Free agency started off slow for the New York Jets, so much so that most of the fan base, the media, and allegedly head coach Rex Ryan weren't happy with the direction GM John Idzik had this team going. Reports of a strained relationship already between Rex Ryan, and Idzik reached new heights this off season, and maybe it's as simple as it looks. Rex is not the coach Idzik envisioned having, and Idzik is not the GM Rex feels comfortable working with. Despite the perceived tension within Jets headquarters, they have made key moves. Not exactly going on a free agency spending spree like their inner city rivals the New York Giants, the Jets have certainly made the moves that have changed this team's DNA.
Let's recap those moves, and the impact they will have on this team:
Good value deal for #Jets on TE Jeff Cumberland’s three deal: It’s for $3.7M with $1M guaranteed. They think pretty highly of him— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 8, 2014
I'm Coming Home:
John Idzik, and his front office were quick to retain the pieces they felt could grow with this team as they look to evolve. Tight end Jeff Cumberland was one of the more consistent targets for then rookie QB Geno Smith. Cumberland who finished the season with 26 receptions, 398 yards (15.3 avg), and 4 touchdowns. Agreeing to a three-year, $3.7 million deal it's clear the Jets see the five-year veteran as a key offensive weapon during this transformation period.
Place Kicker Nick Folk was also quickly retained, being the Jets franchise tag player. Later the two sides would agree to a four-year, $12 million deal ($2.1M guaranteed). Folk was arguably the Jets most consistent source of points with big time efficiency on his part, finishing the year going 33-36 (91.7 %) for his field goal attempts. He would also kick a long of 54 yards, just two yards shy of his career long 56. Nick Folk totaled 127 points on the 2013 NFL season.
Fan favorite LB Calvin Pace would see a swift return as well, agreeing to a two-year, $5 million deal. Pace had a career year in '13 with 10 sacks, and has started every game for the Jets the last three seasons.
OL Willie Colon, LB Jermaine Cunningham, DT Leger Douzable, CB Ellis Lankster, CB Darrin Walls.
When the Jets acquired Santonio Holmes in 2010 (via trade) he came with some major baggage. However he quickly changed the opinions of most doubters with big time plays, and his production was enough to convince the Jets to sign him to a five-year, $45.25 million deal. The feeling of having the Super Bowl XLIII hero in town was at an all time high as Holmes would help engineer those two back-to-back AFC Championship appearances. However it all came crashing down in 2011 with the lack of production, injuries, and in-game fight with a teammate as Holmes and this team would never recover. Holmes was recently cut as John Idzik looks to clean house, and transform this organization.
CB Antonio Cromartie was perhaps the most interesting cut, and that was mainly due to the fact that the Jets actually needed him. Cromartie is of the Rex Ryan mold, a corner with exceptional man-to-man coverage skills allowing Rex to implement his strategic blitz packages. Many felt after that, that John Idzik would go out and get Rex an upgrade at the position. They tried to lure Vontae Davis away from the Indianapolis Colts, however he would agree to a 4-year, $39 million deal with the Colts.
Reports came out that Idzik, and his front office weren't as aggressive with their recruiting as other teams. This allegedly didn't sit well with Rex Ryan, but nothing to fear as former face of the franchise shut down corner Darrelle Revis hit the market. After his brief stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Revis would let it be known he did in fact consider rejoining his former team, and that he did in fact miss playing for a defensive guru like Rex Ryan. So what could possibly go wrong?
Per his agents, Darrelle Revis has signed his contract with the New England Patriots.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 17, 2014
Not only did Gang Green miss out on bringing back the corner who (with health on his side) may be the best in the business, but they let him join the enemy. No, the enemy of all enemies. Rex was reportedly very ang...well you get the picture. With the need for corner still a glaring issue, the Jets would get chance number two at Denver Broncos shutdown corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He would meet Rex & Co. and things seemed to be going well...until:
Giants announce the signing of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Again, it's a 5-year deal with a base value of $35 million.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 17, 2014
Another upgrade lost, and to the inner city rival at that. The same inner city rival with more success within the last 6 years...Super Bowl success. And as if the corner woes couldn't get any worse, Antonio Cromartie would find himself a new job throughout this process agreeing to a one-year, $3.25 million deal. The Jets still have a chance to improve via free agency, and the draft looking at how vital the corner position is in Rex's defense they can't miss on a prospect.
And finally the cut we were all expecting, Mark Sanchez has met his end with the New York Jets. Sanchez a five-year vet helped spark those back-to-back AFC championship runs, but it would be his short comings as a QB that would dominate his career path. 2013 was supposed to be his redemption year before suffering his season ending shoulder injury in the preseason. Is Mark Sanchez a lost cause? No, as teams such as the Buffalo Bills and St.Louis Rams have reportedly shown interest in his services. Sanchez's former offensive coordinator Brian Shottenheimer is now the off. coordinator in St.Louis. Sanchez's cut came as a result of the Michael Vick signing.
CB Isaiah Trufant (Cleveland Browns), OT Austin Howard (Oakland Raiders)
Despite what many consider to be a lack-luster effort on the part of John Idzik this off season he has made some key moves to change this team's make up for the better.
Perhaps the most impactful signing this free agency, the Jets agreed to a five-year, $36.25 million deal ($15M guaranteed) with ex-Denver Bronco Eric Decker. Decker has made a name for himself becoming one of the premier offensive weapons in the NFL the last two seasons. Now many argue his numbers are a direct result of Peyton Manning's talents, and passing ability. I would argue that is correct, and I would also argue that every receiver that has ever been under Manning's command has benefited. Decker without Peyton, and with a Tim Tebow still managed to finish the '11 season with 8 touchdowns.
Simply put: Eric Decker is a valuable weapon, one who when put in the right spots and given the ball with accuracy can make plays (most importantly score touchdowns). His presence on the outside is something NYJ has been missing for years, and if the Jets continue to add to this receiving core it may prove to be their strongest unit in years.
You have the receiver (at least one of them), and Geno Smith who could have used a Decker last season gave many a reason to doubt him last season. Inconsistent play, the turnovers, and the inability to read what the defenses were giving him at times hurt his play and quickly introduced him to the NYC media backlash. The Jets seemed so sure using their second round pick in the '13 draft to acquire the young QB, however it seems that trust level is on the fence.
John Idzik would make his second biggest signing of the off season due to that, agreeing to a one-year, $5 million deal with former-Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick. Vick has faced a number of injuries these last few years, directly related to his dynamic style of play and the once suspect offensive line of the Eagles. However this move was one that had to be made as Vick will provide healthy competition for Geno Smith. At times young QBs can get complacent, but with a veteran like Vick coming aboard who's not interested in being a back up it will force Geno to improve on his game.
We could also be in for a rebirth of Michael Vick's career (again), as he may show his doubters some of what he was able to do in 2010 hitting his stride as a passer. If Vick can be anything like his '10 self, and stay relatively healthy it only makes the offense more dynamic. Perhaps the most dynamic offense Rex Ryan has ever had.
And with reports of Eagles star receiver DeSean Jackson on the outs soon, the Jets may be interested in bringing along someone who can stretch the field providing a deep threat for a team that has been without one for quite some time. Vick has campaigned for it, and we've seen just what he and Jackson can do when on their game:
OT Breno Giacomini (prev: Seattle Seahawks), CB Johnny Patrick (prev: San Diego Chargers)
What It All Means:
The Jets have made headlines again this off season, but mostly for good reasons. Looking at the additions one could say they improved, just how much is the question we should be asking. There are still more moves to be made, and the draft is on it's way. John Idzik, and Rex Ryan seem to understand the importance of getting this team to another level but the relationship between the two has it's flaws. With the many roles on offense left to be upgraded, and the secondary still in question it should be interesting to see where they go with things. The Jets are trying, this isn't the circus we are use to and that should satisfy the fan base...for now.