Safety is a position that requires major improvements for the Jets this off season. The underwhelming starter Eric Smith, currently still with the team, was often seen chasing tight ends down the field and seemed to lack the speed necessary to cover a large area. While unrestricted free agent former starter Jim Leonhard had suffered season ending injuries in the past two years and will not be healthy enough for the beginning of next season. Reserve Brodney Pool, also an unrestricted free agent, had a mediocre performance last year and the safeties as a whole needed to be upgraded.
Heading into free agency at least one player will have to be picked up by the team. Big names safeties like Tyvon Branch, Michael Griffin, Dashon Goldson and Thomas DeCoud were all set to become unrestricted free agents on March 13. Even though they may have been outside the budget the Jets could have ‘kicked the tires’ at least on some of them. With Branch, Griffin and Goldson being franchised and DeCoud resigned this has put an end to any hope of acquiring them. Seems the Jets will have to look at lower tier players like Reggie Nelson, Tom Zbikowski, the often injured may not be available to start the season LaRon Landry and former Jet Dwight Lowery in free agency.
It is also possible to improve the position in the upcoming draft but the overall talent level at safety is considered to be weak. Mark Barron from Alabama is the consensus number one safety available in the 2012 draft and while some feel he could fall to the Jets at their second round pick #47 there is a good chance he’ll be gone by then. Unfortunately Barron had recent surgery and could not participate in the NFL combine or do any workouts for teams. He is hoping to be able to run and perform drills at a workout later in March. The question remains, do you reach for Barron with your first round pick #16 cause of need, potentially giving up another player?
It sure looks like the Jets will pick up a safety in free agency and draft another. They could also resign Leonhard, having him available later in the year, and Pool as well as use Smith in a diminished role. This major upgrade at safety most likely won’t happen but hopefully they can put pieces in place for an improvement over last year.