Highlighting the Pros and Cons of Potential Free-Agent Targets for the Jets

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IMarch 5, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (88) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in Pittsburgh. Miami won 34-28. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Don Wright/Associated Press

The New York Jets roster is about to see some serious changes in the coming months.

Not only do the Jets possess 12 draft picks, but Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com indicates that they also have over $20 million in cap space.

That number could increase dramatically if the team chooses to release Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie.

New York has a variety of holes on its depth chart to mend this offseason, including at backup quarterback, backup running back, guard, wide receiver, tight end, outside linebacker and in the secondary.

The team's most important concern is the receiving corps, though. General manager John Idzik told reporters earlier this offseason that an "emphasis" would be placed on improving the team's skill positions.

However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com suggested that the Jets are also interested in Michael Vick, while Cimini reports that the team is looking to add a running back to the roster.

With that said, here are the pros and cons of each of New York's potential free-agent targets this offseason.

Running Back

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 04:  Running back Donald Brown #31 of the Indianapolis Colts carries the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during a Wild Card Playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 4, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Donald Brown

Pros: Brown is just 26 years old and he's coming off a fantastic season in which he outplayed starter Trent Richardson and averaged a tremendous 5.3 yards per carry. He's also a solid pass-catcher, a trait that the Jets lack in their current offense.

Cons: Running back isn't really a huge need for the Jets, as they have Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell manning the top two slots on the depth chart. Dishing out money at this position in free agency takes away from the possibility of upgrading a bigger concern. Brown was also considered a first-round bust for most of his career, as he failed to eclipse four yards per carry in three of his five seasons in the league.

Ben Tate

Pros: Tate is even younger than Brown, as he's currently just 25 years old. He's a tough, hard-nosed runner who can contribute on every down and in every situation. He's averaged a fantastic 4.7 yards per carry in his three-year career and is terrific in the passing game.

Cons: As previously stated, Gang Green has more important issues to address in free agency than running back. Additionally, Tate has been plagued by nagging injuries in recent years and has assuredly benefited from playing behind a terrific offensive line in a run-heavy offense.

Wide Receiver

Emmanuel Sanders

Pros: Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that New York is interested in Sanders. Sanders is just 26 years old, so he is just entering his prime. The SMU product had a solid season as a No. 2 receiver last season and has all the physical tools to be a high-upside secondary target.

Cons: Sanders' numbers last year were relatively disappointing (67 receptions, 740 yards, six touchdowns), as he failed to take a major step forward despite receiving over 100 targets for the first time in his career. Sanders isn't good enough to be a No. 1 wideout, so the Jets would have to pair him with another top free agent or high draft pick.

Eric Decker

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 02:  cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks tackles wide receiver Eric Decker #87 of the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Pros: Decker has been one of the most productive receivers in the NFL in the last few seasons. He's put up back-to-back 1,000-yard, double-digit-touchdown seasons and he's third in the league with 32 touchdowns over the last three years. The Minnesota product is young and has great hands, size and route-running ability. His speed is also underrated.

Cons: Decker could be a product of the Peyton Manning system, so it's tough to know if he'd perform with Geno Smith at the helm. He's also undoubtedly the top wide receiver on the market, so he will command quite the payday.

Hakeem Nicks

Pros: Nicks just turned 26, yet he's a five-year veteran who's already put up two 1,000-yard campaigns. His combination of size and athleticism is among the game's elite, and he can stretch out the defense while also being a dangerous red-zone threat. He will also be relatively cheap in free agency, so the reward would far outweigh the risk.

Cons: Nicks has struggled with nagging injuries his entire career, as he's never played 16 games in a single season. The former first-round pick's production has also dropped off significantly in recent seasons, and it's difficult to project how Nicks will fit in New York's locker room.

Golden Tate

Pros: Idzik is familiar with Tate from his days in Seattle, so he knows what the Notre Dame product can offer. Tate is just 25 years old and coming off a tremendous statistical season (64 receptions, 898 yards, five touchdowns) considering the Seahawks' run-heavy system. He's also a fiery presence on and off the field, and his speed and elusiveness are top-notch.

Cons: Tate has never registered a 1,000-yard campaign. At 5'10" and 202 pounds, he doesn't have the size or strength of a prototypical outside receiver. Moreover, his fiery personality can lead him to make rash, immature decisions on the field.

Tight End

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 06:  Brandon Pettigrew #87 of the Detroit Lions warms up before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 6, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Brandon Pettigrew

Pros: Pettigrew has the size, speed and athleticism to be one of the game's elite tight ends. He just turned 29 years old, so he's got several more good years in him. He'll also be a bargain in free agency, considering his lack of production in recent seasons.

Cons: The Oklahoma State product's production has dipped in each of the last two years (100 receptions, five touchdowns). He's never eclipsed 800 yards in a single season despite being one of the top three targets in one of the pass-heaviest teams in the NFL. He's also been bothered by minor injuries in the last few seasons.

Offensive Line

Austin Howard

Pros: Howard is one of the rare right tackles with two years of starting experience (with the Jets) at just 26 years old. He's shown an ability to perform well in both pass protection and run-blocking. Howard is a solid starting offensive tackle in a league that lacks just that.

Cons: Howard's been solid, but his play can drop off from time to time. He'll also been looking for a multiyear contract that could cost the Jets millions.

Willie Colon

Pros: The former fourth-round pick was a steady presence on New York's offensive line last season. He's as experienced as they come, having started 78 games in his career. Colon's also a solid locker room presence and won't require much of a cost commitment.

Cons: Colon is 30 years old, an age when offensive linemen seemingly begin to decline. He's also coming off a major injury (torn biceps), so it's difficult to project how he will fare next season and beyond.


Jairus Byrd

Pros: Byrd is one of the best safeties in the NFL, if not the best. The three-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro is just 27 years old. He's tremendous in coverage and can contribute on run defense while also being among the game's best ball hawks. He's a tough player who would immediately improve New York's pass defense and make the Jets' defensive units one of the best in the NFL.

Cons: The Oregon product will be one of the most desired players on the open market, so he will be anything but cheap. Byrd also dealt with injuries last season, so his health is not guaranteed.


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