Grading the major New York Jets free agent moves

We’re a week into free agency now, so let’s recap what moves the New York Jets have made and grade each one. I won’t waste words – let’s jump right in:

Franchise-tagging K Nick Folk, then re-signing him to a four-year, $12 million contract:

Grade: A The franchise tag designation gave the Jets more time to negotiate with Folk, who made 33 of 36 field goals last year, without worrying about him looking to negotiate with other teams. In the end, a deal got done, and the Jets locked up one of the most successful kickers of 2013.

Re-signing TE Jeff Cumberland to a three-year, $5.7 million contract

Grade: A- I’ve always seen Cumberland as a very good number two tight end. My biggest worries are 1.) that Cumberland is forced to be a number one tight end for another season, and B.) that three years and $5.7 million are a little much for a TE2. But Jets’ personnel seem to believe in Cumberland, so I have to believe in them.

Re-signing DL Leger Douzable to a one-year contract

Grade: A I have yet to write about Douzable this offseason, but let me make up for that now. Douzable was a surprisingly important reserve D-lineman last season, getting rotated into games to relieve a ‘Son of Anarchy.’ He recorded 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in 2013, but it’s his valuable relief snaps (he played 21 percent of the Jets’ defensive snaps) that matter most.

Signing OT Breno Giacomini after not re-signing OT Austin Howard

Grade: B+ In the end, this is going to work out for the Jets. Giacomini wasn’t the best player on the Seahawks’ offensive line last season, but GM John Idzik, formerly a Seattle exec, ought to know exactly what Giacomini brings to the table as a player. He must have liked this alternative over re-signing Austin Howard to a big contract, like the 5-year, $30 million deal Oakland signed him to.

Signing WR Eric Decker after releasing WR Santonio Holmes

Grade: B+ I’ve had some time to reflect after writing my previous article, in which I expressed very mixed emotions about the Decker signing. The truth is, Decker was the best wide receiver available in free agency this year, and he becomes the Jets’ de facto number one wideout. It’s a great signing for the receiver-needy Jets, but is Decker going to perform like a WR1? Is he going to be worth his five-year, $36.25 million contract? It remains to be seen, and that’s why I can’t give this signing an ‘A.’

Re-signing OLB Calvin Pace to two-year, $5 million deal

Grade: A I know, I know, Pace is 33 years old. But that didn’t stop him from posting his career high in sacks last season (10). The Jets had bigger free agency priorities than signing a top-tier pass rushing linebacker in Pace’s place, so this was the right move. Now the team can draft a mid-round ‘backer to mold into Pace’s eventual replacement.

Who sees this man's age as he devours one of the league's top QBs?

Who sees this man’s age as he devours one of the league’s top QBs?

Cutting CB Antonio Cromartie and replacing him with… Nobody

Grade: C- It’s understandable to cut a player to save $9.5 million of cap when the player isn’t willing to rework his contract. But that’s exactly what Antonio Cromartie said he’d be willing to do last December! Cro told ESPN New York’s Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco last week that the Jets didn’t try to renegotiate with him at all.

A week later, Alterraun Verner, Vontae Davis, Aqib Talib, Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond III, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – even Darrelle Revis – have all entered and promptly exited the market, and the Jets are left without a number one corner. Re-signing Cromartie becomes the Jets’ best (read only) option.


News and Notes: Not mentioned above is the Jets failure to sign Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who opted to return to his old team on a four-year deal. With the Jets not signing Pettigrew or another tight end, it’s growing increasingly clear that the tight end position is Gang Green’s greatest need in May’s draft – and that North Carolina TE Eric Ebron ought to be their top target.

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