BY SETH WALDER / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
SATURDAY, JANUARY 4, 2014, 9:28 PM
Geno Smith doesn't earn enough trust to warrant having the starting job handed to him in training camp.
The Jets announced one of their biggest offseason decisions just moments after their 2013 season was officially in the books. By bringing back Rex Ryan, owner Woody Johnson and GM John Idzik made a popular move with their players and their fans, and maintained some consistent leadership.
But with the question of Ryan’s fate behind him, Idzik has to figure out how to turn the current Jets — who look like a sub-.500 team on paper — into a winner with the current financial flexibility he has at his disposal. Because while he may have cap room and draft picks available to him, Idzik has more than his fair share of holes to fill. Let’s look at the big decisions facing Gang Green’s GM this offseason:
1. WHAT'S THE PLAN AT QUARTERBACK?
How much trust did Geno Smith earn by improving his play at the end of the season? Not enough to warrant having the starting job handed to him in training camp, in all likelihood. GM John Idzik was as blunt as he ever is about Gang Green’s plans when it comes to signal-callers this offseason when he said in his season-ending press conference, “We’ll look at quarterbacks, yes we’ll look at quarterbacks.”
That could mean looking at veteran options to compete with Smith. It could mean a first-round draft choice that would ultimately supplant him.
Either way, expect a QB competition in training camp, one that doesn’t involve Mark Sanchez. Given his injury last season, his regression before that, and his bloated contract, Sanchez is all but out the door in Florham Park.
2. WHERE ARE THE WEAPONS?
The Jets may have had the worst receiving corps in the league last season. That’s a problem for any quarterback, let alone a second-round rookie.
“There will be an emphasis there,” Idzik said when asked about his skill positions, before adding, “but there will be an emphasis on improving every single position.”
It doesn’t take a GM’s mind to see that wide receivers and tight ends have to be a priority.
Santonio Holmes is a virtual lock to be cut. Stephen Hill can’t be counted on realistically as a major option. Jeremy Kerley is a solid slot receiver but not a game-changer.
The Jets didn’t do enough when it came to the receiver position last offseason and it came back to haunt them. Don’t expect them to make the same mistake twice.
3. WHAT IS ANTONIO CROMARTIE’S FUTURE?
It’s possible Cromartie has played his last game as a Jet. He could be a salary-cap casualty this offseason, and the Jets may just decide to start fresh with Dee Milliner and a new cornerback opposite him. They may decide, however, that 2013 and not 2012 was the aberration in Cromartie’s performance, and that his aching hip was the cause for his subpar performance. In that case, expect either a restructuring or extension of Cromartie’s contract, because the Jets won’t be entirely responsible for the $14.98 million cap number his contract currently holds for next season, according to overthecap.com.
4. WHAT HAPPENS AT GUARD?
The Jets have issues at both guard positions: Willie Colon, who was mediocre at right guard, is a free agent, and tore his biceps at the end of the year. Brian Winters was completely underwhelming in his rookie season. Gang Green will probably need to bring in two new guards via free agency or the draft: one to replace Colon and one as a safeguard in case Winters continues to scuffle.
5. WHICH FREE AGENTS TO BRING BACK?
Among members of the 2013 Jets who will be free agents, right tackle Austin Howard will likely be the team’s top priority. Howard has developed into a nice offensive lineman, and good tackles are hard to find.
Nick Folk has played on four straight one-year deals with the Jets, and after his career-best performance this season, he could receive his first multi-year deal with Gang Green. If he doesn’t get one, he might end up elsewhere. Calvin Pace could be back after his first double-digit sack season. Josh Cribbs proved useful in his brief time as a Jet, and could come back as a return man.
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Five Potential Targets in Free Agency
John Idzik didn’t make a big splash in free agency in his first offseason, but that could easily change this time around. Even if the Jets extend Muhammad Wilkerson, which seems likely, Idzik should have plenty of money to work with. That could mean a big name signing on with Gang Green.
QB Chad Henne
If the Jets are looking for a game manager who can complement Gang Green’s defense in case Smith implodes, Henne could be an option.
QB Josh McCown
He impressed with Chicago this season, but Jay Cutler is the QB permanently there. McCown will get paid well (for a backup), and the Jets have money to spend.
QB Michael Vick
Vick could reunite with his old offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg, if he came to the Jets.
WR Hakeem Nicks
Could Nicks switch locker rooms at MetLife and join the Jets? Anything is possible for the right price. If other teams are scared off by Nicks’ performance this season, perhaps the Jets could see him as a value.
WR Jeremy Maclin
He’s the top free agent wideout on the market, but he tore his ACL last summer.
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