A look at what's happening with the New York Jets:
1. Wanted: Tight end: The coaching staff did a decent job of camouflaging it last season, but not having a receiving threat at tight end was like going into a gunfight with only five bullets in a six-shooter. The Jets are planning to change that in 2016. From what I hear, they're not going to kiss it off or sit around and wait for Jace Amaro to develop, which might or might not happen. They will make an effort to address the problem in free agency and/or the draft.
There are no tight-end studs in free agency, but there are a handful of established veterans, including Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and Zach Miller. The biggest name is Antonio Gates, but it's hard to imagine him leaving his comfy cocoon in San Diego at age 35. The top prospect in the draft is Arkansas' Hunter Henry, whom ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. rates as a late first-rounder.
Some might argue the Jets' passing attack was fine without a pass-catching tight end, and that offensive coordinator Chan Gailey can make due with his four-receiver packages. But that would be a flawed argument. They need a tight end that can challenge a defense in the middle of the field and can draw coverage away from Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. With one of the least productive tight-end groups in NFL history, the Jets' passing efficiency between the numbers last season was significantly worse than outside the numbers.
Consider these Jets' passing numbers from ESPN Stats & Information:
2. Year of the Pass-Rusher: This is good news for the Jets because they need an edge rusher who, ideally, could develop into an every-down 3-4 outside linebacker. There will plenty to choose from in the draft. Kiper, in a conference call with ESPN NFL Nation reporters, said "pass-rushers are everywhere. ... This is the year, if you want a pass-rusher and you want to try to get that player at a bargain point because of the great depth at that spot, you certainly can."
We live in a mock-draft world, and so much emphasis is placed on the first round. But, as Kiper noted, many quality pass-rushers are found in the mid to late rounds. He mentioned Robert Mathis, Jared Allen and Rob Ninkovich, among others. Teams with good scouting departments find the hidden gems because they're out there, particularly this year.
3. More from the mouth of Mel: A Jets-related takeaway from Kiper's Q&A session concerns Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who underwent major knee surgery in January. Kiper doesn't expect Smith to contribute in 2016 as he rehabs his injury, but he added, "You can make an argument that Jaylon Smith is the best player in this draft." This pertains to the Jets because there's a chance Smith could slide to them with the 20th overall pick, which would make for a fascinating decision.
The Jets know what it's like to have a first-round pick who can't stay on the field (see: Dee Milliner). He was drafted by the previous administration, which felt comfortable with the decision even though he had five surgeries in college. It's hard to say how current general manager Mike Maccagnan would handle an injury-related risk because he's had only one draft, but it's something he might have to confront.
4. Local star hits big time: The most intriguing player from the New York-New Jersey area at the scouting combine, which begins Tuesday, will be Stony Brook defensive end Victor Ochi. He's trying to become the first player in his school's history to be drafted. Ochi could be picked as high as the second or third round, according to Kiper -- which would be a huge accomplishment for the FCS school.
Ochi, unofficially listed at 6-foot-1, 241 pounds, will work out with the linebackers in Indianapolis. He's the school's all-time leader in tackles for loss and sacks, compiling 13 sacks in 2015. He impressed at the East-West Shrine Game, landing on the radar of many pro scouts.
Other locals scheduled to participate in the combine are wide receiver Leonte Carroo and linebacker Steve Longa from Rutgers, along with defensive end Ron Thompson and punter Riley Dixon from Syracuse.
5. Iron Man and Money Man: There has been a lot of speculation about the possibility of offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson being asked to renegotiate his contract, which includes a bloated $14.1 million cap hit. The Jets aren't banging at his door, demanding a pay cut or else. It's not like that at all. But, at some point in the near future, they probably will approach him. Ferguson is a smart dude, and he won't be caught off guard. Not many players who sign long-term, $10 million-a-year contracts, as Ferguson did in 2010, pocket every dollar of the entire deal. He has made $49.7 million over the past six years, which means he's way ahead of the game. I'd be surprised if there's not a peaceful renegotiation in the coming weeks.
6. Oh, Canada: The Jets didn't make much of a financial commitment to sign former CFL pass-rusher Freddie Bishop, who played for the Calgary Stampeders. He received only a $5,000 signing bonus as part of his two-year contract, which includes non-guaranteed base salaries of $450,000 and $540,000. That's what you call a no-risk acquisition.
7. Betting on the "future": The Jets doled out small signing bonuses to a handful of their reserve-future signees, which isn't a common practice around the league. Guard Craig Watts ($20,000), wide receiver Chandler Worthy ($10,000) and running back Dominique Williams ($10,000) received bonuses. So did guard Jarvis Harrison ($20,000), a former Jets draft pick who finished last season on their practice squad.
8. Salary-cap update: The 2016 salary cap still hasn't been announced, but the Jets will have $13.1 million in space based on a $155 million cap, per management figures.
9. Fitz's quick trigger: ESPN Seahawks reporter Sheil Kapadia has an interesting piece on how quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball faster than ever to compensate for leaky offensive lines. It notes the four fastest release times: Andy Dalton (2.20 seconds), Tom Brady (2.26), Peyton Manning (2.27) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (2.31). In Fitzpatrick's case, some of the credit goes to Gailey's system. Together, they camouflaged deficiencies in the offensive line. I wonder how that will be weighed when the front office considers personnel changes on the line.
10. Coach Leonhard: Congratulations to former Jets safety Jim Leonhard, who has been hired to coach defensive backs at Wisconsin, his alma mater. The 5-foot-8 Leonhard, a classic overachiever in his 10-year NFL career, is one of the smartest players I've ever covered. He'll be a terrific coach.