As the NFL playoffs get underway this weekend, it’s time for the Jets to figure out how they can get back to playing meaningful games in January.
And after missing out on the postseason by just one game, the Jets are a lot closer than many people thought they were.
The Jets also wouldn't have brought back head coach Rex Ryan if they didn't think he was the man to lead them there.
While addressing the media on Tuesday, general manager John Idzik gave an array of generic answers – but he wouldn’t fully commit to Geno Smith as the team’s quarterback in 2014. Idzik didn’t say the team would be active in seeking a replacement, though he did make it sound as if the option would be kept open should a better alternative became available.
The quarterback market will be short its best player as the Bears agreed to a seven-year deal with Jay Cutler on Thursday.
The Jets shouldn’t necessarily concern themselves with replacing Smith as he did show signs of being capable of handling the starting job next season. A good veteran backup who can start if need be though is a must.
Mark Sanchez is still under contract with the team but given the money he is owed it would be a surprise if the Jets brought him back. Sanchez played the role of good soldier this season but the idea of bringing him back would just create an unwanted distraction.
From a name standpoint, Mike Vick is intriguing but he’s injury-prone and wants to start.
Josh McCown, Cutler’s backup in Chicago, leads the best of a bad bunch who are likely to be available, however rumors have circulated that he may retire.
Whoever the quarterback is next season, they are going to need better wide receivers to work with.
Santonio Holmes is expected to be let go and it’s hard to imagine Stephen Hill keeping his starting job. Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson were productive, though neither is considered a primary option.
Eric Decker of the Denver Broncos is a free agent but in all likelihood he’s not going anywhere. He’ll probably be a bit overpriced anyway due to Peyton Manning inflating his numbers.
One player to keep an eye on is Jeremy Maclin. Coming off a torn ACL in training camp, Maclin would give the Jets the speed they desperately need and will be just 26-years old by the time the season starts.
The Jets got a steal this year in Nelson, who had just recovered from the same injury, however not all recoveries are alike.
Rutgers product Kenny Britt wore out his welcome with the Tennessee Titans due to poor play and off-the-field problems, but a return home under a player-friendly coach like Ryan might do him some good. Britt will be cheap and could be a high-reward, low-risk signing.
There’s a decent chance the Jets bring back Jeff Cumberland, though they would still need a better receiving option at tight end.
Players like Brandon Pettigrew or Fred Davis are still relatively young but have seen better days, meaning they could be affordable reclamation projects.
Scott Chandler had a nice year in Buffalo and signing him would damage the rival Bills while also improving the passing game.
It doesn’t matter who the Jets bring in at guard, because almost anyone would be an upgrade over Vlad Ducasse or Brian Winters.
Cornerback was a glaring weakness for the Jets, and with Antonio Cromartie likely to be released, they’ll have at least one spot on the roster to fill.
Dee Milliner was dreadful for much of the season yet was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month in December, so there is hope he can remain in his starting role.
Luckily, there are quite a few good corners who could become available such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Aqib Talib, and Captain Munnerlyn – making it one of the deepest positions in free agency.
With the impending releases of Sanchez, Holmes, and Cromartie, the Jets will have money to spend.
What the Jets decide to do with their own free agents – Cumberland, tackle Austin Howard, linebacker Calvin Pace, kicker Nick Folk, among others – could alter their plans depending on who they end up retaining.
There’s always the draft, although it is a bit too early to begin speculating who might still be around when the Jets pick and how a player’s stock will fluctuate between now and May.
Thanks to a good chunk of cap space and lots of draft picks, the Jets will have a different look in 2014.
Trading Darrelle Revis for what turned out to be Sheldon Richardson and a possible third round selection in this year’s draft, acquiring running back Chris Ivory in a draft day trade, and taking a midseason chance on Nelson were just a few of the solid moves Idzik made in his first year in control of personnel decisions.
Now, with a better understanding of the roster and some talented pieces already in place, it will be very interesting to see what Idzik does for an encore.