With the NFL free agency period scheduled to begin in less than a month it is time to start analyzing team needs for the New York Jets. Recently Ron Pickett from JetNation.com took the time to share his thoughts on some of the hot topic positions for the Jets. Mr. Pickett, a high school football coach, writes NFL editorials for JetNation.com specializing in draft analysis and player scouting.
Tyson: It is no secret that the New York Jets will be looking to upgrade their wide receiver group. Assuming Santonio Holmes is released what type of pass catchers do you think will compliment Jeremy Kerley and Mornhinweg's west coast offense?
Ron: I think the Jets will be busy in the wide receiver free agent market. Guys like Jeremy Maclin, Emmanuel Sanders, Nate Burleson, and Golden Tate are all intriguing pieces that could be put in place immediately to help second year QB Geno Smith. Tate is expected to resign with Seattle and the Patriots have always been big fans of Sanders so getting him would be a huge addition to the Jets for more reasons that the obvious offense ineptitude of 2013. Maclin has played and had success in Mornhinweg's system when they were in Philadelphia so the obvious connection could make this a definite possibly. I know this about John Idzik: He will not overspend and waste the $40 million of cap space on a high-priced option such as Eric Decker. If they're signing free agents, they will come at a reasonable price.
That being said, the Jets will definitely explore all of their options in a draft that is very deep at the wide receiver position. If a team needs receivers this is a good year to build a core through the draft. There will be excellent value in the mid to later rounds at wide receiver this year. Surrounding Geno Smith with guys who can separate and make plays is vital to the team's progress going into 2014.
TR: The Jets have had a revolving door at the safety position. What type of player do you think would be a perfect fit for Rex Ryan's defense?
RP: Dawan Landry struggled last year, Antonio Allen showed signs of being a competent free safety, but the team brought in Ed Reed, ultimately limiting Allen's playing time. I think a guy like Louis Delmas is an interesting guy to explore. He was making a lot of money in Detroit, but when he is released there's no telling how much teams are going to be willing to pay for him. He's an in-the-box type safety that can give the Jets a smaller version of Laron Landry from 2012, only at the right price. Jairus Byrd may be franchised again by the Bills, if not offered an extension, but he's going to demand a lot of money.
The Jets HAVE to explore free safety position in the draft or free agency. Free safety has been the Achilles heel of Rex Ryan's defense with the exception of Yeremiah Bell, who is actually a strong safety by nature. The Jets need to find themselves a "ball-hawk" safety who can create turnovers. The biggest knock on the Jets defense last year was their inability to force turnovers. A free safety who can run sideline to sideline would solve that problem very quickly. Guys like Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor, Dion Bailey, Deone Bucannon, and my favorite, Jimmie Ward fit the bill for turnover-creating safety.
TR: Many believe that Gang Green will look to upgrade the outside linebacker position. With the emergence of Quinton Coples and the potential return of Antwan Barnes is there really a big need for an outside pass rusher?
RP: Prior to his season-ending injury, Barnes was constantly in the backfield, making quarterbacks hurry their throws. His rush off the edge also helped Sheldon Richardson, and Mo Wilkerson get to the quarterback because Barnes needed to be accounted for. Once the edge rusher got hurt, teams started to double team and chip on Richardson and Wilkerson making it harder for them to get through the line and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Coples played very well down the stretch, showing why the Jets drafted him so high in 2012. Coples may be listed as an OLB but he's used as a defensive end. He was in a three-point stance over 78% of the snaps he played. With the return of Barnes, I don't think that the Jets will explore an OLB in free agency, unless it's an inexpensive veteran, which would be Calvin Pace. He did have 10 sacks last year and has been in Rex's system since the he took over as Head Coach in 2009.
The team may choose an OLB in the draft and it wouldn't surprise me. A guy like Kyle Van Noy who covers a ton of ground and is also a well above average cover defender may help the Jets solve the issues they've had covering tight ends in the past.
TR: It is strongly believed that the Jets will bring in competition for Geno Smith at the quarterback position. Are there any signal callers that you believe would be a good fit in Marty's offense?
RP: I've heard the name Matt Schaub thrown out around the Jets. Matt Schaub's worst trait is his quick decision-making which doesn't bode well for a QB in Morhinweg's offense. However, bringing in a veteran is a no-brainer for the Jets. Someone who has been around the game, and knows the ins and outs of playing QB in the NFL to help Geno Smith avoid the "sophomore slump." Michael Vick has played for Mornhinweg, but if I'm the Jets front office, I'd stay away from Vick as a mentor for Smith. Maybe a guy like Shaun Hill or a cap casualty QB can be brought in, but in any case, the Jets will need to have an experienced guy competing.
The competition could very well come from the draft. Mid to late round picks like a Zach Mettenberger, Jimmy Garappolo, Jeff Matthews, or Brett Smith could push Smith more than the type of veteran that they'll be bringing in. After all, if Geno Smith continues to be turnover prone the Jets will need an option going forward for a team that will be expected to compete for a playoff position next season.
TR: New York is in desperate need of help at the tight end position. Would you bring back a player like Jeff Cumberland or go in a different direction?
RP: Cumberland doesn't fit the model of a Mornhinweg tight end. He has speed (believe it or not) but cannot separate well. The Jets should definitely explore guys like Dennis Pitta, Scott Chandler, Fred Davis or Ed Dickson because these guys create mismatches for opposing team's linebackers and safeties. The Jets have two young tight ends that they may hope to keep around and see how they've progressed. Zach Sudfeld, who was claimed from the Patriots early in the year, was brought along slowly and he played more and more as the season went on. The Jets also have Chris Pantale (who would've been one of the top TE's in last year's draft if he hadn't broken his foot) on their roster. They will see what these young guys can do, but at the same time will have someone come in who can play right away and help this offense.
This draft is deep at tight end as well, however, after the first four guys (Amaro, Ebron, Nicklas, Seferian-Jenkins) the talent falls off a bit and the rest of the guys are obvious second-tier picks. Amaro and Ebron are two guys that the Jets will have to be intrigued with. They're ability to create separation and stretch the field will have Mornhinweg salivating. When an offensive coordinator has a tight end that can stretch the field and open up the underneath routes he can be very creative in his playcalling and make the offense difficult to defend. The Jets will no doubt fill the void at tight end this offseason...I just don't see Cumberland as an answer for them.
TR: Ron, thank you for taking the time to break down some of the areas of need for the New York Jets. Be sure to check out Ron Pickett's editorials on JetNation.com and you can follow him on Twitter: @RonPickettJN