Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Free-agent shopping begins in 3, 2, 1 ...
By Rich Cimini
Good morning, folks. Prepare for a wild couple of days.
After three days of "legal tampering," the free-agent signing period kicks off at 4 p.m. ET. I know you have questions with regard to the New York Jets, so here goes:
Q: How much cap space do the Jets really have?
A: After cutting Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie in a 24-hour span, a $17.75 million savings, the Jets have $39.6 million in cap room, according to ESPN data. Only four teams have more cap space than the Jets, which means the Idziks can be big spenders, if they so choose.
Q: Could the Jets make a big splash on Day 1?
A: Yes. Those who sign players on the first day usually overpay. That doesn't appear to be John Idzik's style, but he has needs and money to burn. Prediction: They will land a cornerback in the first 24 hours. Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, in whom the Jets have expressed interest, is expected to make a quick decision. Considering the hole at corner, he'd be a good get for the Jets -- as long as they don't pay a ridiculous price. They're also showing interest in Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis, who also may sign quickly. Davis is Cromartie-esque -- talented, but flighty.
Q: How will they address the need at wide receiver?
A: The Jets have been fairly quiet in recent days on the receiver front, although most of the speculation is centered on Golden Tate and Emmanuel Sanders. I wouldn't be shocked if Julian Edelman draws some interest from the Jets. Idzik might be hesitant to pay No. 1 money for a No. 2 receiver, understandably so. Some people around the league believe Idzik will add a cheaper, second-tier receiver in free agency, leaning on the receiver-rich draft for an infusion of talent.
Q: Is Michael Vick really a possibility?
A: Yes, he is. The Jets can offer the chance to compete for a starting job and scheme familiarity (see Marty Mornhinweg, his old coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles). Vick will have other suitors, with the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers among those mentioned. I think he'd be a nice, short-term complement to Geno Smith. If they can't land Vick, the Jets could chase Josh McCown.
Q: Why is Mark Sanchez still on the roster?
A: This seems to be a popular question. His $2 million roster bonus isn't due until March 25, so they have some time. Idzik wants to have a replacement before he cuts the most experienced quarterback on his roster, so he probably will make Sanchez twist in the wind while he shops around. If he can't find a veteran quarterback, he'll have to convince Sanchez to take a hefty pay cut or release him, leaving himself vulnerable at the position.
Q: What's going on with Austin Howard?
A: Exactly what you'd expect to be going on: He's negotiating with the Jets while gauging interest from other teams. It's all a big poker game. The Jets want to re-sign their right tackle, but they've yet to find a landing spot in terms of price. If Howard hits the open market at 4 p.m., it could be the last we see of him in New York.
Q: Besides wide receiver and quarterback, what areas are they targeting?
A: They're showing interest in a few tight ends, including Brandon Pettigrew. They're also looking for secondary help -- corners and safeties. They've contacted a number of safeties, including T.J. Ward and Donte Whitner. The Jets had two big problems last season -- throwing the ball and stopping people from throwing it against them. Keep that in mind as we wade through free agency.