While the New England Patriots are celebrating their fifth Super Bowl win, the Jets have long been preparing their free agency contingency plan.
No matter who they sign – or retain – this offseason, New York isn’t anywhere near the elite level of their hated rival, but to at least get back to respectability and to start competing for a wild card slot, the Jets need to start somewhere.
March 9 begins the new NFL calendar year, which general manager Mike Maccagnan is fully aware of, so he undoubtedly already has a wish list of players to call once the free agency period commences. Whether it’s retaining his own valuable players or poaching another team’s free agents, the Jets need to add some talent to the roster.
According to Spotrac, the Jets enter next season over the cap by nearly $6 million, which means they’ll need to shave off some salaries to clear room for fresh blood.
Metro takes a look at some names that are likely on the Jets’ radar and how they fit into the team’s plans.
This unit was banged up last season, which attributed to the Jets’ woes, so shoring up this side of the ball is pivotal. Feb. 15 is a key date, as it’s the last day for the Jets to pick up an option for offensive tackle Ryan Clady, who stands to earn a $10 million base salary. New York seems content with the recently locked up Brian Winters and James Carpenter playing the two guard spots, but Clady and right tackle Breno Giacomini have dealt with injury problems and could be cap casualties this offseason. The same could apply to fan-favorite, center Nick Mangold.
Expect youngsters like Wesley Johnson and Brandon Shell to get long looks this offseason during the workout periods. But even if the neophytes perform above their means, the Jets will look to add veteran help, as well as re-sign their own, like offensive tackle Ben Ijalana. The young tackle played on a one year deal in 2016 and started 13 games at left tackle in relief of the injured Clady. Ijalana played well in spurts and has promise, but shouldn’t be too expensive to re-sign.
Riley Reiff is another option to keep an eye on, as the former 2012 first-round pick for the Detroit Lions will hit the open market once his rookie deal expires. The Iowa product is versatile since he started his career at left tackle before moving to the right side.
Matt Kalil, a former No. 3 overall pick, has had an up-and-down tenure for the Minnesota Vikings, but still has loads of potential. Sometimes a guy just needs a change of scenery to fully reach his potential, and if the former USC Trojan can find his mojo again, the Jets would be a great fit for him.
Feb 10 is the day that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract voids, making him an unrestricted free agent, but there will be a $5 million salary cap charge for the Jets because of the bonus proration from his deal.
New York is unlikely to bring back Fitzpatrick or Geno Smith, which means the team is definitely looking to add a veteran quarterback as insurance for next season, while they take a long look at their youngsters, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. Whether a veteran is brought in to just be a nurturer for the two or actually competes to be the starter depends on who Maccagnan brings into the mix. Petty had a very small sample size in 2016, while Hackenberg essentially took a “redshirt season,” as he didn’t take a single regular-season snap. The Jets won’t know for sure if either is ready to take the reins next season until they get ample playing time.
Near the top of most team’s wish list will be free agent quarterback Mike Glennon. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup has completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 4,100 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions in 21 career appearances. Glennon, who owns a 5-13 record as a starter, was a third round pick by the Buccaneers in the 2013. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is rather good, which makes him an attractive option. The Jets could use someone like that under center, considering their signal callers placed last in turnover differential in 2016. Jets quarterbacks also compiled a league-worst 67.6 quarterback rating last season and threw a league-high 25 interceptions.
Brian Hoyer is another option, as the veteran journeyman has playoff experience, is a great locker room guy, displays little ego, and is a willing teacher of young quarterbacks. Injuries and inconsistencies have plagued him, but he’s also shown a penchant of playing above his means and can get hot and stay hot for stretches. Hoyer will soon be an unrestricted free agent, and it’s unlikely the Chicago Bears will bring him back. The eight-year veteran will likely come cheap on the open market.
Shaun Hill is another veteran, much like Hoyer, who won’t be an overly-affordable addition, also displays little ego in helping younger guys get better, and is a noted great locker room guy. Hill, who played for the Minnesota Vikings last season, has over a decade’s worth of experience. As an unrestricted free agent, Hill won’t be seeking a big contract or even a long-term deal, so he’d be a great bridge between now and the future, or could be that impetus to rapidly boost the development of either of the Jets’ young signal callers.
Depending on whether he follows prospective 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco, Atlanta Falcons backup Matt Schaub could be a viable option for Gang Green. Also an unrestricted free agent, Schaub is another good veteran quarterback that would be a solid fit with the Jets. Playing for 13 seasons in the NFL, Schaub is a journeyman by nature, but has been to the playoffs, is plus-43 in career touchdowns to interceptions, and is a two-time Pro Bowler with a career mark of 47-45 as a starter. Those accolades don’t jump out, but he would be another trusted and respected voice in the locker room. He’d merely be a bridge to the future, but for a guy who’s accustomed to signing one-year contracts, as he did in his two previous stops in Oakland and Atlanta, Schaub would be the perfect fit.
Gang Green notes:
- The Jets claimed twice-suspended defensive tackle Mike Pennel off waivers from the Green Bay Packers, once the waiver period re-opened on Monday. Pennel who had his season marred by violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy, appeared in just eight games for the Packers this past season, making seven total tackles and defending one pass. His year featured suspensions for both the first and final four games of the 2016 season. And after failing two separate drug tests, Green Bay released him on Jan. 9. The prior season, Pennel played in all 16 games for Green Bay, including five starts. He made the first sack of his NFL career, finishing with a career-high 24 tackles, and seeing the most playing time in his career.
- March 10 will be a key date for the Jets and cornerback Darrelle Revis, as he’s due a $2 million roster bonus. If the Jets are going to release Revis, though, it will probably occur before this date since $6 million of his $13 million base salary is already fully guaranteed.