If the New York Jets’ first 48 hours of free agency could be summed up in an Eric Hutchinson album title, which is actually a horrible concept on my part and I apologize, it would have to be That Could’ve Gone Better. Hands down.
Shall we review?
Though I was not necessarily high on re-signing right tackle Austin Howard at first, many within the organization were. I was starting to warm up to the idea of retaining him long-term. But a source told ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini that the Jets’ offer and Howard’s asking price were not far apart from each other, when general manager John Idzik stood up and “drew a line in the sand.” Cut to Howard reuniting with one-time Jets O-coordinator Tony Sparano, now the O-line coach in Oakland, and signing a long-term deal. Whoops.
Then, several players the Jets targeted (or ought to have targeted) signed elsewhere: guard Jon Asamoah with Atlanta, cornerback Alterraun Verner and quarterback Josh McCown with Tampa Bay, wideout Golden Tate with Detroit, safety Jairus Byrd with New Orleans.
Then, the Revis debacle. Bad is the Buccaneers releasing Darrelle Revis a half hour before the deadline to switch the Jets’ conditional Tampa pick from a third to a fourth. Having Revis sign with The Enemy mere hours later is worse than bad, worse than worse. It’s a punch in the gut that pushes you off the Empire State Building. Our chief division rivals land a key piece in improving their defense, and now we have to deal with facing Revis Island twice a year.
Then, the Jets finally made their big splash by signing WR Eric Decker, who every pundit has warned was going to be overestimated and overpaid. Is five years and $36.25 million with $15 million guaranteed really overpaying a wideout with 172 receptions, 2,352 yards and 24 touchdowns the last two seasons? Maybe, when considering those stats were put up with in a pass-happy, Peyton Manning offense. He’s a borderline WR1 who the Jets paid like a sure thing. Maybe it will work out, and I hope it does.
At least Gang Green got a replacement for Howard in Breno Giacomini, Seattle’s former starting right tackle whom the Super Bowl champs didn’t value enough to keep around. Great news.
The Jets’ new biggest need is a defensive back. It’s hard to believe that a few years removed from being the top passing defense in the league, the secondary is now the weakest link on this team. Dee Milliner isn’t ready to be a number one, Kyle Wilson will always be a nickelback, and safeties Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen aren’t blowing anyone away. In the absence of top-tier safeties still available, they should focus on getting another corner. Names out there I like are Walter Thurmond III, Brandon Browner, Captain Munnerlyn and – here’s a novel idea – Antonio Cromartie.
But hey, at least the Jets aren’t doing as bad as these teams:
Oakland Raiders. Roger Saffold, was the Raiders’ biggest early signing – until he failed his physical and returned to his old team, the Rams. Meanwhile, DE Lamarr Houston and RB Rashad Jennings left for Chicago and the Giants, respectively.
Buffalo Bills. After failing to re-sign their best player, safety Jairus Byrd, Winter Storm Vulcan blanketed the Buffalo area. It’s hard enough to sell Buffalo as a free-agent destination. Try doing it when you can’t fly your prospects in to see the facilities.
But who’s winning free agency so far?
Denver Broncos. They’re focused on improving their defense – allowing 43 points in the Super Bowl when you’re the team with Peyton Manning will do that to you. DeMarcus Ware joins Von Miller to create a vaunted one-two pass rush. Their biggest problem was the secondary, though, which has also been taken care of with the signings of CB Aqib Talib and safety TJ Ward.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The new head coach and general manager pairing of Lovie Smith and Jason Licht is making sure to bolster this roster before a single game is played. Josh McCown is in to mentor/compete with Mike Glennon, while they’ll have a new big target to throw to in TE Brandon Myers. Former Bengal DE Michael Johnson and former Seahawk DT Clinton McDonald will bulk up the D-Line, and switching out Revis for Verner at corner might be a better move long-term.