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2012 Record: 6-10
Key Pending Free Agents:Dustin Keller, TE; Shonn Greene, RB; Laron Landry, S; Yeremiah Bell, S; Mike DeVito DE; Brandon Moore, G; Matt Slauson, G; Bryan Thomas, DE; Braylon Edwards, WR; Chaz Schilens, WR; Nick Folk, K
List of Draft Picks (pending compensatory picks): 1 (9), 2 (7), 3 (10), 4 (9), 5 (8), 6 (10), 7 (9).
Available Cap Space: Approximately -$19.4 million
GM/Coaching moves made: General manager John Idzik and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg were brought in, while defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman and special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica were promoted from within the organization.
2012 Season Recap
When the Jets traded a fourth- and sixth-round pick to Denver for quarterback Tim Tebow on March 21 they went from a high-profile team with outspoken coach Rex Ryan to a media sensation. The attention created a circus-like atmosphere and made the ups and downs of an injury-prone squad seem more dramatic. But in reality, the two biggest events of the season were cornerback Darrelle Revis' ACL tear in Week 3 and receiver Santonio Holmes' Lisfranc injury in Week 4. Despite losing their best defensive and offensive players, the Jets crafted a 3-3 record. They still felt hopeful after a 29-26 overtime loss at New England in Week 7 dropped them to 3-4. But quarterback Mark Sanchez then appeared to lose his confidence in blowout losses to Miami at home and at Seattle.
The Jets' season hit a bottom on Thanksgiving Night when they lost 49-19 to the Patriots and America was introduced to the "butt-fumble" -- when Sanchez lost the ball after running into the backside of offensive lineman Brandon Moore. Still, the Jets' defense helped them win their next two games over Jacksonville and Arizona, and at 6-7 they were back in the playoff race with three losing teams remaining on their schedule.
Although speculation swirled that Sanchez would be benched for either Tebow or Greg McElroy, the second-year quarterback who had stepped in and thrown a game-winning score against the Cardinals, Ryan stuck with Sanchez. The decision proved costly as Sanchez threw four picks and fumbled deep in Titans territory in the final minute of a 14-10 loss. Even when they fell out of the postseason race the Jets still generated intrigue by bypassing Tebow for McElroy to start over Sanchez in Week 16. They dropped their final two games to San Diego and Buffalo to end their first losing season under Ryan.
Stat to Feel Good About
189.8. Passing yards allowed per game by the Jets -- second best in the NFL. That's without Revis for almost the entire season.
Must Fix It
Idzik needs to draft a quarterback or sign a low-cost alternative if he doesn't like this crop of prospects, then have an open competition for the starting job. Cutting Sanchez is not a great option because the salary-cap hit would be more than $17 million. That's where Mornhinweg comes in. The former Eagles offensive coordinator had success with a wide range of quarterbacks in Philadelphia and might be able to help Sanchez regain his confidence. The problem is you need accuracy to run Mornhinweg's West Coast offense, and that's not Sanchez's strong suit.
Idzik had a stellar draft track record in Seattle, Arizona and Tampa Bay, and if he does not see the quarterback he wants at No. 8, there's an interesting group that could fall to the top of the second round, including North Carolina State's Mike Glennon (after a subpar Senior Bowl week), Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and Florida State's E.J. Manuel. Rookies can certainly start in today's NFL -- look no further than third-rounder Russell Wilson, who Idzik helped find in Seattle. If Idzik doesn't like any of the college QBs, he could sign a veteran free agent like Matt Moore and hope he or Sanchez is adequate for one year until they draft someone the following season.
65.6. Mark Sanchez's completion percentage not counting drops, throwaways, spikes and batted passes as attempts -- lowest in the NFL -- according to Pro Football Focus.
If It Ain't Broke ...
Ryan can coach defense. The unit took a step back without Revis, but was good enough to keep them in playoff contention until the last month of the season. Antonio Cromartie stepped nicely into the Revis role, slowing down opposing No. 1 receivers without much help. And new safeties Laron Landry and Yeremiah Bell solidified a position that had been a problem. The Jets also have to be encouraged by the play of young defensive linemen Quinton Coples and Mohammed Wilkerson. They let defensive coordinator Mike Pettine go to pursue other opportunities (he landed in Buffalo), but should continue to be solid under Thurman, who has coached the secondary since '09.
More On The To-Do List
1. Work on the cap. Releasing veterans Bart Scott (linebacker), Calvin Pace (linebacker) and Jason Smith (offensive lineman) and restructuring the contracts of almost all their high-cost veterans will help the Jets chip away at their salary-cap problem. Scott won't be missed after several public gaffes -- including calling out the fans after their Thanksgiving Day loss -- and several plays where his lack of speed in coverage cost them dearly.
2. Release Tim Tebow. The Jets need to cut down on distractions; the world's fascination with Tebow will continue if he sticks around.
3. Draft a pass-rusher. They'll lose Pace and need a young body they can rotate in to get after the quarterback. This is the right draft to find that kind of player -- they should look hard at Texas A&M's Damontre Moore, Georgia's Jarvis Jones, LSU's Barkevious Mingo and Oregon's Dion Jordan in the first round.
4. Draft a running back. According to to Pro Football Focus, free-agent Shonn Greene averaged one forced missed tackle every 5.42 carries -- the worst mark in the NFL. And Greene doesn't have the receiving skills for Mornhinweg's system. Idzik was part of a staff that traded for Marshawn Lynch and drafted promising running back Robert Turbin in the fourth round of the '12 draft. He can find a productive back in the mid or late rounds.
5. Find a quality receiver somewhere. The Jets had some guys with speed and some with good hands in 2012 -- just none that had both qualities. They'll have to hope Holmes is healthy and that last year's second-round pick, Stephen Hill, cuts down on the drops. Then they can try to add a medium-level free agent if they can free up enough space. They may look hard at Wes Welker clone Danny Amendola. Or perhaps they'll sign Donnie Avery, who visited the Jets before signing with the Colts last season.
What we'll be saying in July
Typically this is when Ryan starts talking Super Bowl, but with Idzik in control and Tebow gone, a quieter version of the Jets will head to training camp. With salary-cap constraints, Idzik will take a more measured approach to team-building and the Jets won't make any more splashy signings. Still, the Revis situation could keep them in the first segment of SportsCenter. The star cornerback is set to make $6 million in the final year of his contract, and the front office reportedly would rather trade him than sign him to a lucrative extension. But if Revis really wants $16 million per season coming off an ACL injury, there may not be any realistic suitors. Most good teams simply don't tie up that much cap space in any position other than quarterback. Perhaps the leaked trade rumors were simply the first round of negotiations as the Jets try to get Revis down to a more reasonable number. A more realistic move could be trading Cromartie to help free up cap space.
The Jets could enter camp with three quarterbacks having a bona fide chance to win the starting job. Sanchez will likely compete with a journeyman veteran like Moore or Chad Henne and possibly a second- or third-round draft pick.
Finally, Jets fans are going to have to buy a program in the preseason because Idzik will make several cuts as he cleans up the mess left by former general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Ryan will never admit it, but this has to be a rebuilding year.
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