I believe most players that hit free agency are actually bad. Especially the higher priced ones coming off their best years. Why would a quality player be let go by their team at the height of their breakout?
Instead, the quality players are found only if they’re hitting the market for other reasons:
- Cap Mismanagement
- Recency Bias
- A Bad Personal/Locker Room Relationship with the Player
- Unable to Get Playing Time
- Dragged Down By A Terrible Team
and sometimes, but rarely:
- A Misevaluation
So i’m hesitant to spend money on A.J. Bouye. He’s coming off his best year, the Texans need him, and they have the ability to re-sign him; but they’re letting him hit free agency. I’m a little less hesitant to spend money on Stephen Gilmore, because the reports of the Bills willing to let Tyrod Taylor walk let me know they are prime candidates for a misevaluation. But regardless, I don’t want to attack the big names. I don’t believe that’s the right way to attack free agency. The right way is searching for players who fit into those bullet points and taking advantage of a sleeping market.
I’ll be basing prices off Evan Silva’s Free Agent Rankings that include salary projections as well as some detective work for players not listed. I’ll assume no more players will be cut from any team that haven’t already been cut, and everyone remaining is safe.
The Jets currently have roughly $37,000,000 in cap space.
Matt McGloin. $4,000,000 per year.
Geno Smith is probably not coming back due to bad blood (although no reports have actually said the two parties are against returning), so two other intriguing options to me have been McGloin and Davis.
McGloin has only had extended starting time in his rookie year where he played with this wreck of a team:
McGloin somehow put up a 7.3 YPA with a 3.7% INT rate that season and then was immediately replaced by Derek Carr the following year. McGloin fits the archetypes for terrible teams and being unable to find playing time.
On the other side you have Austin Davis, whose only extended starting time came in 2014 with the Rams in his second year. He wasn’t good, but it doesn’t matter because he’s better than Bryce Petty.
Picking up either of the two allows us to cut Petty ( who is a 26 year old QB and not good) in favor of holding onto the “higher upside” Hackenberg along with a newly drafted QB, that I pray is Patrick Mahomes. Both can be projected for 4m or less a year, and are 27 years old.
*Update 3/8/17 5:47pm: The pieces are starting to fall in such a way that Geno Smith could return to the Jets. I’d prefer he return than the Jets go after McGloin, and I’d assume he would cost only 3,000,000 more.
Rex Burkhead. $3,500,000 a year.
Rex Burkhead is a bigger, more athletic, and better Bilal Powell.
Burkhead fits the unable to get playing time mold as he’s sat behind Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill on the Bengals.
At his worst, he becomes part of a rotation as a big pass catching back at 5’10 and 210 with enough mass to be a goal line back. At best, he’s the feature back, who in his only NFL start put up 119 yards at 4.4 YPC and 2 catches for 25 receiving yards against the leagues #5 run D last year. He also doubles as a receiver in the slot. Best of all, he makes Matt Forte expendable.
Ryan Griffin. $4,000,000 per year
Luke Willson. $3,000,000 per year.
Neither player has done much in their career thus far, but they’ve lived through lackluster opportunities as Griffin faced an onslaught of bad QBing (fitting into the Black Hole Team mold) while Luke Willson sat behind Jimmy Graham (Unable to get playing time mold), giving both of them breakout opportunity. Willson actually has performed at an efficient level in his history so he takes precedent over Griffin for me.
Wildcard: Trade for Niles Paul. Vernon Davis just got re-signed by the Redskins and Niles Paul is an elite athlete at TE whose best comparison is the last good tight end the Jets have had, Dustin Keller.
Best of all, he’s already produced. Starting in place of Jordan Reed in 2014, Niles Paul had these stats:
He’s already proved he’s good. All he needs now is to be taken out of a depth chart that has him sitting behind Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, and onto the Jets where he only has to supplant an unproductive Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, or potentially just be used as the H-back if ASJ gets his shit together.
Kevin Beachum. $8,500,000 per year.
Not much to say about it. Unlike other positions, your team can not function without an average left tackle. Beachum was recovering from an ACL last year and played poorly. Another year of healing might bring him back to good form and make him a potential market steal with recency bias in our favor. Regardless, the Jets should look at him like a bandaid and not as the future.
A.J. Klein. $3,000,000 per year.
Klein’s value isn’t going to be high because he’s spent his career sitting behind Luke Keuchly, keeping his breakout dream alive through the unable to get playing time mold. But he’s a prototypical strong-side inside linebacker and signing him means we can potentially cut Harris, freeing up more cap. He would also help us with the youth movement going into 2018 and beyond, and has the analytics profile of a strong NFL starter.
Davon House. $5,000,000 per year.
House was basically benched in Jacksonville last year after they drafted Jalen Ramsey and signed Prince Amukamara. He ends up being my choice because the premier corners in this years class are going to cost well in the 10-12m range and that’s a lot. Since we’re forced to invest into a left tackle, I don’t feel comfortable putting two big contracts on one free agent class. If the Jets do make more space by releasing any of Gilchrist, Harris, Skrine, or trading Richardson; then maybe Gilmore should be the buy.
If not, then House may be an easy upside purchase. He’s a similar caliber of athlete as Gilmore and has had two okay seasons in his past three years. He doesn’t fit the mold of a good player hitting free agency, and he shouldn’t be expected to be good; but could appease some of the rabid clamors for a CB from the market.
Total Spent: $27,000,000
We add a seasoned and still young QB to replace Petty. We add Burkhead to give us a goal line back who can also play a versatile 3-down role. The tight end position is filled by a huge, athletic Luke Willson; who can provide a powerful body to block with if he can’t become a full receiving threat. The Jets offensive line becomes fortified with Beachum at left tackle and allows Wesley Johnson to remain the starter at center.
The defense takes on a new inside linebacker to replace Harris, and moves forward with it’s young cornerbacks. The market for this years corners will be extremely competitive and with the draft having a plethora of NFL cornerback hopefuls, there may be no reason to buy a free agent this year. The Jets take a shot on Davon House and the youngsters, and don’t depend on flipping the team via free agency. They commit to the young talent rebuild and invest the remaining cap space into the future.
Ultimately, these moves result in the Jets also parting with David Harris and Bryce Petty; leaving them with $17,000,000 to extend Enunwa or push to next year.