This seems to be the chalk pick for the Jets, at least in the mock universe, but I don't think it's a no-brainer. As I noted during the recent scouting combine, I don't think the Jets are looking to take a quarterback at No. 6. My sense is they like Mariota, but I'm not sure it's love. And if you don't love a quarterback, you'd better not take him that high.
Things could change, of course. Mariota's pro day is coming up (March 12), and you can bet the Jets will spend a lot of time with him as part of the scouting process, which is far from complete. At this stage, the only certainty is that he's a trendy choice for the Jets in mock drafts.
Before we jump into the pros and cons of keeping Harvin, let’s review the facts:
Harvin has four years, $41.5 million remaining on his contract, none of which is guaranteed. That includes a $10.5 million base salary for the coming season. If Harvin is on the roster March 19, the conditional draft pick owed to the Seattle Seahawks escalates from a sixth-round choice to a fourth rounder. If they cut him before the 19th, the compensation is simply a sixth rounder in next month’s draft.
1. Keep him under his current contract
You could argue that the Jets, with a dearth of playmakers on offense, should do whatever they can to keep talented players, not toss them out. Because the salary isn’t guaranteed, they would essentially be signing up for one year, with the ability to cut him if, say, he reverts to his disruptive ways of the past. There is no long-term commitment, which might be the way to go with a player who wore out his welcome with two teams previously.
The Jets also must consider how Harvin might fit into Chan Gailey’s scheme. This is where Maccagnan must lean on his coaching staff for input. If Gailey installs a spread offense, as many suspect, it would be a nice fit with Harvin’s skill set. He’s at his best in a short-passing game, making yards after the catch. He could line up anywhere in the formation, creating matchup problems for the defense.
With more than $50 million in cap space, the Jets can easily swallow the salary.
Analysis: At $10.5 million, Harvin would be the highest-paid player on the team in terms of 2015 compensation. That’s out of whack.
2. Keep him with a restructured contract
Harvin wants no part of a pay cut, presumably because he believes he can fetch at least $10.5 million on the open market. He would be amenable to a simple restructuring, meaning the conversion of salary into signing bonus.
In other words, they could cut his base pay to $870,000, the veterans’ minimum, giving him the difference ($9.63 million) in the form of a signing bonus. That would allow them to pro-rate the bonus over the four years of the contract, lowering his cap number this year to a palatable $3.28 million.
There’s a downside, though. By doing this, the Jets would be sinking money into Harvin beyond 2015 (with regard to the cap) and that could come back to bite them. If they decide in a year to cut Harvin, they would get hit with his bonus acceleration in 2016, a cap charge of $7.2 million (pre-June 1).
By then, he will have cost the Jets a total of $17.6 million (salaries for ’14 and ’15) and a fourth-round pick for 24 games (assuming he plays every game). That’s not a cost-effective way of doing business.
To Harvin’s credit, he was a model teammate last season, as he tried to squash his reputation for being a divisive influence. He played hurt and he adapted nicely to a new environment and a new offense. Cynics will say he was on his best behavior because of the financial motivation. Will he revert to the old Percy if he scores the $10.5 million salary? That, no doubt, will be part of Maccagnan’s decision.
One thing to remember: The Jets have two forms of leverage. Under the current contract, they can cut Harvin with no salary-cap ramifications. They also can benefit from the timing of the deadline -- March 19, one week into free agency. By then, the big money will have been spent on other receivers. The Jets can hurt his negotiating position in the open market by holding on to him until March 18.
Analysis: If the Jets guarantee $10.5 million, which is what they would be doing by restructuring the remaining four years, they would be looking at least a two-year commitment because of the cap situation. That would be risky, considering his checkered background.
3. Release him
Unless Harvin is willing to take a straight pay cut, this probably will be the outcome. They would lose a starting receiver with tantalizing skills, but we’re talking about a player who has never had a 1,000-yard receiving season.
His recent production (52 catches over the past two seasons) doesn’t justify an exorbitant cap charge ($10.5 million) or his average per year ($10.4 million). The Jets have the cap space, but they evidently don’t feel he’s worth the big number, as Maccagnan hinted recently that they might ask him to restructure. Teams don’t like to overpay if they can help it.
The other layer to the decision is the draft-pick compensation. For a rebuilding team like the Jets, a fourth-round pick has value. It’s a potential starter, a cost-effective player whose rights they would own for four years. If the Jets have concerns about Harvin’s long-term viability, they should cut bait, surrender the sixth rounder and call it a day. It wouldn’t make sense to part with a fourth-round pick for what could be a one-year proposition.
What’s more, they could replace him via the draft. It’s another terrific draft for receivers, and there is a good chance they would get one of the top two receivers -- Amari Cooper or Kevin White -- with the sixth overall pick.
Analysis: The Jets should try to sign a starting-caliber receiver during the first week of free agency. If they find one, the Harvin decision is academic. It probably would cost more than $10.5 million, but they would feel more comfortable in the long term and would still have their fourth-round pick.
Overview: The Jets are prepared to give Geno Smith another crack at it, but they'd like to make it a competitive situation. There's no panacea in the free-agent market, but they hope to sign (or trade for) a veteran. Then, of course, there's always the draft (Marcus Mariota?).
Players under contract: Smith, Matt Simms.
Why Hoyer is a fit: The Hoyer-led Cleveland Browns were off to a 6-4 start when the wheels came off. Maybe the Johnny Manziel circus got to him or maybe the lack of a NFL-worthy receiving corps did him in. Either way, Hoyer hit a miserable slump and was benched. He became expendable recently when the Browns signed career journeyman Josh McCown, who received $6.25 million in guarantees. Hoyer isn't the most accurate passer, but he has won games in the league (10-7 record as a starter).
Why Mallett is a fit: GM Mike Maccagnan came from the Houston Texans, so he's familiar with Mallett -- as familiar as anybody could be with him, considering his small body of work. He has only two starts and 79 career pass attempts, nearly all of which came last season. Prior to that, he was the New England Patriots' clipboard carrier. The smart money is on Mallett re-signing with Houston, where he could be the opening-day starter. If he somehow gets away, the Jets will be intrigued by this 6-foot-6 pocket passer with a strong arm.
Why Locker is a fit: He's risky because of his durability issues, but the former first-round pick is an athletic quarterback with some upside. He's only 9-14 as a starter, including two wins against the Jets. They have some intel on Locker because new quarterbacks coach Kevin Patullo was on the Tennessee Titans' staff last season.
Why Fitzpatrick is a fit: Fitzpatrick, 32, played three seasons under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, from 2010 to 2012 with the Buffalo Bills, so he knows his system. In a transition year, which is what the Jets are experiencing, it's always good to have at least one quarterback with a background in the system. Thing is, Fitzpatrick is under contract to the Texans for 2015 (cap charge: $3.875 million). If they sign another quarterback (Hoyer?) to compete with Mallett, it will make Fitzpatrick expendable. The Texans could try to hold out for a late-round draft pick. Hey, if the Minnesota Vikings can trade Matt Cassel ...
Prediction: The Jets have to add a veteran quarterback and we know it won't be Michael Vick, who knows the gig is up in New York. Understandably, the Jets are wary of spending big money for a Band-Aid, but the going rate is at least $4 million a year. The Jets will explore possible trades (maybe Mike Glennon, if he's available), but the feeling here is they will end up with Hoyer.
Talley, who was out of football last season, was a "street" free agent, so he was eligible to sign with any team before the start of the league year, March 10.
Depth is a concern for the Jets because their top two backups, Kenrick Ellis and Leger Douzable, will be unrestricted free agents. They're interested in re-signing Ellis, a former third-round pick, but he wants to test the open market. He didn't get much playing time behind Damon Harrison, a restricted free agent. It's not clear where things stand with Douzable, but the Jets are formulating contingency plans.
They're scheduled to meet with Chris Canty, 32, who was cut last week by the Baltimore Ravens. He's due to arrive for a Friday/Saturday visit. They're also expected to meet with former St. Louis Rams defensive end Kendall Langford, per ESPN Rams reporter Nick Wagoner.
Talley, listed at 6-foot-3, 282 pounds, played with the Cards from 2011 to 2013. He played in 15 games and recorded 14 tackles and one sack. He was cut last season by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and sat out the season.
Overview: The Jets want to get younger, so veteran RG Willie Colon (free agent) isn't expected back. That returning personnel is suspect and the draft is thin, so the Jets hope to sign a new starter in free agency.
Players under contract for 2015: Brian Winters, Oday Aboushi, Wesley Johnson, Dakota Dozier.
Why Franklin is a fit: He's only 27 and already has seen just about everything. In 2011, he played right tackle on a Tim Tebow-led offense which led the league in rushing. In 2013, he was part of a Peyton-Manning-led offense that set all-time passing marks. Franklin moved to left guard last season and finished well after a slow start. He's proficient both as a run and pass blocker; he allowed only one sack, according to Pro Football Focus. He lacked discipline at times, as he committed 10 penalties. Franklin will be in demand, so the price will get high. Two years ago, Jahri Evans and Andy Levitre signed deals that averaged $8.1 million and $7.8 million-a-year, respectively. It's hard to imagine the Jets going that high.
Why Iupati is a fit: Iupati, 27, was a mainstay at left guard for the San Francisco 49ers, making the Pro Bowl three times and All-Pro once. He's a mauler and will dominate in the running game but his pass blocking is suspect -- a whopping seven sacks allowed in 2014, per PFF. He was exposed a bit as the 49ers got away from their power-running game. He missed a game with a concussion and skipped the Pro Bowl because of an elbow injury. In the right scheme, Iupati still is young enough and talented enough to be a premier player for a few more years.
Prediction: New general manager Mike Maccagnan has more than $50 million in cap space at his disposal, but he wants to be smart and not overpay for players. The feeling here is that the bidding for Franklin and Iupati will get out of hand, prompting the Jets to shift their focus. Keep an eye on the Cincinnati Bengals' Clint Boling, who played well last season after missing 2013 with an ACL tear.
1. New York Jets linebacker David Harris, a pending free agent, just made some extra money. To get McCoy, the Bills traded linebacker Kiko Alonso, the runner-up to Sheldon Richardson in the 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. Now old friend Rex Ryan has a hole in his linebacking corps, and he's expected to make a push for Harris, who ran his defense for six years in New York. Ryan was planning to pursue Harris anyway, but now the need is greater. So is Harris' leverage, which could force the Jets to pay more than they anticipated. They can't afford to lose him because ...
2. You could argue McCoy is now the best offensive weapon in the AFC East, not counting quarterbacks. It's either McCoy or New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. McCoy has rushed for a league-high 6,155 yards since 2010. The Jets almost always have a highly-ranked run defense, and they'll need to be on their game in 2015 with McCoy in the division.
3. Running back C.J. Spiller is a goner in Buffalo, intensifying speculation he's headed to the Jets as a free agent. But as I said earlier, I don't believe the Jets will be chasing Spiller in free agency.
4. Ryan said at his introductory news conference that his offense would be Ground & Pound. McCoy helps him immeasurably, but guess what? You can't win in this league without a quarterback, and Ryan still doesn't have one.
Johnson is one of the most prolific wide receivers in history, a possible Hall of Famer, but he's not right for the Jets. They need youth and speed at receiver, not a 33-year-old whose best days are behind him.
He'd be ideal for a contending team -- maybe he could do what Steve Smith did last season for the Baltimore Ravens -- but the Jets aren't in that category. They could have an opening if they release Percy Harvin in the coming days, but that spot should be filled with a draft pick (Amari Cooper, anyone?) or a still-in-his-prime free agent.
If the Texans can't trade Johnson (highly unlikely), they will release him. Even then, the Jets should stay away. Maybe it would make sense after the draft, if both sides still are looking, but not now. I'd be surprised if the Jets get involved now. Besides, why would Johnson want to go from one suspect quarterback situation to another?
Johnson caught 85 passes last season, pretty impressive, but a closer look at his numbers reveals he wasn't the same dynamic player he once was. He had only 936 receiving yards, the third fewest by any player targeted at least 145 times in a season over the last 10 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Texans went out of their way to feed him the ball. In fact, he was targeted on 39 percent on his pass routes in the red zone, third in the league, yet he finished with only three touchdown catches.
The Jets have Harvin (maybe), Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley, and a bunch of young kids that need to play, including Quincy Enunwa and Shaq Evans. For all his great accomplishments, Johnson would be a "progress stopper." That's what Bill Parcells used to call old players that took reps away from young, developing players. The Jets tried this last year with Chris Johnson, and the results were underwhelming. They need to find their own Andre Johnson.
Once again, the ticket prices will range from $50 to $162.50, which averages to $114 per ticket. A year ago, that ranked sixth in the NFL. It doesn't include club seats, which are way more expensive.
Owner Woody Johnson, in a renewal letter to season-ticket holders, mentions the hirings of general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles, saying he's "optimistic about the future." He said his goal is to make MetLife Stadium a "fearsome place to play." There were times last season when it was tough for his own team.
Ahead of the start of free agency, Insider is providing buyer's guides for all 32 teams: biggest need positions from Football Outsiders, top targets from KC Joyner and Matt Williamson and predictions on how everything will play out from our NFL Nation team reporters.
Included below are links to every team's article. This is the entry for the New York Jets.
Quarterback: Through two seasons, Geno Smith's stats make him look like a poor man's Mark Sanchez. After ranking 40th in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) among quarterbacks in 2013, Smith improved to 31st last year. Sanchez ranked 35th and 28th in his first two years, respectively. Even Smith's late-season surge -- he ranked 11th in DYAR for quarterbacks in Weeks 15-17 -- mimics Sanchez (ninth in DYAR in Weeks 15-17 of his second season). The larger sample of Smith's two seasons indicates that the Jets should be looking for their next quarterback.
Overview: S.O.S. There, that pretty much sums it up.
Players under contract for 2015: Dee Milliner, Darrin Walls, Dexter McDougle, Marcus Williams, Curtis Brown, Dashaun Phillips.
Why Revis is a fit: Owner Woody Johnson tipped his hand at the end of the season, when he said he'd like to bring back Revis. As a result, the New England Patriots filed a tampering charge. Nothing has changed; the Jets remain interested. Signing Revis would accomplish two things: It would give Todd Bowles a legitimate No. 1 corner for his press-man scheme and it would weaken the Jets' No. 1 rival. But they also must ask themselves, is $16 million-a-year for a 30-year-old corner the best way to go for a rebuilding team? They could use that money to sign two starters.
Why Maxwell is a fit: He was the most unheralded member of the Seattle Seahawks' "Legion of Boom" secondary, but Maxwell, 27, is seen as a player on the rise. He's 6-foot-1, with 33.5-inch arms, and Bowles likes long corners who can disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage. Maxwell was rated 45th out of 108 corners, according to Pro Football Focus. One concern is penalties; he had nine. He will be expensive; we're talking at least $9 million a year.
Why Jackson is a fit: New general manager Mike Maccagnan, formerly of the Houston Texans, has an intimate knowledge of Jackson, the Texans' first-round pick in 2010. He got off to a slow start in his career, but he improved over the last couple of years. Most his snaps last season came in the slot. His versatility intrigues the Jets, who believe he's good enough to play on the outside. He was PFF's 11th-rated corner. He has some experience in a press-man system, back when Wade Phillips was the defensive coordinator. Bottom line: Jackson, who turns 27 next month, isn't an elite player, but he could get paid like one.
Why Culliver is a fit: Culliver, 26, isn't a household name, but he's on the Jets' radar -- and a lot of other teams', too. He played well last season for the San Francisco 49ers (rated 14th by PFF) in his first full season as a starter. Much like Maxwell, Culliver (6-foot) has the physical traits to thrive in a press-man system. There are some off-the-field concerns. Three years ago, he made national headlines with anti-gay remarks during the run-up to the Super Bowl. He later apologized.
Why Cromartie is a fit: Cromartie is on the Jets' short list, but the sense is that he's a fallback option because of his age (31 next month). He played under Bowles last season with the Arizona Cardinals -- played well, too -- and he has been lobbying for a return to the Jets. But it doesn't make sense for them to jump on Cromartie unless they've exhausted their options among the younger corners.
Prediction: The Jets will pursue Revis if he doesn't reach a contract extension with the Patriots, which almost certainly will result in his release. If Revis re-ups with the Patriots, the Jets will jump into the Maxwell/Jackson/Culliver market, trying the find the best value. In the end, they'll end up with Maxwell.
Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) Will be joined by four other NFL Nation reporters throughout the show.
Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions reporter) will take us behind the Lions' decision to avoid franchise-tagging defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and also give us an idea of where the prized lineman might end up.
Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter) will join to make sense of New England's decision to place the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, instead of potentially doing so with free-agent defensive backs Darrelle Revis or Devin McCourty.
Todd Archer (Dallas Cowboys reporter) will give us an update on the Cowboys' apparent decision to let DeMarco Murray, 2014's rushing leader, test the open market.
Sticking with offense, Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers reporter) checks in to outline why the Packers may be content doing the same with receiver Randall Cobb, who reportedly was looking to stay in Green Bay for $12 million a year.
As always, viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.
Position: Running back
Previous contract: He made $3.23 million in his rookie contract, which covered four years. That included a playing-time escalator last year that increased his base salary to $1.4 million.
2014 stats: Powell was the forgotten man, stuck behind Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson. He played only 22 percent of the offensive snaps, finishing with only 44 touches -- 33 rushes for 141 yards (4.3 average) and 11 catches for 92 yards (8.4). He scored one touchdown.
The case to keep him: After parting ways with Johnson, the Jets have only two experienced tailbacks under contract -- Ivory and Daryl Richardson, who spent last season on the practice squad. In retrospect, some of the former coaches believe they under-utilized Powell last season. He showed some promise in 2013, when he was thrust into a larger role, but the arrival of Johnson changed everything. Powell isn't flashy, but he's a consistent, fundamentally sound player. He can be trusted in pass protection and never fumbles. He didn't lose a fumble in 2013 and 2014, and only nine backs with at least 200 carries can make that claim. He also can play on all three downs, increasing his value.
The case to let him go: The Jets need a dynamic player in the backfield to complement Ivory's bruising, north-south running style. Powell is a lot of things, but he's not a big-play threat (career long rush: 39 yards).
Crystal ball: The Jets want to re-sign Powell, who would draw a fair amount of interest if he hits the open market. His former coach (Rex Ryan) and position coach (Anthony Lynn) are with the Buffalo Bills, who could lose C.J. Spiller in free agency. Powell's best football is ahead of him, and the Jets know it. They will make a sincere effort to keep him in the fold. He figures to land something in the $1.6 million-to-$2 million-a-year range, based on James Starks' two-year, $3.2 million deal last year with the Green Bay Packers. Their career production is similar, and Powell is nearly three years younger.
What does that mean for the New York Jets? Well, it means they have a lot of money to spend. Let's explain exactly how much.
The Jets' adjusted cap is $156.15 million, according to the NFLPA. That figure includes the carryover from last season, $12.6 million -- i.e. unused cap space. Former general manager John Idzik got ripped for being frugal, but there was a method to his madness, so to speak. Unfortunately for him, he's not around to reap the benefits of his plan.
Right now, the Jets have $97.5 million committed to the 2015 cap, according to ESPN research.The amount of "dead" money (old contracts still on the cap) also must be factored into the equation. For the Jets, it's $3.4 million, per ESPN. These numbers will vary slightly, depending on the source. I can't really explain why; it's just one of the mysteries of the salary-cap world in which we live.
Anyway, when you crunch these numbers, it comes out to $55 million in cap space. The Jets will recoup another $10.5 million if they release wide receiver Percy Harvin.
As we explained in a previous post, the Jets have to dole out some serious cash to stay in line with the league's minimum-spending requirement. Their cash payroll for 2015 and 2016 needs to average about $141 million to remain in compliance. To hit $141 million this year, they'll have to raise the actual payroll by more than $60 million.
In other words, they can re-sign David Harris, extend Muhammad Wilkerson's contract, sign two or three top free agents and take a cruise around the world without even sweating the cap.