The Questions Woody Johnson Must Ask About Idzik, Rex, and the Jets

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With another lackluster loss in the books for the Jets I wanted to look at some of the decisions that the team will need to make in the future regarding their current front office. The decisions in this case need to come from the top, and that lies with the owner Woody Johnson making some very difficult decisions about the team that he must be firm on.

The Jets have had a different way of dealing with some of their front office decisions than most (not necessarily all, but most) teams in the NFL. When the Jets hired John Idzik to run the franchise in 2013 it was with the condition that Rex Ryan be retained as head coach. That’s not a foreign concept. The Bears and Panthers both hired General Managers where the coaches were retained from the prior regime. The one difference is that it was made clear to those GM’s that they had autonomy to make the decision the next year on who would run the team. Idzik did not seem to have the same power, a position reinforced by a recent tweet by Ian Rapoport that indicated Ryan was safe for 2015, but Idzik could be in danger. That’s a strange way to run a franchise.

If the organization if to make a turn for the better Johnson has to ask himself a few questions and understand all the variables about draft picks, free agency, rebuilding phiosophies, coaching strengths and weakneeses to try to stabilize a ship that seems to be taking on more and more water by the week.

1. What direction is the franchise taking?

The answers to all questions really build off of this one. While the GM, in theory, ultimately decides the direction, ownership needs to be on board with what has to be done. If ownership is not 100% behind the plan it is doomed to failure the minute a bump in the road is hit. In many ways I feel this is a problem for the current Jets as their decision making seems to pull the team in a few different directions at once. It just feels like two wasted years.

The Jets need to define a clear path of action for the organization. Is this a competitive team?  Is it a rebuilding team?  If it is a rebuilding team how major is the rebuild and how do you want to rebuild. Do you want to rebuild in the manner of the Buccaneers (major signings in free agency hoping for a quick solution), Raiders (clear the cap, grab all moderate cost questionable vets in free agency, maintain cap space over long term), or Packers (forego free agency, develop within and pay when they hit). What are you willing to risk with each plan and can you stick with the plan for three years without wanting answers after one season?

If you plan on being competitive immediately map out a path as to why its the case and how will you get there. What do you see on the roster that nobody else does that makes you think you can compete quickly. Cleveland and Houston are two short term successes this year that likely had to make that same call in 2014.  Carolina looks to have done the same and may be sustaining it over two years. Do the Jets have the talent base in place to do this? It’s important that the owner understands and is comfortable with whatever the GM is proposing before the GM is hired/retained. They cant try to alter whatever path the GM has once it gets started.

2. Is John Idzik the man for the job?

No matter what angle you want to take with Idzik, the bottom line is the Jets are in no better shape than when he took over. When you look for young building blocks on the team there are few- DE Muhammad Wilkerson and DE/DT Sheldon Richardson. Calvin Pryor and Jace Amaro may be good players, but I don’t consider those positions to be those you build an organization around. There are a few situational pieces like Damon Harrison, Demario Davis and Leger Douzable who will certainly have a role on a decent team.

The team still has no quarterback and the offensive line is fading fast to the point where it looks as if it may need to be totally rebuilt in the near term. The secondary has gone from a strength to a weakness. The wide receivers remain poor. Basically the Jets have shifted the talent base from the offensive to the defensive line and gotten younger, but worse, in the secondary.

Idzik’s moves into the free agent marketplace have been up and down.  Mike Vick and Chris Johnson look like wastes of dollars. Mike Goodson and Dimitri Patterson ended up leaving the team the butt of jokes. Chris Ivory can give the team some identity when he is clicking. Erik Decker gives the Jets a professional receiver, while Dawan Landry and Willie Colon are decent fill in the gap veterans. There are clearly no home runs but he wasn’t swinging for the fences either.

The biggest misses for Idzik have come in the draft. The one thing that gave Tannenbaum leeway early on was that he hit a home run in his first two drafts with the Jets. In his first draft he focused on building block pieces (a tackle and center with his first two picks then a QB in round 2) and fixing the depth on the team. Out of that first draft he ended up with two Pro Bowl offensive lineman and four players who would contribute to the team in some manner over the next 5 years.

Because of the success of the first draft, “Trader Mike” was born in draft number two, where he focused on perceived quality over quantity. Tannenbaum would draft all world cornerback Darrelle Revis and a solid linebacker in David Harris. Though the QB flopped, in two years he came out with two starting lineman, a cornerback, and inside linebacker, and a contributing running back, safety, kick returner, and cornerback. That allowed him to go an add in free agency since he had a cheap talent pool locked up through 2009/10.

Idzik has hit a foul ball in his two drafts. Richardson is a building block player, though the Jets are going to have to coach him in handling frustrating times as he seems to be struggling with being on a losing team in such a big market. He found a guard and a fullback who may contribute, but those are not really positions where it’s impactful unless you are a top line player and neither player is. This year they had 12 picks and it looks like they may have a tight end and safety. Even if those two pan out very rarely do you build a team by “hitting” at those two positions.

After two years it is human nature to question the ability of the man in charge when the results have been so unimpressive. One can point fingers at the coaching staff and their inability to develop players (those same fingers could have been pointed when the last man was fired), but after seeing this result it is difficult to look at Idzik in as positive a light as when he took the job.

3. Do you trust Idzik with another three years?

The Jets are likely going to be in a very strong position in the draft and in free agency due to large unused cap space. These are defining moments for a franchise. When you select in the top 5 in the draft you could be selecting your franchise QB. Even if you do not get the QB you are likley going to find a piece that is supposed to anchor you for a decade, whether it is a pass rusher or an offensive lineman.

If Johnson wants to fast track the plan and go the route of a team like the Miami Dolphins, who had a similar roster a few years ago as the current Jets and decided to go wild in free agency, it pretty much locks in the roster for the next three years.  It’s locked in for that time because the GM will either need to guarantee large amounts of salary or prepay large bonuses that make it difficult to release such players before the three year window expires. At best you have to hold them on the roster for two seasons and on the salary cap for three.

The Jets are going to have a decision to make on a head coach. If you are going outside the room it is going to be a commitment financially for three years at a minimum. You would be bringing in a new head coach and new coordinators and assistants. They may change the base defense you run. They may have different philosophies on offense. Maybe they do not want an aging Nick Mangold on the team. Maybe they do not feel Wilkerson is the best fit for their defense. Jet fans will remember when Eric Mangini was hired to coach the Jets it essentially meant the team needed to punt John Abraham and Jon Vilma because there was no way for them to fit. Coaching decisions can alter a franchise.

These are franchise defining decisions.  If Idzik is on a short leash, meaning he makes the playoffs in 2015 or he goes, then how can you let him make these big decisions.  What absolutely can not happen in 2015 is to let a general manager you have no faith in go out and hire a new coaching staff just so you can give him a “fair shake”.  You cant have him sign ridiculous contracts for players that nobody else wants.

This is really why the answer to the first question has to be a resounding yes if you want to keep Idzik. You can not allow Idzik to go and draft another QB with a high pick, bring in a new system, sign vets to long term deals, and then saddle a new GM with a lame duck coach and QB he never wanted in the first place. That will just send the franchise into further turmoil when the inevitable happens in 2016 and you are bringing in another GM with another lame duck coach/QB combo. Its just going to lead to a repeat of the last two years except the names will be different.

In this regard draft position and draft class quality should weigh heavily on the determination of what to do with Idzik if there is any hesitation from ownership on his future. The owner will also need to be active in setting a budget and contract parameters in this case. This is obviously what happened in Oakland this past year. While I don’t think that is the correct path for any organization to take it is the only path one can take if there is limited faith in the GM. You have to block them from determining the future, but rather allow them to just take an approach for the short term while you further decide their future.

4. Is Rex Ryan the right man for the job?

I think if we look back at Ryan’s tenure the big picture item is that he is a good coach of veterans and not as successful with young talent. When Ryan took over the 2009 Jets they were a team that was already strong in fundamentals from either Mangini or other coaches around the NFL. Whatever Ryan’s shortcomings may have been as a teacher/calming influence were more than made up by the wealth of experience that was brought and could be shared by Damien Woody, Alan Faneca, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, Thomas Jones, LaDainian Tomlinson, and others. Rex was great at getting things out of players who felt they had been given up on (Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes) and motivating everyone else to give 120%. It seemed infectious to even mediocre players who he found roles for and challenged them to succeed in.

But as the roster turned over and the veterans were released the message started to get lost. When you talked with players in 2009 and 2010 they talked about how they would jump off a building if Rex wanted them to.  Now when they ask players about Rex it’s more the usual lip service about how they like the coach. The veterans who the players in part leaned on about how to handle adversity are all gone. Now after every loss Ryan just seems perplexed that they can’t win and the situation is not getting better.

I firmly believe that if the 49ers moved in a different direction and let go of Harbaugh and brought in Rex Ryan they would be a lock for the championship game. The same might occur in Atlanta if they upgraded their defensive personnel a bit. That’s where Ryan is most effective. Veteran teams. Veteran players. Getting some momentum going and letting everyone feed off it.

That is not the Jets, at least not right now. If Johnson is fully on board with a complete rebuilding of the franchise you can not keep Rex Ryan as coach. It really should be that simple. If the draft picks are not being coached up properly then you have wasted two years by forcing pieces to work together that simply do not mesh. Don’t waste a third year of development if you have faith in who Idzik is drafting and are giving Idzik the long term to fix this mess.

Woody can not make this about his belief in Rex and that he is a good coach. It is about identifying the strengths and weaknesses of an individual. Rex may very well be a great coach in a certain situation. If that situation no longer applies you are not saying Rex is a bad coach, its just saying he is a bad fit for your situation.

If you have a different outlook on how to build the squad and the situation is going to change, Rex might be the guy for a free agent type of team. The fact is this is a decision that should have been made when Idzik first took the job and proposed trading Darrelle Revis and letting a number of veterans walk to build up draft pick quantity. The owner can not continue to protect his coach if he is going to have a team built from the ground floor. It is not Rex’s strength and it just dragged everyone down.

If Johnson is so enamored with Ryan that he is deemed untouchable then he needs to confer with Ryan as to who he would like to work with in the future. One of the reasons he and Tannenbaum worked so well together is because Mike took a lot of what Rex said and tried to implement it in his building of the team. While things fell apart at the end that is the type of relationship a powerful coach must have with his GM.  Again I don’t like this idea, but you have to be honest with yourself if you are the decision maker and if this is the road you are going to travel than you must play to the coaches strengths and make the best decision possible under the circumstances.

Too often teams fail in sports because of decisions that come down from far above the GM. It’s one of the problems on the Jets that has led to a pretty dreadful outlook on the future. The Idzik/Ryan pairing has seemed poor from the start and the team has probably wasted two years trying to find a way to make it work for both sides. Two guys with very different personalities and very different philosophies  trying to find a common ground to keep both sides happy and the Jets relevant. With potential franchise defining decisions just months away for the Jets, their owner needs to set a firm direction for the team and give whomever is in charge, whether its Idzik, Rex, or someone else the authority to put their stamp on the team and not be hindered by “suggestions” that come from ownership. This is too important a time to be on the fence about what is and is not in the best interest of the organization. Get all the facts and make the decision about what vision the team will have in the future and go all in on that decision. That’s the only way such a team will turn things around in the future so tha they can become one of the franchises that the other 31 teams look at and say “this is how we want to run our team”

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Thoughts on the Jets, John Idzik, and Rex Ryan

I think everyone who reads my work or listens to my podcasts knows I’m a Jets fan and originally ran a Jets salary cap site. I used to post my thoughts after Jets games on the nyjetscap site but due to the time constraints and work involved in OTC have been unable to do that this year. I had a number of requests for the post games this week and tonight so if you are not a Jets fan just bear with me. The process of posting here is much easier for me and I’ll get back to the usual stuff tomorrow, but for now I’m just going to share my thoughts on the team I cheer for.

I don’t think you can understate the importance of the Lions game for the Jets today. Sitting at 1-2 and staring at the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos, two of the three best teams in the AFC, in the next two weeks made this game as close to a must win as possible. While the second portion of the schedule looks easy in the NFL things have a tendency to spiral out of control when things go bad and if the Jets are at 1-5 with the Patriots coming up on a Thursday night it becomes a big mental hurdle for both players and fans alike.

The Jets have blown two football games this season. There is really no other way to spin it. They jumped all over the Green Bay Packers in week 2 and got shelled in the second half of the game. Last week against Chicago they handed them points early and kept shooting themselves in the foot every time  they made it to the red zone. Blame the referees all you want, and they did the Jets no favors, but the Jets had opportunities and did not convert.

Today you had the stadium chanting for Mike Vick to replace Geno Smith. I get it. The Jets haven’t really had exceptional QB play since 2002 and in hindsight as to how Chad Pennington got exposed you probably are going back to 1998 and before that 1986. I’ve lived through it and it stinks. Kenny O’Brien, Browning Nagle, Boomer Esiason, Neil O’Donnell, Glenn Foley, Rick Mirer, Pennington, Kellen Clemens, Brett Favre, and Mark Sanchez all leading to disappointment after disappointment. It’s in our nature to blame the QB because they have almost all let us down.

Smith was terrible against the Lions and it was his worst game of the season. He’s made plenty of mistakes going into this game but he has almost always looked poised and confident that he could win a football game. That was absent today and the mistakes were still there which just amplifies those mistakes. When Smith puts pressure on himself or feels it from the sidelines the game seems to get too fast and get away from him. That’s what happened the last few weeks. He can’t seem to get it to slow down often enough.

But Smith is the one chance the Jets have to improve in the future. He moved the ball up and down the field in the first half in Green Bay. He did it all game in Chicago. The coaching has been abysmal in the red zone and that plays a part in his failures. When the coaching is that bad in the game trust me the things they are working on in practice are not going to be considered ideal plays either. But once that decision was made to go with him as the starter you have to stay with him and see where things go. At 1-3 and the difficult upcoming schedule, Vick is not saving the season. We’ve seen the Jets go that route before. It didn’t work and it wont work now. The Jets problems are deeper than just the QB.

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Today was the first day the Jets just looked like they did not believe. It was like they were resigned to losing the game. I didn’t see any fire or passion outside of a few plays. Nothing was more telling than that then Geno’s fumble where the Jets had two or three lineman standing there and nobody dove on a ball or tried to create a pile to at least fight for the ball. If you are not going to fight in that spot then you are not going to fight at any point in the game.

They still struggle to find an identity. For the first drive of the game they were a running team. The ran 10 times on that first drive. They ran 13 times the rest of the game. Still they seemed more conservative than usual but not in a traditional way. They tried a ton of short passes which is not Smith’s strength and it showed.

The Jets over-reliance on the defense has been a crutch for the organization. It is the biggest fault of the head coach and one of the reasons I had hoped he would have been replaced this past offseason. Too often Rex calls the game as if he knows his defense will create something positive for his team. But this isn’t 2010 and it’s time to realize the defense is not a world beater by any means.

The Jets have a terrific run defense so the Lions did what most teams should do- spread them out and force the Jets linebackers into coverage and watch them get torched. Rex is overly loyal to his players. David Harris should never be in pass coverage anymore. Somehow he ended up on Golden Tate and later on the tight end who caught a touchdown.  Was the coverage bad on the TD?  Not awful, but it was the matchup the Lions wanted and why they had no fear making that pass.

The secondary is a work in progress. Some guys play too far off, unaware of the situation. Other times we see miscommunication. The tackling is terrible. They are dealing with injuries, but that’s part of the game and no excuse to rely on them over an over. They gave up 14 points in the 2nd quarter of this game to a team that had scored a combined 26 points in their last two games and was without the best player on their team in Calvin Johnson, who was essentially a decoy that ended up on the sidelines.

The Jets needed a stop on a few occasions in the second half and got nothing. To say that the team was tired is looking for excuses. The Jets just had a 5 minute drive in the 3rd quarter and the defense had seen the field for all of 3 minutes after a 15 minute break. Detroit ran 8 minutes off the clock to seize control with another score. That’s not the offense letting the team down. That’s the defense.

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There was a report today that people within the Jets organization were upset with GM John Idzik’s strategy of sitting on salary cap dollars this year rather than further improving the team. That’s understandable because the Jets have the lowest true payroll in the NFL and have been the lowest spending team in the NFL under Idzik. Considering you have a coaching staff looking to keep jobs you can also get an idea where that criticism is likely coming from.

There is nothing wrong in the NFL with sitting on salary cap space. You can roll that space over to the following year to increase your ability to extend players or be active in free agency in future years. Being active in free agency just for the sake of being active in free agency is a bad way to run a football team. The shelf life of a free agent player is short and you need to building blocks in place before you can really spend in that regard.

When you go back to the Jets spending spree in 2008 and 2009 it made sense. They had solid draft picks in D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, David Harris and Darrelle Revis making up the core of the football team.  You also had some veterans like Brandon Moore, Jerricho Cotchery, Laveranues Coles, Bryan Thomas, and Shaun Ellis who were all very capable and reasonable priced players on that roster. It was the perfect time to jump into free agency, even if you have to overpay, and use it to take the next step.

Right now the talent base is Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Jeremy Kerley. The veterans are now Ferguson, Harris, and Mangold. None of the veterans are reasonably priced and Harris and Mangold may be in their last seasons as Jets.  That’s it. You can’t go crazy in free agency in hopes of turning a team around when this is your talent base. You do not screw over your future salary caps to go 7-9 or 8-8. That’s how you become the 2011-12 New York Jets  or the Raiders, Buccaneers, or Jaguars.

Should Idzik have added more depth players?  I do think he failed there. Finding a lower cost receiver to go with Decker should have been a priority. We all knew Stephen Hill was a dud and the dropoff from Decker is gigantic. The same should be said of cornerback. Dimitri Patterson would have been a fine addition as a 4th option, but not a 2nd. The Jets did flirt with higher priced corners but it was clear that they were of the mindset that 2013 was the price points they wanted not the 2014 market pricing points.

I get as fed up as anyone with the lack of spending, but really fiscal restraint is the best option for this team. I’ll probably be saying the same next season.   The team is still overcoming years of draft failure and that takes time to repair. The Jets have not repaired that yet. You don’t fix it by bringing in Darrelle Revis for one more year at $12 million.

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I don’t really see a vision with Idzik yet which is a worry, but we have to assume he has some plan. The on field product is kind of the same as the Tannenbaum product except at a lower cost. That should not be a surprise since the man navigating the show on the field is the same. I’m not concerned about the lack of an extension for Wilkerson. He had a position of strength of last season and that may decrease this year. I would have liked to have seen Kerley extended.

The Jets, despite their record, were not a good team last season. All the credit to Rex Ryan for pulling wins out of a hat but the way they played last year was not encouraging. It’s been the same this year. None of the three teams they played had been playing particularly well. The Raiders are awful. The Packers struggled in week 1 and 3 while the Bears have struggled in week 1, 2, and 4. The schedule broke well for the Jets early this year and they were close but they failed to take advantage. Last year they probably would have won those games while this year it looks like it will break the other way.

It’s both a talent and a coaching issue. Unless the front office realizes it, they won’t fix the problem. Maybe the first step began last week when the offensive coordinator admitted he did a bad job with Smith in red zone situations. But if all we get is Ryan saying that he believes in his players, how he has a track record that says he knows something about defense, and how he doesn’t understand why the games don’t look like practice then the Jets are just doomed to repeat history.

Maybe next week they will be loose as they play on the road against a team nobody is going to expect them to be within a touchdown of when they head to San Diego. They need the win in the worst way to keep from falling too far behind and to keep the home crowd from making life unbearable against the Broncos. The Jets players are already beginning to crack from the pressure with Smith yelling an obscenity to a fan and Wilkerson admitting it hurts to hear the crowd saying they are not doing a good job.

But this is a team wide failure right now. Replacing one man is not going to make a difference. The Jets need a change in approach and mentality. Most of these guys only know the Jets from 2011 onward. There are limited quality veterans with experience to pull on from other coaching staffs that can help overcome some of the weaknesses that may exist in the Jets program. That’s wasn’t the case in the years where the Jets were successful with Rex leading the way.  Unless Rex can find a way to quickly change the next logical step for the organization is to force the change by finding a new coach. Let’s hope he finds something in San Diego next week. Go Jets!

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Best & Worst Contracts 2014: New York Jets

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Today I get to look at my favorite team, the New York Jets.

Best Contract: Eric Decker

Eric DeckerIn the last few years the Jets have basically been in a holding pattern while dealing with a tight salary cap situation and a number of players that they needed to release. With so few signings, picking a “best” contract on the Jets is not that easy. My first inclination was to go with Chris Ivory since he played well when healthy last year, but a $2.25 million bonus for an always injured running back is more of a gamble than a good contract. I thought about a few of the high upside low cost contract players like Leger Douzable, but most of those deals are one year contracts which could lead to bigger deals down the line.

I went with Eric Decker based primarily on the price tag being so low. At $7.25 million per season, Decker’s contract ranks 18th among wide receivers, despite the fact that Decker has caught 80 passes and produced over 1,000 yards in the last two seasons.  At the least that should equate to top “low tier” number 1 money which would be just above Pierre Garcon’s $8.5 million and around Greg Jennings $9 million a year.

Decker fell victim to being a member of the Denver Broncos passing attack which featured Peyton Manning at quarterback. I’m not sure where this new phenomenon has come from with receivers. Rob Gronkowski became the highest paid Tight End playing with Tom Brady. Jimmy Graham, whose numbers are ultra inflated in the Saints passing offense with Drew Brees, surpassed Gronkowki. Mike Wallace earned $12 million a year playing with Ben Roethlisberger and not being anywhere near as productive. Garcon put up lesser numbers with Manning in Indianapolis, but somehow validated his skills by being a 900 yard receiver in the year Manning was injured. Garcon was a 4th year pro in that season. Decker as a second year player put up 600 yards with Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton. Jennings’ numbers were not superior to Decker’s and came playing with Aaron Rodgers.

The Jets did seem to break somewhat from what people thought would be the salary cap strategy with new contracts, in that he received a signing bonus, but at $7.5 million its not that high. Decker’s highest cap charge will be $9 million and that comes in the final year of the contract. If Decker fails to play well the team could release him after just two years and $15 million in payments with just $4.5 million left in dead money. His three year payout is just slightly over $21 million. It’s one of those contracts that has almost no downside outside of the threat of injury that impacts every player in the NFL.

Worst Contract: David Harris

David HarrisHarris is a nice football player. He can rush the QB a bit. He’s a fundamentally sound team player. He is not Patrick Willis, but the Jets paid him as if he was. Harris’ contract was a landmine since day 1. Running only 4 years the Jets guaranteed Harris nearly 70% of his entire contract upon signing, the largest of any veteran player in the NFL at the position.  His $24.9 million dollar guarantee was higher than anyone else at ILB in the league. Harris’ percentage of total contract guaranteed only trails four first round rookies whose contracts are guaranteed just because of draft status. The next closest percentage guaranteed on a large contract is the 50% guarantee the Cleveland Browns gave Karlos Dansby this offseason. The guarantee per year of $6.225 million is more than $2 million more a year than Willis’ face value guarantee.

When Harris signed the 4 year contract his agent mentioned how the Jets wanted to do a longer deal but they turned it down. Of course they did. The Jets gave Harris all the perks of a long term contract without the long term, giving him a wonderful opportunity to have his cake and eat it too. Harris’ contract contained no offset language giving the Jets no recourse in the event that his play dropped after signing, which it did.

Harris benefitted from uncertainty around the end of the prior CBA which saw the Jets apply the franchise tag to Harris despite the tag being over $10 million. Harris ran and signed the tender because the value of it was much higher than what he would have expected to earn in free agency. That decision put them at an immediate disadvantage in negotiations.  Harris also benefitted from the Jets desire to make an example of how they treat a player who did not hold out despite not having a favorable contract as a direct shot at Darrelle Revis, who had a very public hold out with the Jets the prior year.

Harris’ statistical performance from 2008-2010 was closer to that of former Jet Jonathan Vilma and other mid tier ILB’s. My valuation at the time indicated that Harris should be worth around $6.5 million a year to a team. The Jets gave him $9. As the team began to break apart around him all the warts that you could kind of see in his lack of output leading into the contract extension shone brightly. He wasn’t fast enough to be an impact player and not strong enough to shed blockers who were no longer being occupied by another ILB or Nose Tackle. He is too slow to cover down the field, a major concern with more spread offenses that feature a Tight End.

The bottom line is Harris is a nice player to have on a good defense, but he is by no means a player that you build a defense around, and the Jets did just that with their financial commitment to him. In 2012 and 2013 Harris carried league high cap charges of $12 and $13 million. His $7 million cap charge this year is 5th in the NFL and it could have been Harris’ $13 million dollar cap charge is the highest for an ILB in the NFL and his $7 million dollar cap charge in 2014 will be in the top 10. This is a great players’ contract, one that will see the Jets pay $36 million on for a pretty average linebacker.

2013’s Best and Worst Jets Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Antonio Cromartie (Released; Signed with Cardinals)

2013 Worst Contract: David Harris (See above)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!

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Free Agency Thoughts: New York Jets

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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.

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Mark Sanchez, the Jets, and His Future

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The Jets put an end to the Mark Sanchez era when they released their former top draft pick following the signing of QB Michael Vick. I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for Sanchez as he certainly made millions with the Jets and did not deliver as anticipated, but the timing of the move shows what can be a very ugly side of football.

I wrote about Sanchez the other week and the leverage that the Jets had with his contract and future. The short version is that the Jets opted to extend Sanchez for salary cap relief back in 2012 where they guaranteed him a 2013 roster spot and in return got him on a moderate cost contract if he proved to be a star caliber player. As a concession for the guaranteed 2013 season, Sanchez would take a late in the offseason roster bonus in 2014 giving the Jets ample time to negotiate a trade or pay cut in the event Sanchez flamed out.

As things turned out it looks as if the Jets never had any intention of keeping Sanchez on the Jets unless an emergency situation arose. According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini the Jets never  asked him about a pay cut further indicating that they had no intentions to keep him on the roster.  It seemed as if Sanchez’ fate hinged on a series of events of which the Raiders QB decision was the deciding event. The Raiders either represented a potential trade partner or the landing destination for Vick that would cause the emergency scenario to arise.

The wheels were set in motion when the Tennessee Titans release Ryan Fitzpatrick who quickly signed with the Houston Texans. That move made Texans veteran Matt Schaub immediately available to a trade partner and the Raiders quickly emerged as the trade partner for Schaub. With the Raiders job locked up, the Jets swiftly moved to sign Vick, a move that likely could have been made over a week ago had the Jets drawn a line in the sand about a decision.

While Sanchez twisted in the win, job after job disappeared for him that would give him an opportunity to compete for a starting job: Jacksonville re-signed Chad Henne, Josh McCown went to Tampa Bay, Matt Cassel went back to Minnesota, Charlie Whitehurst ended up in Tennessee, Fitzpatrick signed with Houston, and finally the Raiders grabbed Schaub. Even backup situations were settled with Seattle signing Tarvaris Jackson, the Chargers signing Kellen Clemens, San Francisco trading for Blaine Gabbert, and Cincinnati taking in Jason Campbell.

The Jets had every right to do what they did to try to protect their interests as best as possible but it was only possible due to the date of that bonus. Others on the Jets with earlier bonuses were immediately released.  The situation could not have been pleasing to Sanchez who likely felt the rug was pulled out from under him in New York when the team traded for Tim Tebow in 2012 and then played him for no reason in a meaningless situation in 2013 that saw him get injured and spend the year on injured reserve. Sanchez will likely now have to find a team with an injury risk if he wants to re-start his career. He won’t get an opportunity to compete in the offseason.

My gut feeling is that Sanchez’ career path is probably more David Carr than Rich Gannon in that his upside is veteran backup at the minimum salary, but most do get another shot to compete for a job. Sanchez will only get that if someone else gets hurt in 2014 or will have to put his career on hold until 2015. The salary for a “high end” backup is around $4-$5 million a year for two years, but with free agency so late in the process and a desire to hit free agency in 2015, Sanchez might be best suited to take less money for a better opportunity. Who could be interested?

Cleveland– The Browns are the lone team in the NFL without a player that should be expected to start and would be his one chance to redeem himself in 2014. Their head coach is familiar with Sanchez, though that may not be a positive for Sanchez as the Jets did more to hide him in his time in the NFL because they were fearful of him giving games away. They have the cap space to make a two year commitment where he holds the seat warm for a draft pick.

St. Louis–  The Rams also have an association with Sanchez since current Rams OC Brian Schottenheimer is his former offensive coordinator in New York. The two seemed to get along well in NY and Sam Bradford is both an injury risk and an ineffective pull possibility. If the Rams plan on drafting a QB than Sanchez makes no sense, but for now Bradford is the only guy on the roster.  They have about $9 million in cap room so they could offer the one year lower cost $2-$3 million type contract.

Chicago– Jay Cutler is virtually guaranteed to miss games, failing to reach 16 games in any season after 2009. The Bears have no real backups in place and this is a great opportunity. The team has two incredible receivers and a system that made people think Josh McCown discover how to play the position at a high level in his mid 30’s. The Bears only have $6.6 million in cap room and were unwilling to pay McCown to be a high end backup, but if I am Sanchez I would take this job for close to the minimum because the upside here is tremendous. They should push the Bears for a contract.

Buffalo– This is another injury risk possibility and potential ineffective pull, but with more competition. EJ Manuel is only in his second year in Buffalo and is a first round draft pick. In addition the team likes Thaddeus Lewis who is the low cost backup. I could see interest in Sanchez but the upside might not be there to justify taking the low cost contract they would offer. Last year they paid Kevin Kolb just $1 million guaranteed to try out. Kolb suffered a concussion and was out for the year so he collected $2.75 million.

Green Bay– Aaron Rodgers went down last season and with him so did the Packers season. I wouldn’t see the Packers paying much, but there is always a chance that you get one game to show what you are worth if Rodgers gets hurt or is a healthy scratch. Those few games saw Matt Flynn get paid elsewhere. The negative is if you play poorly in Green Bay there is probably no coming back and they wont hesitate to pull the plug in the summer if the cost is not that much.

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2014 New York Jets Offseason Salary Cap and Financial Report

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Welcome to one of the newest additions to the Over the Cap website: the offseason Financial Scouting Report, which should help serve as a guide to a teams’ offseason planning for the 2014 season.  This will be our first report and will break down some thoughts on the New York Jets. Each report will contain a breakdown of the current roster, a look at performance from 2013, salary cap outlooks, free agents, salary cap cuts, draft costs, extension candidates, and possible free agent targets. The hope is to do a report for all 32 teams by the start of Free Agency, if time allows.

Because the report contains some graphs and charts and over 5,000 words it is available for download as an Adobe PDF file that you can read at your leisure offline and keep for a handy reference during the year rather than as a blog post. The report is free for download and reading, but if you find the report useful and would like to help OTC continue to grow and add content like this we would appreciate the “purchase” of the report for just $1.00 by clicking the Paypal link below or the one within the report. Also if using any of the graphs or salary data please just add a reference to OTC when doing so.

Jets report

Download OTC’s 2014 New York Jets Financial Report




David Garrard Officially Signs With Jets

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David Garrard officially signed his contract with the Jets on Thursday and the team was granted a two week roster exemption for Garrard. Garrard’s salary will be based on a $1 million dollar Paragraph 5 salary, the same amount that Garrard was contracted to earn prior to his retirement during the offseason. The Jets will be responsible for $588,235 in salary cap charges if Garrard is activated after the two week period.

Garrard is currently the 5th QB on the New York Jets roster joining starter Geno Smith, injured Mark Sanchez, backup Matt Simms, and 3rd stringer Brady Quinn. Quinn has yet to be activated for any game this season so it would seem likely that the Jets would release Quinn if Garrard is capable of playing.  The Jets had released Quinn prior to the first game of the year before re-signing him, thus eliminating their responsibility for full season Termination Pay.

View David Garrard’s Contract and Salary Cap Page

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