Now that everyone has had a chance to digest the Jets loss to the Steelers it is time to look forward to the 2011 season (assuming that there is one). Gang Green will once again be considered one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, but those expectations may be a little premature as the Jets roster has some serious question marks.
As of now the Jets have 17 players that are eligible to become free agents, which is going to force the front office to make some very difficult personnel decisions. Lets take a look at some of the positions that could be impacted the most.
Wide Receivers- The Jets are down to one starting receiver (Cotchery) on the roster as Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Brad Smith are all heading to free agency. There is speculation that Gang Green is going to do their best to re-sign both Holmes and Edwards, but the thinking here is that they will only be able to get a deal done with one of them. With the assumption that the Jets can only re-sign one receiver (my choice is Edwards), do the Jets rely on a young receiver like Patrick Turner to pick up the slack? Or does Gang Green head to the draft looking for a new pass catcher? How about adding a veteran like Randy Moss or Terrell Owens for one year?
Defensive Backs/Safeties- As with the wide receiver group the Jets secondary is going to be drastically impacted by free agency as well. Antonio Cromartie, Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, Drew Coleman, and James Ihedigbo are all slated to become free agents. The most notable player of the group is Cromartie, who was brought in by the Jets via trade to play opposite All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis. If the Jets were to lose Antonio, can Gang Green rely on second year player Kyle Wilson to take his place? Or will the Jets try and sign a player like Nnamdi Asomugha? As for the safety position, both Eric Smith and Brodney Pool came on strong as the year progressed. An argument can be made that the injury to Jim Leonhard forced both of these guys to learn the defense and become more effective. The question is do you try and re-sign one of these guys, or do you look in another direction?
Defensive Line- Another area of concern for the Jets will be their defensive line where Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce are both scheduled to become free agents. Ellis, the longest tenured Jet, had a solid season in 2010 and could be brought back for another year. At the same time Gang Green has to get younger on the defensive line, especially considering the injury concerns with defensive tackle Kris Jenkins.
Role Players- Offensive linemen Wayne Hunter and Robert Turner are also headed to free agency, which could put the Jets in a bind in terms of line depth. Most teams believe that they can draft replacements for the offensive line, but there are no givens in the NFL. In my opinion the Jets should do their best to get Hunter re-signed as he could replace Damien Woody who could become a salary cap casualty.
As you can see the Jets front office is going to have their hands full this offseason. There is only so much money that can go around in a salary cap environment and the Jets may have to take a step back, before they can go forward. The one thing that is for certain is that Gang Green must utilize all of their draft picks to help replenish the roster. The days of trading away numerous picks must stop as the Jets are starting to lack depth in several positions.