The New York Jets' relative inactivity on the free-agent front, despite enormous salary-cap space, strongly signifies that general manager John Idzik will be deliberate in constructing a formidable 53-man roster for the 2014 season.
The Jets haven't achieved a winning season since 2010. That could change with Idzik at the helm, although the manner in which he goes about his business is vastly different from what Jets fans are accustomed to. This version of the Jets is much less spend-happy than previously failed campaigns, like the Mike Tannenbaum era.
It's a good thing, for the most part.
Idzik and Co. have developed a seemingly cohesive approach to winning free agency. Sure, they missed the bill on several marquee cornerbacks in the wake of releasing defensive back Antonio Cromartie. It's also true that New York refused to match the Oakland Raiders' aggressive offer (five-years, $30 million) to retain ascending right tackle Austin Howard. But the old cliche reigns true: Championships are not won in March.
The Jets' front office brass knows this. They're attentive to each glaring void on the Jets' current roster, even if it might not seem like it on the surface. The Jets mitigated the loss of Howard by signing Breno Giacomini, a former member of the Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks. Giacomini came cheap in comparison to the Jets' former starter, inking a four-year, $18 million deal. Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork reports the deal includes $7 million in guarantees.
Giacomini started just nine games for the Seahawks during the regular season in 2013 but returned for their triumphant playoff run that resulted in a championship. He was sidelined for a period of time due to arthroscopic knee surgery, but was at peak form in the playoffs. Giacomini started all 16 games for Seattle during the 2012 season, a feat he must accomplish to help solidify the Jets' offensive line next season. It's not unrealistic for Giacomini to match what Howard was able to accomplish in 2013.
Giacomini's Expectations: Start all 16 regular season games; allow no more than two sacks.
The flashiest free-agent acquisition the Jets have made thus far is former Denver Broncos wideout Eric Decker, who signed a team-friendly five-year, $36.25 million contract that includes $15 million in guarantees. The deal is a good one for the Jets because they can essentially opt out after two years without suffering lofty cap ramifications, according to Cimini.
Decker greatly benefited from playing with future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. He recorded 87 receptions for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013.
It's not feasible to expect Decker to post those kinds of numbers with the Jets stagnant offense, but it is realistic for him to register impressive statistics, nonetheless. Decker has averaged 13.8 yards per reception in over three full seasons as a starting wideout. He's a solid receiver who should greatly improve the Jets' passing game, even if he doesn't come close to what he was able to accomplish with Manning.
Decker's Expectations: Record at least 60 receptions for 800-plus yards with eight or more touchdowns
The Jets remain distant from attaining the personnel on offense needed to strike fear into opposing defenses. Re-signing No. 2 tight end Jeff Cumberland to a three-year contract was a solid move, though.
The deal was first reported by Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Cumberland was presumably thought to be the team's top tight end last season, but didn't perform like a starting-caliber player, in part because of injury issues. He recorded 26 receptions for 398 yards with a career-high four touchdowns in 2013, averaging 15.3 yards per catch. Cumberland's numbers have been relatively static over the past two seasons, indicating some degree of consistency.
Cumberland's Expectations: Record at least 30 receptions for 400-plus yards with at least four touchdowns
The Jets need to shore up their pass rush on the edge this season. They took strides toward achieving that by re-signing veteran outside linebacker Calvin Pace to a two-year, $5 million deal. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk first broke the news that a deal had been reached. Pace had a career season in 2013, racking up 37 total tackles and 10.0 sacks.
He'll supply the Jets' youthful defense with much needed leadership, although it would be somewhat ill-advised to expect Pace to duplicate his performance from last season in 2014, especially considering that he'll be 33 years old at the start of next season. Pace is dependable, though, signified by the fact that he's been able to start in all 16 games for the Jets over the past three seasons.
Pace's Expectations: 35 tackles, including 10 for loss; 6.5 sacks; two forced fumbles
Aside from two signature acquisitions, the Jets have remained silent on the free-agent front. They've managed to secure deals with a few in-house role players, but haven't done much outside of that. Cimini recently reported the Jets' new deal with defensive lineman Leger Douzable, who isn't a household name, although he will supply the D-line with necessary depth. Douzable recorded five tackles and 1.5 sacks in 16 games last season.
Douzable's Expectations: Stay healthy/supply depth; record at least 10 tackles and two sacks
The Jets' glaring lack of willingness to sign a starting-caliber free-agent cornerback has caused a ruckus among fans across social media outlets. They're rightfully displeased, especially considering that New York boasts nearly $28 million in cap space, according to OvertheCap.com.
The Jets have at least guaranteed themselves depth at the corner spots, though. They've re-signed both Ellis Lankster, who can also play safety, and Darrin Walls. Their combined base salaries equal $1.38 million. Both players supply depth to the secondary and likely won't see expansive playing time in 2014.
Lankster's Expectations: 20-plus tackles over 16 games, one forced turnover
Walls' Expectations: 20-plus tackles over 16 games, five-plus passes defended
The Jets are nowhere near close to solidifying their 53-man roster heading into minicamp this summer, but they have taken a few minor strides toward improvement. They have yet to sufficiently address each glaring area of need, including receiver, but are armed with the resources needed to achieve their goal of reaching the playoffs in the 2014 season.
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