By Daniel Hamerschlag

The Mess

Mark Sanchez is entering his 5th season in the National Football League. After leading New York to two surprising AFC Championship visits, Jets fans were preparing themselves for a long period of playoff appearances, and possibly a Lombardi trophy to take back to New York. The last two seasons in East Rutherford have been the opposite of successful. With all of the locker room issues, injuries and horrendous quarterback play, the Jets have had a combined record of 14-18 in the last two seasons. Numbers like those don’t exactly show those of a playoff caliber team. Head Coach Rex Ryan is finally announcing a quarterback competition for this upcoming 2013-2014 season. After years of saying “Mark is our guy” or “I believe in Mark” Rex has finally lost hope in his young quarterback. While Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy are clearly not the future of this ailing New York Jets team, they will have to rely on this coming NFL draft to find a brand new quarterback.

Every football fan in America is aware of the fact that the Jets acquisition of former Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow would result in more team issues. Although he thinks he is one, Tim Tebow is not an NFL quarterback. Sure, he had one magical season in Denver, but many of those wins came from their incredible young defense. The Tebow experiment didn’t work out as planned. He wasn’t used often, and when he was, he didn’t gain anything over 3 yards per rush. Tim will soon be traded or released, it’ just a matter of when at this point. A major problem heading into this season is that only four defensive starters from last year are returning to the Jets this season.

The Jets just can’t catch a break, but their problems won’t be solved via free agency. The Jets are going to have to rely on April’s draft to fill up those seven defensive spots. The last of New York’s problems is star CB Darrelle Revis. While Revis is up there with Joe Namath and Curtis Martin as one of the greatest Jets of all time, his time in New York will strike midnight prior to the NFL Draft. Revis is the best corner back in the NFL, and he is once again unhappy with his contract. At this point, the Jets have nothing to lose by trading their star corner. The likely suitor for Darrelle’s services are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In return, the Jets are likely to receive Tampa’s number 13 overall pick in the draft, leaving New York with picks #9 and #13 in the first round. Revis is a free agent after the 2013-2014 season, and the Jets are unwilling to give him the money he desires. After Revis tore his ACL in week 3, Jets 2nd cornerback Antonio Cromartie stepped up his game and earned himself a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. This shows that without Revis, the Jets secondary can still make some noise. If Revis is traded, their cornerbacks would include Cromartie, and former Jets first round pick Kyle Wilson.

Division Update

Miami Dolphins:

After another season of missing the playoffs, the Miami Dolphins built up a playoff contending team via free agency. They made several big moves to accompany their young quarterback Ryan Tannehill. However, Miami lost one of their most important players to the Detroit Lions in Reggie Bush. They have a big gap in the running back position, and they may look to pick one in the Draft. Miami began the NFL free agency period by inking rising star receiver Mike Wallace. Pittsburgh refused to pay him the money he deserved, which is why he decided to take his talents to south beach. They signed Wallace to a 5 year, 60 million dollar contract. He may be too tough to handle for the New York Jets. Miami also agreed to term with long time Jets tight end Dustin Keller. That leaves New York with a mediocre TE in Jeff Cumberland. Keller will help young Ryan Tannehill, that is because a talented tight end is a quarterback’s best friend. Miami also lost their superstar LT and former number 1 overall pick Jake Long to the St. Louis Rams. This was a tough break for Miami, as they will now look to strengthen up at the tackle position. The Dolphin’s defensive moves this offseason included cutting LB Karlos Dansby, signing veteran CB Brent Grimes and Ravens LB Dannell Ellerbe. The signing of Grimes instantly makes this Miami secondary somewhat elite. Dannell Ellerbe gives them a big addition at the linebacker position.

The Dolphins may have strengthened their roster, but the last time a team made countless free agency signings (the Eagles) they ended up missing the postseason.

New England Patriots:

The Patriots, led by Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, lost one of their key players to the Broncos in free agency. Wes Welker will be catching balls from Peyton Manning, one of Brady’s biggest rivals. Though it was reported that New England had offered Welker a contract, Wes told the media that that information was false, and that the Patriots management refused to pay him. Tom Brady publicly stated that he was frustrated with Patriots management after the loss of Welker. Welker signed a 2 year, 12 million dollar contract which is fully guaranteed. However, instead of sitting around in shame due to the loss of their best receiver, the Patriots went out and signed another slot receiver to replace Wes Welker. They signed Danny Amendola, a quick and talented receiver that played for the St. Louis Rams before signing with New England. Head Coach Bill Belichick will figure out a way to work Amendola into the system, him being one of the greatest minds in the NFL. The Pats also signed Leon Washington, a former New York Jet. Washington came from the Seattle Seahawks, the team that the Jets traded Washington to in April of 2010. He will likely be returning kickoffs, and maybe even punts, as former punt returner Wes Welker is no longer on the team. Leon was a fan favorite in New York, and will soon be one in New England if he continues his successful returns.

The last move made by New England was the re-signing of cornerback Aqib Talib. Talib was brought over by a pre trade deadline deal between the Patriots and the Bucs. Talib is a top 10 corner in the league, meaning that this move will help the Patriots young secondary.

Buffalo Bills: 

Despite one rather large move, the Buffalo Bills have kept quiet in the 2013 free agency period. Buffalo informed their “future quarterback” Ryan Fitzpatrick of his release. This leaves the first quarterback on their depth chart as Tavaris Jackson, a running quarterback who has not proved much in his brief NFL career. In the 2011-2012 season, Buffalo inked Fitzpatrick to a massive 6 year, 59 million dollar contract. This contract must have come as a shock to the Harvard graduate, as he hadn’t proved to be that successful a quarterback in the NFL. The Tennessee Titans snatched him up after he was released, signing him to a 2 year contract. He will be backing up Tennessee’s young quarterback Jake Locker.

Buffalo will be looking to select a quarterback in the draft, possibly as high as the 8th overall selection. If they are looking to make the postseason, they will have to do better than Tavaris Jackson.

Cleaning Up the Mess

It won’t be easy, but Jets management will have to figure out a way to fix this football team sooner rather than later. Jets fans are the most impatient of them all. The last thing they want on their minds is another rebuilding period. Unfortunately for them, Jets fans must wait this one out. A playoff team doesn’t appear out of nowhere. New York must be aggressive in April’s Draft, and pick well if they want to have somewhat of a successful team for this coming season. As usual, the Jets weren’t very aggressive this offseason. They shook up their front office, firing GM Mike Tannenbaum. For his replacement, they hired former Seahawks front office member John Idzik. Tannenbaum was clearly doing a poor job, considering he left the Jets in one of the worst cap situations in all of football. His worst move as GM was extending struggling QB Mark Sanchez. Not only did this kill the Jets cap situation, but they are now stuck with Sanchez who has turned into the laughing stock of Jets football. Mark’s worst blunder of the 2012 season came on Thanksgiving night against the New England Patriots, when he slid into Offensive-Lineman Brandon Moore, resulting in a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. It is referred to as the “butt fumble”. Footage of this horrendous fiasco is repeatedly shown on Sportcenter’s “Not top plays.”

The Jets also fired Offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano, and hired Marty Mornhinweg. Mornhinweg was with the Eagles prior to his signing with the Jets. He served as the OC for Philly. Owner Woody Johnson didn’t make a head coaching change, leaving 4 year head coach Rex Ryan to continue his job. Rex is well respected by his players, and the disappointing 2011 and 2012 seasons shouldn’t leave him as the scapegoat. After being signed, GM John Idzik made some moves in the offseason. The newest quarterback of the New York Jets is veteran and former Jaguar David Garrard. Garrard was a Miami Dolphin last season, but was let go in the preseason due an injury he had suffered. He now joins Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy as the fourth member of New York Jet quarterbacks. He will be a backup at best, as he was brought in to mentor New York’s young quarterbacks. Once they draft another quarterback in April, they will have a grand total of 5 QBs. Fans can expect the release of Tebow, and possibly even McElroy. Other than Garrard, Idzik also signed Raiders RB Mike Goodson. He is currently number 1 on the Jets’ depth chart. Ugh.

Jet fans can’t be happy with that fact. But then again, they aren’t going anywhere this coming season so it wouldn’t even matter if their center Nick Mangold started at running back in week 1. Idzik made some critical cuts this offseason, obviously to clear some cap space. Their cuts included linebacker Bart Scott, linebacker Calvin Pace, offensive tackle Jason Smith and safety Eric Smith. They did end up resigning Pace about a month after he was released. Bart Scott, another fan favorite of the New York Jets, will be missed. He is aging, and is not nearly the hard hitting linebacker he used to be. Eric smith was hated by Jet fans, and hasn’t found a new destination yet. Jason Smith, a former top 3 pick, had a brief Jets career. He was brought over in a swap with the Rams for Wayne Hunter, another struggling tackle. Smith will team up with Drew Brees, as he was recently signed by New Orleans. Besides Calvin Pace, the Jets also resigned linebacker Josh Mauga, and fullback Lex Hilliard.

Free agents that left New York this offseason include running back Shonn Greene (Tennessee Titans), tight end Dustin Keller (Miami Dolphins), safety Yeremiah Bell (Arizona Cardinals), defensive tackle Mike DeVito (Kansas City Chiefs) and safety LaRon Landry (Indianapolis Colts). Shonn Greene exceeded the 1,000 yard mark this season, as he has began to do regularly. However, Shonn Greene will no longer have a starting job, as he will team up with Chris Johnson in Tennessee. After losing LaRon Landry and Yerermiah Bell, the Jets are looking at a big gap at the safety position.

The Draft

Clearly, free agency isn’t the way John Idzik plans on building up this team. The NFL Draft is very important for the Jets, as they will look to fill up their many holes. The Jets hold the ninth overall selection in the draft, and if they trade Revis to Tampa, they will likely have the 13th as well.Their position needs include a quarterback, receiver, running back, offensive lineman, outside linebacker, safety and tight end. Whoa. If you ask me, that’s a lot of needs. The three best quarterback fits for the Jets are Geno Smith (West Virginia), Matt Barkley (USC) and Ryan Nassib (Syracuse). Geno Smith is highly unlikely, as he his expected to be a top 5 pick.

If I were John Idzik, I would avoid Matt Barkley. The last time the Jets drafted a quarterback out of USC (Mark Sanchez), they learned to regret it. That leaves Ryan Nassib as the last quarterback remaining. Nassib’s best QB quality is his pin-point accuracy. The Jets could look to take him with their second round draft pick. As for halfbacks and receivers, the Jets should look to draft them in the last few rounds. Some of the best running backs and wide receivers in the NFL were either drafted in the last few rounds, or completely undrafted.

For example, in the 2009 NFL Draft, a young running back out of Tennessee was passed on throughout the draft. This young running back happens to be Arian Foster, a top 3 running back in the league as of today. If a top 3 running back was signed as an undrafted free agent, that gives NFL teams the confidence to wait until a later round when it comes to drafting a running back or wide receiver. When it comes to offensive linemen, a couple realistic possibilities for the Jets include Alabama guard Chance Warmack, and UNC guard Jonathan Cooper. Both of these players are expected to be drafted in the top 15, leaving the Jets at ninth overall as a possibility.

My Opinion

If I were John Idzik, I would have three main priorities. Getting rid of Mark Sanchez, completing a Darrelle Revis trade, and building up their offense.

Sanchez has done nothing but disappoint as of late, and his contract is killing this Jets team. Rumors have spread about the possibility of Sanchez being included in a potential Revis trade to Tampa. A trade of that caliber would be huge for the Jets, as they would be getting rid of two huge contracts, and gaining valuable draft picks. If the Jets have an option of receiving Tampa’s picks this year or next year, the smart choice would be this year. Although there will be a more talented QB draft class next year, Tampa is getting better as a team, and may even make a playoff run. That wouldn’t leave New York with that high of a pick, leaving the idea of drafting a top quarterback off the table. As much as I love and respect Darrelle Revis as a player and as a loyal Jet, his time in New York has come to an end.

Ever since the 2009 Draft, when the Jets selected Sanchez, they have done nothing but draft defensive players in the first round. The last 2 years, they have taken defensive lineman. Rex Ryan may be a defensive guy, but it’s time the Jets focus on their offense for once. They finished near the bottom in most offensive categories last season, including points scored. A stat that I found to be quite appalling was that in 7 of their 16 games this past season, the Jets failed to score more points (or runs in a baseball perspective) than the Mets on opening day; the Mets routing the Padres 11-2. Offense MUST be the main priority for New York.

I can’t stand to see another mock draft in which the Jets will select Barkevious Mingo out of LSU; Mingo playing the position of defensive end. What will drafting a mediocre defensive lineman do to help this team? The only thing I see it doing is gearing people to criticize Jets management yet again. The players that the Jets should turn their focus to with the ninth pick include Chance Warmack, Jonathan Cooper, Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib (a stretch at 9) and Tavon Austin, a wide receiver that is a dignified top 15 pick.

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