Key Additions: Eric Decker ($7.5M per year), Breno Giacomini ($4.5M), Mike Vick ($4M), Dimitri Patterson ($3M)
Key Re-Signings: Nick Folk($3M per year), Calvin Pace($2.5M), Willie Colon($2M), Jeff Cumberland($1.9M)
Key Losses: Austin Howard (Raiders)
Major Cuts: Antonio Cromartie($9.5M cap savings),Mark Sanchez($8.3M), Santonio Holmes($8.25M)
Free Agency Thoughts:
There were many who expected the Jets to be active in free agency and for the most part the team sat on the sidelines. The Jets saved $26.05 million in cap room with the three big cuts and added just $23.05 in 2014 cap commitments to the 10 free agents they brought in or re-signed. In general the Jets seem committed to rebuilding through the draft, where they have 12 picks this season, as most of the contracts are nothing more than one year deals.
The best contract signing was Decker at $7.5 million a year. While Decker played with a great QB in Denver his career has progressed nicely and the price is a bargain compared to what some receivers received in free agency in 2013. The Jets best asset on offense was throwing deep last year and this should only help them in that regard…Giacomini is a better value play than Howard, but I think there will always be questions about changing the continuity on the offensive line if age is not a factor so there could be a slight risk to that strategy.
The decision to sign Vick is certainly one that will be analyzed closely. Vick hasn’t been effective since 2011 and is a walking injury. His skill-set does not really complement QB Geno Smith to say that the team can insert Smith and run the same offense if Vick starts and goes down. If Vick wins the job and ends up on the sidelines for whatever reason during the year and Smith struggles many will blame Vicks presence as stifling the growth of Smith. Vick isn’t guaranteed to start as he is earning high end backup money, but his athleticism should shine in the preseason.
The most questionable move will be the swap of Patterson and Cromartie. Cromartie was a popular player among fans and the coaching staff but struggled badly in 2013. He did play through injury but there has always been concerns that once Cromartie lost a step it would be over. Considering Patterson is also an injury waiting to happen and couldn’t even stick with the Cleveland Browns the Jets clearly made it known that they think Cromartie is finished as Cromartie signed with Arizona for a similar price.
The remainder of the signings are pretty much no-risk, veteran holds. Nick Folk desperately wanted a long term $3 million a year contract and the Jets obliged with a funny money type contract that holds less guarantees than his original Franchise tender. Pace and Colon are players that started last season and would start again if no draft pick can stake claim to the job. The Jets only guaranteed $1.5 million between the two of them so if they grab a pass rusher and guard high in the draft both are in danger of not sticking with the team. The Jets overpaid slightly for Cumberland and his contract is the only one that shows hey see a significant upside in him.
Overall Grade: C-
Grading free agency for a team not looking to build or even enhance much through it is difficult. There is almost no risk to what the Jets did which is a positive, but the upside is very limited. Despite all the money that had at their disposal they only improved at two spots- wide receiver and backup QB. You would have thought that they would have been able to find a defensive back and/or interior lineman that could have contributed for three years at a moderate cost. Safety, corner, and guard are three spots that the team could look back on with regret in October depending on how the draft picks develop. Nailing down at least one of those spots in free agency should have been a priority to reduce the natural risks associated with the draft, especially considering the Jets have close to $30 million in cap space.