The New York Jets entered 2013 with barren expectations, yet still managed to disappoint their fans with an 8-8 season. As easy it is to heap on Geno Smith and the rest of Gang Green who struggled mightily in 2013, there is plenty of positive to build on. The Jets have their coach secured for the long term, more talent on the roster than many 8-8 teams, and an attractive location to lure potential free agents with which the team can quickly improve. With free agency as the first step in the offseason, let’s look at the positions New York can address in this phase to improve their roster. You can find a full list of upcoming free agents here.
With the recent re-signing of Matt Simms, this may be less important for the Jets. Still, experience at the quarterback position should never be overlooked. There’s really one quarterback with any kind of winning experience and it’s the ever-controversial Michael Vick. You’re not trying to replace Geno Smith with any QB you sign. You’re trying to enhance him and put someone on the bench who can offer advice based on experience. Vick provides a perspective that Smith could desperately use. If Simms is the second guy, then so be it. And hey if Vick plays, that could be fun too, right? Right?
Level of importance: 5
This is a dire need for an offense-starved Jets team. They have a playoff-caliber defense right now, but the offense is a mess. A big wide receiver to line up in the slot between Jeremy Kerley and Santonio Holmes would be a monster benefit to Geno Smith and the rest of the offense. Stephen Hill may have been counted on for that role at some point, but that is no given now and the Jets should bolster that position right away.
Level of importance: 9
The Jets gave up the 6th most sacks in the league and Football Outsiders rated the unit as the 20th best in the NFL. That’s not good enough when the line is protecting a young quarterback prone to making mistakes. If the Jets want to get serious about their new quarterback’s growth, they need to get serious about protecting him. Poor protection ruined whatever was there to begin with in Mark Sanchez and it will ruin Geno Smith too if it doesn’t turn around.
Level of importance: 10
Potential targets: A plethora. I’ll let you pick.
The Jets rarely struggled to stop the run. You can’t say the same for the passing game. With Dee Milliner still an uncertainty as a young player and Antonio Cromartie not getting any younger or cheaper, it would be wise for the Jets to add a veteran for depth, as well as draft another in May.
Level of importance: 7
The running game wasn’t the weakness of the team, but the Jets could still use depth at the position. Chris Ivory seems like more of a bulldozing running back who needs a speedier complement than Billal Powell.
Level of importance: 6
New York’s struggles weren’t just about a growing secondary. The Jets were in the middle of the league with 41 sacks. Given that their cornerback issue won’t fix itself overnight, it would be wise to add to their stable of pass rushers. Rex Ryan likes his veterans and the team could see a big upgrade up front just because of the lure of playing in a scheme tailored for good pass rushers.
Level of importance: 4
Obviously the Jets can’t afford to fill all of the above positions with the premier free agent available — especially when they’re paying Mark Sanchez a fortune to hold a clipboard — but they could stand to make a move or two in preparation for the draft. May will be an important time for the continuation of the building of New York’s foundation, but this team isn’t the burning heap of garbage people thought it was last September. The Jets can make a playoff run in 2014 if they properly fortify their team with players who can contribute as starters this year. If GM John Idzik can even nab a few of the players above, the Jets may do just that.
Cory Buck is the AFC East Division Leader for The Penalty Flag. You can reach him at email@example.com or via Facebook/Twitter @TheBuckMopsHere.