NFL free agency: Jets purge with little cap space

NFL free agency: Jets purge with little cap space
April 4, 2013, 11:45 am
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New York stunk up the 2012 season and hasn't washed off the smell in free agency.

True, the team had just $8 million of cap space to work with at the start; it couldn't afford to keep its top players, let alone bid on others. But what resulted was a purge of starters: safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, defensive linemen Sione Po'uha, Mike DeVito, O-lineman Matt Slauson, and running back Shonn Greene.

Two more starters -- right tackle Austin Howard and right guard Brandon Moore -- are still twisting in the wind.  

The Jets addressed their quarterback quandary (Sanchez? Tebow? McElroy!) by throwing former Jaguar David Garrard onto the pig pile. If it doesn't seem helpful to bring in a guy who spent 2011 rehabbing a herniated disk and 2012 dealing with a knee injury, you're onto something. The thing is, New York couldn't afford a guy like Matt Moore. Sanchez will get his chance to start, but if Garrard has to take over, at least he has experience in a West Coast offense.

This does not make the 35-year-old a long-term solution.

Whoever ends up slinging the ball will need some more targets to throw to. Losing tight end Dustin Keller hurts. The team will need a blocking tight end to complement that specific weakness of the retained Jeff Cumberland.

Greene's departure shouldn't be traumatic. The Jets added 25-year old Mike Goodson to a running back corps lead by Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight. Goodson believes he's a good fit for a west coast offense.  The numbers seem to support him as a more reliable receiving back with 59 catches in 40 games to Greene's 65 in 61.

But who will man the line? This year's market is relatively soft for offensive linemen; the Jets lost Slauson and brought in former Steelers guard Willie Colon. Not an upgrade, to say the least. Also, Brandon Moore was not retained. At least this year's draft is ripe with solid prospects who could be picked up and plugged in.

Safety is a different story. Both Landry and Bell were cap casualties, and Eric Smith was released before free agency began. That leaves a hole in New York's big nickel and just second-year players Antonio Allen and Josh Bush on the backend of the secondary. Rookies won't help that situation.

A better place for one of the Jets' seven selections (they're slated at No. 9 overall, 39, and 72, in the first three rounds) is the pass rush. Quinton Coples, Kenrick Ellis, and Muhammad Wilkerson are set to anchor the defensive line. A pair of San Diego imports, D-tackle Antonio Garay and outside linebacker Antwan Barnes, were signed to round things out. Garay's versatility is attractive in the wake of DeVito's departure to the Chiefs and Po'uha's release. Luckily, there are edge rushers to be had in this draft.

COMINGS
Mike Goodson, RB, Raiders
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars
Antwan Barnes, DL, Chargers
Antonio Garay, DT, Chargers
Willie Colon, T, Steelers
 
GOINGS
Shonn Greene, RB, Titans
Yeremiah Bell, S, Cardinals
LaRon Landry, S, Colts
Dustin Keller, TE, Dolphins
Matt Slauson, OG, Bears
Mike DeVito, DE, Chiefs
Aaron Maybin, LB, Bengals
Sione Po'uha, DL (waived)
Bart Scott, LB (cut)
Calvin Pace, LB (cut)
Eric Smith, S (released)
Jason Smith, OL (released)
Josh Baker, TE (waived)
 
RETENTIONS
Tanner Purdum, LS
Nick Folk, K
Lex Hilliard, RB
Josh Mauga, LB
Junior Aumavae, DL
Eric Crocker, CB
Thomas Mayo, WR
Jeff Cumberland, TE
 
IN LIMBO
Bryan Thomas, LB
Austin Howard, T
Brandon Moore, OG
Braylon Edwards, WR
Chaz Schilens, WR
Isiah Trufant, CB
 
UNADDRESSED
Impact pass rusher, safety, guard, tight end.