The first week of the Jets’ offseason is under way as the Green & White have a large contingent of scouts at the Senior Bowl proceedings down in Mobile, Ala. The NFL’s annual draft will take place April 28-30 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, but nobody knows when free agency will begin as the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire on March 3.
When an agreement is eventually reached, the Jets potentially could have as many as 17 unrestricted free agents. They had just seven UFAs last year because only players who had been in the league six years or more qualified for free agency. But that number had always been four years in the past and the six-year model, which rendered hundreds of players restricted rather than unrestricted free agents in 2010, is expected revert to its old standard.
If that’s the case, the Jets UFA list would stand at 17 and would include QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, CB Antonio Cromartie, WR Braylon Edwards, DE Shaun Ellis, K Nick Folk, ILB David Harris, WR Santonio Holmes, T Wayne Hunter, S James Ihedigbo, LB Lance Laury, S Brodney Pool, DL Trevor Pryce, FB Tony Richardson, WR Brad Smith, S Eric Smith and P Steve Weatherford.
Only Rob Turner, with three accrued seasons, would be an RFA, meaning the Jets could place a tender on the veteran lineman and protect themselves from losing him by earning the right to match another team’s contract offer and/or guaranteeing compensation in return for his departure.
Six of the aforementioned 17 possible UFAs — Edwards, Ellis, Hunter, Pool, Pryce and Richardson — will have at least six accrued seasons on their résumés so you can definitely pen them in as unrestricted. The only catch here is the Jets are free to conduct normal contract negotiations with any of these players until the current CBA expires.
But there are limitations that include the 30 percent rule and a possible return of the salary cap. It should also be noted that there is no guarantee that a cap, which placed not only a ceiling but a floor on teams’ spending, will return.
“You still have budgets you have to hit,” said GM Mike Tannenbaum on the prospect of no cap before free agency commenced in ’10. “You still have targets that you have to be at.”
Tannenbaum and the Jets’ brass are already hard at work with the goal of getting the Jets to Indianapolis and Super Bowl XLVI after two consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship Game. Once a new CBA is reached, they’ll have to make a number of interesting decisions …
“Hitman” Harris is one of the NFL’s top linebackers and his teammates voted him the Curtis Martin Team MVP. His 119 tackles in ’10 led the Jets for the third time in four seasons and he also added three sacks. The Jets like to keep their young stars in house as evidenced by the recent extensions of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis.
Will it be possible to keep both Edwards and Holmes? If not, which playmaker will the Jets attempt to lock down?
Are Kyle Wilson and Vladimir Ducasse ready for prime time?
Wilson, selected No. 29 overall out of Boise State last April, and Ducasse, the club’s second -round pick (No. 61 overall) out of UMass, could be in line for prominent roles in 2011. Cromartie had a solid season as the Jets’ No. 2 corner, but he could command a big deal on the open market and Wilson could pair up with the NFL’s top corner, Darrelle Revis, on the outside.
Hunter played very well down the stretch and he could find some suitors. Ducasse is a raw talent who will benefit from a year under his belt under coach Bill Callahan. Speaking of Coach Cally, lots of folks were worried about what the Jets would do at LG after Alan Faneca moved on. Matt Slauson performed pretty well, didn’t he?
Is the Big Katt still prowling in Florham Park come 2011? Shaun Ellis, whose 72.5 regular-season sacks rank third in franchise history, can still play at a high level as we saw in his dominant performance in the Jets’ AFC Divisional Round win over the Patriots.
Jim Leonhard is under contract, but the Jets’ postseason starting safety pair — Smith and Pool — are both set to become UFAs.
The versatile Brad Smith, who played a big role on offense and was the NFL’s second-leading KR man, is on the list of UFAs as well. He joins K Nick Folk and P Steve Weatherford in the special teams conversation.
There are lots of questions that will be answered in due time for this Super Bowl contender. Tannenbaum is scheduled to hold a season ending conference call with the media on Friday.
Tags: Brad Smith, David Harris, NFL Draft, offseason, Senior Bowl
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