The New York Jets are looking to start anew, coming off a last-place finish in the AFC East. After firing head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik, and likely realizing that they need a new quarterback, the team has a lot of work to do if they want to return to respectability.
First-year head coach Todd Bowles takes over for Ryan, who led the team to four consecutive seasons without a winning record. New York has to upgrade at several positions through the draft and free agency, but their problems begin under center.
Geno Smith showed little, if any, improvement in his second season as the Jets’ starter. The 2013 second-round pick threw for 2,525 yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, registering a 77.5 passer rating in 14 games. New York’s 4-12 record has given them the No.6 pick in the draft, and they might have a chance to land their quarterback of the future.
Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota have separated themselves as the best quarterbacks in the 2015 class. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear likely to take a signal caller atop the draft, but the next four teams are projected to look elsewhere, giving the Jets a chance to replace Smith. Before the start of the NFL Scouting Combine, Winston appears headed to Tampa Bay, possibly allowing New York to take Mariota.
Mariota is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, managing to throw for 42 touchdowns and just four interceptions in 2014. However, the Jets have to decide if he’s much of an upgrade over Smith. While experts like former Super Bowl-winning head coach Tony Dungy believe Mariota will be a star in the NFL, others aren’t as convinced. Mariota is considered to be a “system quarterback” by some, and he could have trouble as a pocket passer in the pros.
It might not be Mariota or Smith who starts at quarterback for the Jets, but Michael Vick isn’t likely to have the job in 2015, either. Vick was New York’s backup quarterback in 2014, getting the starting nod in three games. The veteran put up even worse passing numbers than Smith, posting a 68.3 passer rating, and he’s now headed towards free agency. The Jets reportedly won’t pick up his option for 2015, and they’ll allow him to test the market.
While Vick is likely gone after one year in New York, Chris Johnson almost certainly won’t return next season. The running back had the least productive year of his career, rushing for 663 yards on 4.3 yards per carry. Johnson had never totaled less than 1,047 rushing yards in the first six years of his career, and he said on “The Rich Eisen Show” that he wasn’t given the playing time that he was promised.
David Harris has spent his entire eight-year career as a Jet, and he is set to become a free agent. Towards the end of the season, the linebacker was in talks with the team about signing a new deal, though he remains without a contract. Harris had six sacks in 2014, playing in all 16 games for a sixth consecutive year.
New York has a chance to be one of the biggest spenders in the 2015 offseason. Idzik was criticized last year for failing to spend the more than $20 million that the Jets had remaining under the salary cap, and that number will be close to $40 million at the start of free agency. According to reports, the Jets have eyes on some of the best players that could be available in March.
Ndamukong Suh might be the No.1 free agent on the market, and though the Jets might not be willing to meet his asking price, the defensive tackle might be interested in heading to the Big Apple. In late September, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Suh told people he “would love to play in New York.”
Darrelle Revis and the Jets parted ways in 2013, but the organization could be looking towards a reunion. ESPN has reported that the Jets will try to sign Revis, who is likely to be cut because of the $20 million he’s owed by the New England Patriots in 2015. After winning the Super Bowl, the Patriots are the favorites to sign Revis at a more reasonable price.
A more likely reunion with the Jets involves Antonio Cromartie. The defensive back, who’s been gone from the team for a year, has said on multiple occasions that he’d be open to playing for the Jets, again. Cromartie played four seasons in New York, intercepting 13 passes. He recorded three picks with the Arizona Cardinals in 2014.
Other than quarterback, the Jets’ secondary is their biggest area of need. The team ranked 30th in opponents’ passer rating. Many experts are high on cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu of Oregon, who could be available in the second round. P.J. Williams (Florida State), Alex Carter (Stanford), and Kevin Johnson are other options projected to go in the second or third rounds.