2016 New York Jets Offseason Positional Needs
New York Jets Team Needs
The New York Jets had a successful year in 2015 going 10-6, which was good enough for a six-win improvement upon their 2014 season. Unfortunately, their inability to win one of their two games against the Buffalo Bills and former head coach Rex Ryan ended up costing them the playoffs. In their first year on the job, general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles established that together they are a winning combination.
After having no choice but to spend a lot of money in free agency during the 2015 offseason, Maccagnan will have to get very creative in 2016. While there are a number of moves that the Jets front office will likely make to free up cap space before the start of free agency, they are currently only a little more than $14 million under the salary cap. This means Maccagnan and his staff will have to find players in the draft that they can count on to come in and play right away.
There weren’t many holes on the Jets roster in 2015, but there were certainly a few positions that were clear weak spots. There are also a number of key players who are set to leave in free agency because the Jets don’t have the money to resign them. For New York to be able to make another leap in 2016, and make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, these are the most important positions of need for them to address.
1. Outside Linebacker
Will this finally be the year that the Jets go out and get the dominant outside linebacker that they have needed for so long? For years one of the Jets biggest needs has consistently been a young fast outside linebacker, and every offseason they have tried to fill that hole with an ageing player, or by forcing someone to play out of position. We saw in the playoffs just how big of a difference having a dominant pass rusher at OLB can make with Von Miller. Calvin Pryor even went as far as to go public with his desire to play behind a pass rush like the Broncos.
Lorenzo Mauldin showed last season that he has the potential to be a dynamic pass rusher, however he is far from a complete player and needs to get better at playing the run. New York needs to go out and draft a player that is capable of taking over a game as a pass rusher, who also plays stout defense against the run, and can drop into coverage as well. If this sounds impossible its because they are almost as rare as unicorns, but trying to find one needs to be the front offices primary goal this offseason. Presuming they can’t find the total package, the one thing they must do is find a dominating pass rusher at the position.
One player to keep an eye on in the draft is Jaylon Smith, who will likely slide in the draft because of his injury in the bowl game. If that were to happen, it would be the second year in the row that Maccagnan received a first round gift. Another name to look out for is Reggie Ragland, although if he puts up impressive enough numbers at the combine, he’ll probably get taken long before the Jets are on the clock.
2. Offensive Tackle
The Breno Giacomini experience needs to come to an end. Mike Maccagnan is yet to pull the trigger, but Giacomini has had two years to prove that he deserves the job, and all he has done is disappoint. Cutting him will allow the Jets to free up some much needed cap space. On the other side, the play of D’Brickashaw Ferguson continued to regress in 2015. It would be a smart move for Gang Green to draft a player that plays left tackle, and then have him start off on the right side, so that when the time comes, they will already have Ferguson’s replacement on the team. If the Jets don’t go OLB in the first round, this is the position that they should focus on with the 20th overall pick.
3. Defensive Tackle
Damon Harrison has said that he wants to remain a Jet, but it is going to be very difficult for them to afford Pro Football Focus’s 2nd ranked run stuffing defensive tackle. The Jets plan on giving Muhammad Wilkerson the franchise tag, and it is hard to believe they will be able to do that and resign Harrison. Snacks was an extremely important member of New York’s 2nd ranked run defense, so if they are unable to resign him, it is crucial that they find someone to fill his shoes.
4. Running Back
Both Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell will be free agents this offseason, so the Jets will need to address this position. After having the best season of his career, it is doubtful that they will be able to resign Ivory. Which makes it likely that they’ll choose to bring back Powell and focus on finding a feature back elsewhere. One route I could see the Jets going in free agency is bringing in James Starks to split touches with Powell. Starks would bring a slightly more physical running style to the table, and his abilities as a receiver would make him an ideal fit for Chan Gailey’s spread offense. In the draft a player to keep an eye on is Kenneth Dixon out of Louisiana Tech who should end up being a mid to late round pick.
5. Tight End
The tight end position was an absolute mess for the Jets in 2015. After Jace Amaro got placed on injured reserve in training camp, the Jets tight ends were essentially rendered useless. Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Davis were targeted a grand total of 24 times, and combined to catch a measly eight passes for a whopping 95 yards. For the most part Chan Gailey elected to only use them as blockers. However, having Davis in the game on Thursday Night Football against the Bills and trying to catch Buffalo off guard with a designed pass to him on 4th and goal ended up costing them the game, and eventually forced them to miss the playoffs. With their elite duo of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker at receiver, the Jets don’t need a very good pass catching tight end, but they do need someone who is a good blocker also capable of not making a fool out of himself if he is thrown the ball.
Honorable Mention: Middle linebacker would have been mentioned here, but it is very likely that the Jets will resign Erin Henderson to replace DeMario Davis after he is allowed to leave in free agency. If they don’t end up bringing back Henderson, then MLB would become a bigger position of need than tight end because of how little they utilized TE in 2015.