Jets fans have become used to a pretty limited spectrum of emotions. Sad. Frustrated. Furious to the point of throwing your TV out of the window. But, these days, Jets fans are feeling something different: cautious optimism.
After last season the Jets fired Rex Ryan for the sin of coaching his lackluster squad to the exact record it deserved. Not everyone wanted to see the Jets’ jovial fan favorite go, but just about everyone around the team was ready for an organizational change. The Jets got that when they gave GM John Idzik the heave-ho after he gave Rex so little to work with.
This offseason Jets made significant changes in the executive suite, on the sidelines, and most importantly, in between those sidelines.
- Darrelle Revis, CB: Five years, $70MM. $39MM guaranteed.
- Antonio Cromartie, CB: Four years, $32MM. $16MM guaranteed.
- David Harris, LB: Three years, $21.5MM. $15MM guaranteed.
- Buster Skrine, CB: Four years, $25MM. $13MM guaranteed.
- James Carpenter, G: Four years, $19.1MM. $5MM guaranteed.
- Marcus Gilchrist, S: Four years, $22MM. $3.5MM guaranteed.
- Bilal Powell, RB: One year, $2MM. $750K guaranteed.
- Tanner Purdum, LS: Two years, $1.81MM. $265K guaranteed.
- Stevan Ridley, RB: One year, $1.25MM. $80K guaranteed.
- Leger Douzable, DL: One year, $1.2MM. $80K guaranteed.
- Ben Ijalana, T: One year, $760K. $80K guaranteed.
- Willie Colon, G: One year, minimum salary benefit. $65K guaranteed.
- Stephen Bowen, DL: One year, minimum salary benefit. $60K guaranteed.
- James Brewer, T: One year, minimum salary benefit. $60K guaranteed.
- Jamari Lattimore, LB: One year, minimum salary benefit. $60K guaranteed.
- Joe Mays, LB: One year, minimum salary benefit. $60K guaranteed.
- Kevin Vickerson, DL: One year, minimum salary benefit. $60K guaranteed.
- Kellen Davis, TE: One year, minimum salary benefit. $40K guaranteed.
- Damon Harrison, DT: One year, $2.356MM. Signed second-round RFA tender.
- Jaiquawn Jarrett, S: One year, $1.542MM. Signed original-round RFA tender.
- Charles Brown, T: One year, minimum salary benefit.
- Erin Henderson, LB: One year, minimum salary benefit.
- Steve Maneri, TE: One year, minimum salary benefit.
At the outset of free agency, Darrelle Revis opted to return to the team that drafted him on a five-year, $70MM deal. The deal matches Patrick Peterson‘s $70MM extension he signed last summer and even though it technically has less guaranteed money, one could argue that Revis came away with the better deal. Revis’ $39MM is fully guaranteed, while a good chunk of Peterson’s $48MM guarantee was for injury only. The 29-year-old appeared in all 19 of the Patriots’ games in 2014 (playoffs included) and ranked as the fourth-best cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus’ grading system (subscription required). He also earned his sixth Pro Bowl nod and fourth First-Team All-Pro selection.
Yes, everything old is new again in New York and the Jets even brought back Revis’ secondary partner, Antonio Cromartie. The reunion between the two sides was heavily rumored ever since the Jets presented Todd Bowles as their new head coach. Cromartie, 31, enjoyed a career resurgence under Bowles in Arizona and he’ll try to get Jets fans to forget about his up-and-down play and judgement towards the end of his last tenure in Green. Cro made no secret of the fact that he wanted to join the Jets — his Cardinals teammate Patrick Peterson even complained in the spring that all Cromartie talked about was “freaking New York.” Cromartie had a pretty atrocious year for the Jets in 2013, finishing with an overall grade of -11.4 (per Pro Football Focus, subscription required), placing him in the bottom ten of all qualified cornerbacks. However, his season with Arizona earned him a much less harsh -0.2 overall grade, putting him 45th out of 108 cornerbacks.
Before Cromartie and Revis put pen to paper, the Jets pounced on Browns free agent cornerback Buster Skrine. Skrine, who played second fiddle to Joe Haden in Cleveland, is quite familiar with getting picked on as the No. 2 corner. In 2014, Skrine showed that he is durable by playing 1,152 snaps and he held opposing QBs to a respectable 56.9% completion percentage. The Jets are now loaded at cornerback with their new trio and the icing on the cake is that they plucked Skrine away from interested teams including foes such as the Dolphins and Giants.
The Jets also have new blood at safety thanks to the addition of Marcus Gilchrist. The advanced metrics were not kind to the ex-Chargers safety in 2014 as PFF (subscription required) ranked him 72nd out of 87 eligible safeties. However, he graded out much better in 2013, finishing as the 20th-best safety out of 88. Gilchrist isn’t known as a big playmaker, but he has a reputation as a solid tackler and and mentally-sound player.
Just as Cromartie followed his beloved DC to New York, many believed that David Harris would travel upstate to reunite with Rex. However, the Jets came to the table with a three-year, $21.5MM contract with $15MM in fully guaranteed money that kept him in place. Harris, entering his age-31 season, has spent his entire career with Gang Green. He started every single one of the Jets’ regular season games over the last six seasons, averaging about 114 tackles per year over that stretch. In 2014, he racked up 124 tackles, recorded 5.5 sacks, and forced a pair of fumbles, a performance that Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated as middle-of-the-pack for inside linebackers.
Like Harris, running back Bilal Powell was quite tempted to follow his former coach to Buffalo. However, the Jets managed to retain him on a modest one-year, $2MM deal with a $750K signing bonus. Former Patriots notable Stevan Ridley will also be on the depth chart for the Jets. Ridley’s season was cut short in 2014 by an ACL and MCL injury suffered in Week 6 and he didn’t get to rebuild his value quite like he had hoped. However, before his injury-shorted 2014 and fumble-filled 2013, Ridley was regarded as one of the brightest young running backs in the league. He rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns during his sophomore campaign, earning him the 25th-best ranking among running backs from Pro Football Focus (subscription required). If the Jets get anything close to that, then Ridley’s one-year deal will stand as one of the best free agent buys of the year.
- Phillip Adams, CB
- Nick Bellore, LB
- John Conner, FB
- Kenrick Ellis, DT
- Percy Harvin, WR: Released
- Chris Johnson, RB
- Dawan Landry, S
- Chris Pantale, TE: Waived
- Greg Salas, WR
- Matt Simms, QB: Waived
- Michael Vick, QB
- Kyle Wilson, CB
Chris Johnson, also known as CJ2K or, in more recent years, CJ?K, after he was unceremoniously dropped by the Titans. At that point, Johnson was not the elite back that he once was, but he did have a resume of at least 1,000 rushing yards in each of his six NFL seasons and he was durable with just one game missed. Unfortunately, Johnson never really found his footing with the Jets save for a couple of flashback-inducing performances. In February of this year, the Jets declined their second-year option on the veteran.
Before Johnson signed his Jets deal late in the offseason, free agent pickups Eric Decker and Michael Vick were the talk of the town. One of those men figures to be a focal point of the Jets’ offense in 2015 while the other is still looking for work. Vick came to New York saying all the right things every time he was asked about potentially usurping the starting job from Geno Smith. The veteran lefty played the role of good soldier and waited his turn, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to do much when given the opportunity.
Percy Harvin was acquired by the Jets from the Seahawks back in October in the most surprising in-season trade of 2014. However, the veteran receiver and return man didn’t have a huge impact in New York, totaling 29 receptions for 350 yards and a touchdown in his eight games with the Jets. Harvin also averaged just 24.8 yards per kick return, with no TDs. In Harvin’s defense, he joined the Jets late in the year when the offense was a complete disaster and they were all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason. A prime Jerry Rice wouldn’t have been able to do much for a team so defeated both mentally and in the standings.
- Acquired WR Brandon Marshall and a 2015 seventh-round pick from the Bears in exchange for a 2015 fifth-round pick.
- Acquired QB Ryan Fitzpatrick from the Texans in exchange for a 2016 seventh-round pick. Pick could turn into a 2016 sixth-rounder based on Fitzpatrick’s playing time in 2015.
- Acquired a 2015 third-round pick (No. 82; OLB Lorenzo Mauldin), a 2015 fifth-round pick (No. 152; G Jarvis Harrison), a 2015 seventh-round pick (No. 229), and WR DeVier Posey from the Texans in exchange for a 2015 third-round pick (No. 70; WR Jaelen Strong).
- Acquired a 2015 fourth-round pick (No. 103; Bryce Petty) from the Jaguars in exchange for a 2015 fourth-round pick (No. 104; S James Sample) and a 2015 seventh-round pick (No. 229; TE Ben Koyack).
- Acquired RB Zac Stacy from the Rams in exchange for a 2015 seventh-round pick (No. 224; LB Bryce Hager).
Brandon Marshall, 31, signed a three-year contract extension with the Bears last May that locked him up through the 2017 season. However, with Marc Trestman, Phil Emery, and the old regime out of the picture in Chicago, new GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox decided to move Marshall as a part of their overhaul. For the low, low price of a fifth-round draft pick, the Jets added one of the league’s very best receivers. The question now is, will Marshall be as productive at his advanced age and without the play calling of Trestman?
As it stands today, Marshall figures to be catching balls from rising junior Geno Smith. However, if this season goes like the previous two, it won’t be long before offseason acquisition Ryan Fitzpatrick is under center. The Harvard grad started 12 games for the Texans last season and while he didn’t set the world on fire, he did okay. He completed 63.1% of his passes, posted a 95.3 passer rating, and threw 17 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. Fitzpatrick has one year and $3.25MM left on his contract and he only cost New York a conditional seventh-round draft choice that could turn into a sixth-round pick. All things considered, he looks like a pretty good insurance option in case Smith falters.
Extensions and restructures:
Marshall had one of the least productive seasons of his career in 2014, finishing with 61 catches for 721 yards and eight touchdowns. However, the Jets recognize his talent and in order to help seal the deal in trade talks, the Jets agreed to sweeten his contract before acquiring him from Chicago. On the one-year anniversary of his last deal with Chicago, the Jets bumped his $24.3MM pact to a new three-year, $26MM deal with $1.3MM in fully guaranteed money.
- 1-6: Leonard Williams, DL (USC): Signed
- 2-37: Devin Smith, WR (Ohio State): Signed
- 3-82: Lorenzo Mauldin, OLB (Louisville): Signed
- 4-103: Bryce Petty, QB (Baylor): Signed
- 5-152: Jarvis Harrison, G (Texas A&M): Signed
- 7-223: Deon Simon, DT (Northwestern State): Signed
Sitting at No. 6, the Jets just might have landed the best player in the entire draft. Many heralded USC star Leonard Williams as the best talent in this year’s draft and posited that he could have been the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick if the Bucs and Titans weren’t in desperate need of a quarterback. The Raiders at No. 4 seemed like a logical spot for Williams, but when Oakland selected Amari Cooper, that paved the way for Williams to fall to New York. Now, the Jets have a bright young defensive lineman to use against opposing quarterbacks and also against Sheldon Richardson in negotiations as he fights for a lucrative new deal.
Not satisfied with just adding Marshall to the wide receiver group, the Jets also tapped Ohio State standout Devin Smith in the second round. Prior to the draft, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock hailed Smith’s deep threat ability as well as his speed. Smith, who runs a 4.4 second 40-yard-dash, led his team with 931 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014.
In the fourth round, the made an intriguing choice when they selected Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty. With doubts that Smith can be the Jets’ answer under center and Fitzpatrick on the wrong side of 30, Petty could be a candidate for the job if everything goes right. Of course, these things often don’t go right with quarterbacks and Kellen Clemens‘ uneventful time with the Jets serves as an everlasting reminder of that.
- Hired Todd Bowles as head coach to replace Rex Ryan.
- Hired Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator to replace Marty Mornhinweg.
- Hired Kacy Rodgers as defensive coordinator to replace Dennis Thurman.
- Exercised 2016 fifth-year option for OLB Quinton Coples ($7.751MM).
- Signed nine undrafted rookie free agents following draft.
- Signed T Corey Hilliard to a one year, minimum salary benefit contract; Hilliard then retired and had to return his $60K signing bonus.
- Placed TE Zach Sudfeld on injured reserve due to torn ACL.
Two years ago, John Idzik convinced Jets owner Woody Johnson that he was the man for the job based on his salary cap expertise. When Idzik was ousted, the Jets replaced him with former Texans college scouting director Mike Maccagnan. Maccagnan, who was championed by team consultant Charley Casserly, isn’t much of a numbers guy but has a wealth of football knowledge and a keen eye for player evaluation.
While the Jets went in a different direction at GM, they went with another defensive-minded coach to replace Ryan when they hired former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. The 51-year-old is now the Jets’ sixth straight head coach with a defensive background as Ryan, Eric Mangini, Herm Edwards, Al Groh, and Bill Parcells were all defense-first coaches. That may seem like an exceptionally long time to emphasize defense, but one can hardly blame Gang Green for being wary of going back to an offensive-minded HC after two dreadful years with Rich Kotite. Bowles will be assisted by Kacy Rodgers on defense while ex-Bills coach Chan Gailey will be responsible for the offensive playcalling.
In April, the Jets exercised their fifth-year option for outside linebacker Quinton Coples. Following Coples’ up-and-down start to the linebacker’s career, there was speculation that the Jets would allow him to play out his contract. However, the contract is only guaranteed for injury, meaning the organization basically took no financial risk. The former 16th-overall pick tied or set career-highs in 2014 in games played (16), solo tackles (25) and sacks (6.5). However, Coples compiled 708 snaps this past season, a significant decrease from his 2013 total (834). Furthermore, he didn’t receive a positive ranking via Pro Football Focus (subscription required), ranking 40th among 46 3-4 outside linebacker candidates.
Top 10 cap hits for 2015:
- Darrelle Revis, CB: $16,000,000
- D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LT: $11,698,670
- Nick Mangold, C: $10,407,100
- Brandon Marshall, WR: $9,000,000
- David Harris, LB: $7,500,000
- Antonio Cromartie, CB: $7,000,000
- Muhammad Wilkerson, DL: $6,969,000
- Eric Decker, WR: $6,500,000
- Breno Giacomini, RT: $5,125,000
- Dee Milliner, CB: $3,453,028
In total, it really is a new day in New York. The Jets managed to shake up their organization from top to bottom and with the AFC East wide open, they can make a major impact in 2015. The secondary is no longer a sore spot for Gang Green but the quarterback situation seems only marginally better thanks to the presence of Fitzpatrick. The Jets’ signal caller situation will likely dictate exactly how far they go this season.