Dark Horse: Could this man be in the Jets QB Mix come August? (Jets Insider.com Photo)
NY Jets cap crippled? I think not. In one week the Jets shed enough cap space to become free agent players again. It wonít be like last year but by shedding nearly $20MM in salaries over the past few days, the Jets now have the flexibility to go after some talent. Now the speculation will be who?
Favre Exits Gracefully (Thank God)
For the second consecutive season, quarterback Brett Favre faced a conundrum. Favre's heart still dripped with desire to return to football, but unlike his first attempt at retirement, his aching body suggested otherwise.
At 39 years old, the grizzled veteran was merely a shell of his Hall of Fame self as he both he and the Jets ended last season with a collapse. Plagued by a torn biceps tendon in his right arm, Favre tossed nine interceptions and just two touchdowns in the final five games and was the brunt of criticism from multiple teammates.
While the opportunity to trounce those New York lowlights persisted for Favre, he ultimately decided that he had nothing left to prove.
"You name it in professional football, and I have done it. Very few people, if any, can say that. I've received way more honors than I probably deserve," Favre said.
With one swift decision, Favre had ended his memorable career, leaving the Jets with a giant decision to tackle in the coming months. When general manager Mike Tannenbaum traded for Favre last August, both Tannenbaum and owner Woody Johnson knew that the team was taking a Hall of Fame-sized gamble. Favre had two years and $26 million remaining on his current contract, but the team received no assurance that Favre would spend more than one season with the team.
Soon the Jets also had to shed their security blanket if their Favre experiment failed.They had already spent $160 million during the offseason on premium free agents such as Alan Faneca, Calvin Pace and Damien Woody and they were forced to release quarterback Chad Pennington to make room for Favre. The decision ultimately blew up in the Jets faces, as Pennington signed with the rival Dolphins and led them to an improbable division title. Favre, meanwhile, limped into retirement and left the Jets with slim pickings at quarterback.
The Jets Future at QB
The Jets currently have Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge at quarterback, but only Clemens has even taken a regular season snap. Clemens started eight games in 2007 but disappointed as he tossed ten interceptions and just five touchdowns with a 60.9 rating. Ratliff displayed great promise during the preseason in which he led all AFC quarterbacks with a 122.5 rating, but the team may prefer to hand the starting job to someone more experienced. Last week Tannenbaum explained the team likes their options at quarterback, but he did not rule out bringing in a veteran to compete in training camp.
"If and when we think there is an opportunity to improve whatever position, including but not limited to the quarterback position, we'll look at that very carefully, but we do feel good about the players we have at the quarterback position," he said. "If an opportunity presents itself, we'll measure it carefully and then make the best decision for the Jets."
The Jets will likely bring in a veteran QB to compete in camp. Not an expensive one, but one that will push the other QBís oneís on the current roster during camp and be available to run the offense on gameday. Their options will be minimal. Titans quarterback Kerry Collins and Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner highlight the free agent crop, but each is expected to re-sign with his respective team or retire.
After Collins and Warner, the free agent pool drops down significantly. Names that could be a good fit are Chris Simms, Luke McCown and former Raven Kyle Boller. ESPN has reported that the Jets are interested in the Billsí JP Losman and the Bengalsí Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started three games for Cincinnati last season. Another name that has popped up recently in the media circles is Rams QB Mark Bulger who has been rumored to be on the Rams cap chopping block.
If the Jets choose not to address their need in free agency, they can also explore their options through April's draft. Georgia's Matthew Stafford is at the head of the quarterback class, but he is expected to be selected in the top five. Southern California's Mark Sanchez is also a highly-touted prospect, but questions about his ability remains after starting only one season for the Trojans. Kansas State's Josh Freeman displays a prototypical size (6-6, 238 pounds) and a strong arm, but his accuracy and throwing motion concerns some scouts.
Jets Chop Nearly $20MM off the cap over the last week.
The Jets, who a few weeks ago were one of the NFL teams in the worse cap shape have turned things around fast. With Favre gone and the release of CB David Barrett and LBís Brad Kassell and David Bowens the team is now over $18MM under the projected $124MM 2009 salary cap.
Suggs Receives Franchise Tag
As the free agency period officially begins on February 27, Ryan is certainly expected to address retooling the Jets' defense. Ryan plans to build a ball-hawking defense, but outside linebacker Terrell Suggs will not be a part of it. The Ravens placed the franchise tag on Suggs, assuring that he will return to the team next season. It is the second consecutive year that Suggs has received the franchise tag.
The Ravens reportedly are in negotiations with the Pro-Bowl linebacker for a long-term deal.
Jets cap cuts bring LB Scott into the mix, big time.
After placing the franchise tag on outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, the Ravens next priority will be to lock up inside linebacker Ray Lewis. Lewis is an unrestricted free agent and earlier this off-season he expressed no desire to give the Ravens a "hometown discount." If the Ravens are able to agree to a new deal with Lewis, it would all but assure outside linebacker Bart Scott would land with a new team.
With the release of Bowens, Scott would be a perfect fit for Rex Ryanís defense as they donít have a cornerstone to play opposite of David Harris on the inside. On an interview with Pat Kirwin and Tim Ryan on Sirius radio this week, Scott provided his insight on the Jets' defense.
"I think they've got a lot of great guys already," Scott said. "They've got some leaders over there. Kris Jenkins, and they've got Kerry Rhodes, so you've already got pieces involved."
McAllister a possibility?
Aside from finding a quarterback for next season, the Jets' most glaring need will be addressing their secondary. The Jets released cornerback David Barrett earlier this off-season, leaving Darrelle Revis, Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman as the only veteran corners under contract and Ty Law will definitely not be back. The Jets will likely draft a CB in the first round but McAlister would be a great veteran to add depth and start if necessary. McAlister played under Ryan, but he underwent knee surgery last November and reportedly is not fully healed. Donít look for any significant action on him with anyone until May or June at the earliest.