A case can be made that John Idzik just accepted the toughest general manager job in the NFL this offseason. The New York Jets, who agreed to terms with Idzik Friday, are a mess in more ways than one.
The former Seattle Seahawks executive has inherited a long checklist of things to fix in New York. Let's examine the many challenges that await Idzik:
Fix the cap: The Jets are nearly $20 million over the salary cap, according to a recent report from ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton. Former general manager Mike Tannenbaum put together an old and overpaid roster the past couple of years and left the next person – Idzik -- to foot the bill. Idzik will have to gut New York’s roster of expensive veterans and immediately get younger. Older, high-salary players like Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Jason Smith and Eric Smith are the most likely targets to be released.
Find a quarterback: The Jets will pay Mark Sanchez $8.25 million in guaranteed salary next season. But that doesn’t guarantee Sanchez will be the starting quarterback. Idzik’s job is to find the best quarterback New York can afford to compete against or supplant Sanchez. That could come via free agency or the draft. Sanchez had four seasons to prove that he is the long-term solution and failed. The Jets will have a new offense and a new offensive coordinator. If things work out properly, New York could also have a new quarterback.
Relating to Ryan: Reportedly one of the big holdups during New York’s general manager search was candidates weren't going to be able to pick their own head coach. Jets owner Woody Johnson made it clear that the charismatic Rex Ryan is here to stay. Ryan led New York to back-to-back AFC title games in 2009 and 2010 and still has some equity from that. Idzik must successfully work hand-in-hand with Ryan for the Jets to turn things around.
In-house free agents: The Jets have a few tough decisions to make with their own free agents. New York Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry, starting tailback Shonn Greene and tight end Dustin Keller are all looking for contract extensions. As we mentioned earlier, New York’s salary cap will be very limited. It is possible the Jets could lose all three.
Tebow dilemma: It’s clear that the coaching staff -- and particularly Ryan -- wants nothing to do with Tebow. An educated guess is Idzik agrees with Ryan and will trade or release Tebow sooner rather than later. The distraction that Tebow brings simply wasn’t worth it. He was never a good fit in New York. Idzik will try to pull off a coup by getting something, perhaps a late-round draft pick, in exchange for the polarizing backup quarterback. But an outright release seems more likely.
There is a reason the Jets were the last team to find a general manager this offseason. This was not an attractive job for many of the reasons we listed above. But Idzik obviously is a person who is not afraid of big challenges -- and it's time to get to work.