The week after the Super Bowl can put many fans in agony and disarray. We New Yorkers are constantly waiting for a winning season. Fans should understand that although the playing season is over, what comes next is just as important. The offseason. Here are the 3 things that the New York teams must do to ensure they’re ready to compete come September.
1) Restructure the defense: Bad News: The Giants don’t have a defense. Good News: They have almost 60 million dollars to spend. Our G-Men must have a complete makeover on the defensive side of the ball, with glaring holes all over the field. They have key players that are free agents, such as DEs Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers, and CB Prince Amukamara. They must make a decision about re-signing these players, especially Amukamara and JPP (both very talented, but injury prone). Often-injured LB Jon Beason has already been cut and retired. The safety spot is possibly the biggest hole for the Giants. Last year rookie Landon Collins showed promise as a run stopper, but struggled severely in pass coverage. He should be surrounded with a veteran coverage safety like Tashaun Gipson, Eric Berry, or even Eric Weddle. To have any chance of making a playoff run next year the Giants must find a way to plug these holes.
2) Get Eli and OBJ some help: If you look at it from the surface, offense does not look like a major problem for Big Blue. The team ranked 6th in points per game last season, and former offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is now the Head Coach. But all this really proves is how great Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr are. The Giants went into last year believing their receiving core was their greatest strength but it turned out to be (excluding Odell) their greatest disappointment. Reuben Randle took a step back and Victor Cruz had setback after setback, which led to him never seeing the field in 2015. Now Randle is a free agent, and the Giants are going to have to make a very tough call on Cruz’s future with the franchise. There are many interesting names on the free agent market this year such as star Alshon Jeffery, and the two Cincinnati secondary wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. The running game -or lack thereof- made it very hard for the Giants to pass the ball at all as defenses put all their attention on stopping the pass. The trio of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Orleans Darkwa failed to impress, and there was no flow or continuity with their rushing attack. The one bright spot out of the backfield, Shane Vereen, is a pure receiving back and quite frankly shouldn’t be running the ball too often. They will need to draft/sign a running back that will be able to be consistent enough a threat so that they can keep the opposition’s defenses honest. If the Giants don’t address these issues, next season will be a repeat with opposing defenses only focusing on numbers 10 and 13.
3) Draft Well: Throughout the Jerry Reese tenure, Giant fans have had to deal with a lot of no-name players that Reese jumped on early hoping to find a steal. (Ramses Barden, Clint Sintim, and Jerrel Jernigan, I could go on and on…) Last year’s 5th round pick, Myykele Thompson, was projected to go undrafted by most experts. He had less than 10 teams attend his workout day at college. However, Reese jumped on a player he could’ve gotten much later or perhaps picked up as an undrafted free agent, instead of taking high value players, or players who had dropped. Two picks later the Vikings selected WR Stephon Diggs, and 11 picks later the Bills selected RB Karlos Williams. Both of these players could’ve contributed greatly down the stretch for Big Blue. Meanwhile, Thompson was placed on the IR before the season even began. The Giants cannot afford to let Reese not value their non-first round picks. It has burnt them in the past and it will burn them again.
The Best (Realistic) Scenario
Reese and the Giants are able to have a complete draft, addressing their needs of DE and LB specifically. They then sign a power-back such as former Jet Chris Ivory. If the Chiefs let Pro-Bowl safety Eric Berry walk, the Giants should pounce at the opportunity. If not, look to sign a Tashaun Gipson type player. Sign a couple of tier 2 or 3 guards/tackles to give depth in case the O-Line is struck by injury again. Rework Victor Cruz’s deal ensuring that he can stay with the team, but not cost them an arm and a leg. If after this they have the money to go after Alshon Jeffery, by all means do it. If they can’t get him they should sign Sanu, Jones or Brian Quick and leave some money for next year.
1) Figure out if Ryan “Fitz” in to your long term plans: (See what I did there?) Ryan Fitzpatrick had a very nice season for the Jets, almost leading them back to the playoffs. He finished the year with one of the best statistical seasons for a quarterback in Jets history. Except now he’s a free agent and turning 34, so there are questions regarding his long-term future with the Jets. Over his brief stay with the Jets, Fitzpatrick has slowly won over the fans and established a good relationship with his receivers. Although Gang Green is tight on cap space, they can’t let him walk. I believe the Jets should resign Fitz to a 2-year incentive-laden deal. Then, they should go out and draft Cardale Jones in the 2nd or 3rd round, depending on how much he rises or drops after the combine. With Fitzpatrick under center next season, the Jets can have a proven veteran both on the field as well as off it to mentor Jones. Cardale Jones has all the traits to become a star NFL quarterback, but he is raw and still needs to learn. Basically the Jets should not test their luck with a raw prospect out of college taking the snaps (*cough* Geno Smith *cough*), but let him learn the trade from a seasoned veteran.
2) Choose Damon Harrison over Muhammad Wilkerson: The Jets’ defensive line this past season was great, but with 2 of their main D-linemen now unrestricted free agents, there is no way they can keep it the way it was. Now you may ask, “Why pick the former undrafted free agent with 1.5 career sacks over the 2x All-Pro with 36.5 sacks?” There are three main reasons: A) The Jets have Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams both under contract and both are younger than Wilkerson. B) Damon “Snacks” Harrison is a young, tough, and skilled nose tackle, which in this NFL is very important. C) Value, value, value. By no means should the Jets allow Wilkerson walk out the door without getting anything in return. They should franchise tag and then trade him. There are many teams willing to give Wilkerson the contract he desires, and if the Jets control which team gets that opportunity, they can set themselves up to get something valuable back. Most likely if this happens the Jets won’t get a player, but they will get picks. Some teams might be willing to give up a 1st rounder for a chance to have dibs on signing an elite young edge rusher like Wilkerson. Not only this, but Harrison will be commanding much less on the open market than Wilkerson, which is critical as well.
3) Create cap space: Right now the Jets have less than 10 million dollars in cap space, and quite honestly that’s just not going to get it done. Fortunately, they have a plethora of players who they will be able to cut or restructure contracts and gain that spending money they so desperately need. The first player the Jets must sever ties with is cornerback Antonio Cromartie. He has a completely non-guaranteed contract, and an 8 million dollar cap hit. The Jets attempted to resurrect the star cornerback tandem that led them to back-to-back AFC championship games in 2009 and 2010. Unfortunately, it’s not 2010 anymore, and Cromartie has struggled next to star Darrelle Revis. Aside from Cro, there are no more huge cap hits the Jets will look to shed. Yet they are still not done with their roster trimming. Cutting kick returner/wide receiver Jeremy Kerley will save the Jets $1.3 million, and little used tight end Jeff Cumberland will save the team $1.9 million. After this the Jets will have to look to restructure contracts of some veterans. Considering Darrelle Revis’ tough negotiating history, the chances of them reaching an agreement with him are low. However long-time offensive linemen D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold will likely be approached to take pay cuts. If they can create a combined 6 million dollars in space after re-working their deal, which isn’t crazy, then after all these moves they’ll have raised their cap room to over 25 million dollars. With this money they could attack needs such as slot receiver and safety.
Best (Realistic) Scenario
The Jets are able to raise their cap space over 25 million dollars and trade Wilkerson for a late 1st round pick. At the draft they select two day one starters, one at LB and one offensive lineman. They also pick up a running back capable of challenging Bilal Powell, who they re-sign, for the starting role. Using their new cap space they’re able to re-sign Damon Harrison as well as add speedy receiver Travis Benjamin. They also add a tier 2 safety such as Walter Thurmond III.