensive system will give him an opportunity to step in and be a leader. And he’ll help the Jets establish that defensive presence Ryan is adamantly trying to enforce.
DE Julius Peppers
Signing Peppers would require the Jets to make some difficult decisions. Releasing a guy like Shaun Ellis might be a painful necessity. But can Peppers production be ignored for the respect of the longest-tenured Jet?
Ellis led the Jets in sacks in 2008, but Peppers is normally an NFL leader in that category. Peppers would be a substantial upgrade at the position, but will demand a hefty contract.
Acquiring Peppers may be contingent upon Ryan’s evaluation of Vernon Gholston. The Jets’ pass rush lost tenacity in 2008. And if Gholston can’t pick up that slack in his second year, Peppers could become a priority.
S Jim Leonhard
Continuing to raid the Ravens for their players seems like a good idea. Leonhard enjoyed the best season of his career with under Rex Ryan and could look to make a return to the AFC East with his newly established skills and confidence.
Most importantly, Eric Smith is a liability on the field, and Abram Elam’s contract is expiring. His play may not be ideal for Ryan’s system either. There’s a lot to be desired in his cover skills, and he’s probably too aggressive for his own good.
Bringing in Leonhard to play opposite Kerry Rhodes will allow the Jets’ star safety to become the playmaker he knows he can be. Players familiar with Ryan’s defense are of the essence as they’ll make the defensive transition much easier.
CB Dunta Robinson
The cornerback position is always the scariest one to fill from the free agency pool. Corners command extraordinary amounts of money because the market simply demands it.
But Darrelle Revis needs help. Dwight Lowery started his rookie season looking like a veteran, but was eventually exploited for his inexperience and lack of speed.
One look at Dunta Robinson’s stats, and most fans will think, “Why?” Coming off two injury-shortened seasons, Robinson is a young talent who could slip through the cracks.
The former Defensive Rookie of the Year will help improve NY’s 26th-ranked pass defense, and give Revis some regular support on the other side of the field.
CB/KR Justin Miller
It could be a homecoming of sorts. If the Oakland Raiders choose not to resign Miller, the Jets could look to bring him back home with a new coach and new philosophy.
As a cornerback, Justin Miller never justified his second round draft selection. But as a kick returner, Miller is a viable threat when fielding the ball. Placing him next to Leon Washington will give the Jets two return threats.
More importantly, as a former Pro Bowler, Miller will alleviate pressure from Washington as the Jets’ only complement to Thomas Jones on offense.
CB Adam Jones
Stop rubbing your eyes. You read it right. The most exciting thing about Mangini being gone is being able to move on from the restraints of his high-character philosophy.
Jones will not have to be a priority, but should be pursued as an option.
Pacman will be first-round talent at a fraction of the price. From all angles, he looks like a guy who was released from Dallas due to hear-say. If any of the accusations hold any merit, playing in the NFL will be the least of his concerns.
Give him an offseason, the knowledge that this is his last shot, and a coach with a real plan, and Jones might succeed.
If he’s a terrible acquisition, then New York can cut their losses and move on immediately. His contract can make sure the Jets won’t be hurt by any off-field transgressions. But he’s worth the risk.