With Day 1 of NFL free agency in the books, here are some quick thoughts about how the "legal tampering period" has gone so far and what some of it might mean for the Jets.
No country for ol' Wilkersons
Much of what the Jets do (or don't) in free agency will come down to what happens with Muhammad Wilkerson and how soon that takes place. Since the team has to allocate $15 million in cap space to his non-exclusive tagging, that's money the team can't spend elsewhere. The Giants, Bucs, Jaguars, Dolphins and Cowboys are said to be free agent players for defensive line talent, but their attention seems to be focused on Adrian Clayborn (ATL), Charles Johnson (CAR) and Mario Williams (BUF), who are all now free agents. So far, it seems teams are more interested in kicking the tires on those three arbitrage Wilkerson talents since they won't cost their team any draft picks to sign unlike Wilkerson. My money is squarely on Wilkerson remaining in New York when the initial free agency dust settles. Worst-case scenario? The Jets squeeze one final season on a team-controlled contract out of one of the best defensive talents in the NFL.
… or maybe not
A report surfaced Monday night that the Jets might have interest in Los Angeles Rams free agent Nick Fairley. Fairley is a capable player, but might only be a two-down DT in the Jets system. Bent and I consider Fairley a degraded analog for Wilkerson that than one for Damon Harrison, which makes Fairley a Wilkerson roster backfill in the case of a vacancy. So the Jets' interest in Fairley might be an innocent check-in, or it might be an indicator of bigger moving pieces.
QB in play
There was a lot of manufactured panic Monday about the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick not being close on a contract with the Jets. The best thing for Fitzpatrick is for him to return to the Jets. Both sides have their ideas on what they want, and now other clubs can act as contract mediator for the Jets and Fitzpatrick. Once that initial report came out, there has not been another peep about Fitzpatrick. What does that suggest?
Should the Jets not be the highest suitor for Fitzpatrick's services? I'd expect the Jets to focus on finding a player via the trade market or free agency while they go back to the well through the draft. Sure, there's some thought that maybe Bryce Petty can step forward. From what I saw of him in training camp last summer, his footwork is ready to go, but it is his arm and decision-making that needs another year.
Dwayne Allen just broke the bank
I honestly have no idea what GM Ryan Grigson is doing in Indianapolis. Last year, he smugly signed Andre Johnson and Frank Gore to bloated contracts, and fiddled as his offensive line burned to the ground. How'd that work out for Andrew Luck last year again? This year, I figured Grigson would bring back Coby Fleener, Luck's college buddy, in free agency, while Dwayne Allen would slink out the door after some salty comments about his role as the 2015 season faded.
I hoped Allen would make it to free agency and the Jets would get a crack at him since he can block and catch although has injury risks, as opposed to Fleener, who is little more than a big-bodied wideout who can't work in-line. Now, Grigson signed Allen (which was probably the right move) to a massive deal which will float one of the best positional groups in this free agent that much higher for everyone else who follows suit. Even when Grigson gets it right, he can still mess it up for everyone else. I'd keep my eyes out for the Jets to make a run at some of the older tight ends like Ben Watson or Scott Chandler.
Tackling right tackle
I hoped the Jets would aggressively pursue right tackles at the start of free agency, but so far, that doesn't seem to be the case. The Bills tagged Cordy Glenn; Phil Loadholt agreed to a pay cut to stay in Minnesota; and Mitchell Schwartz has received interest, but seemingly none from the Jets. Joe Barksdale doesn't have compelling offers elsewhere to do anything but sign a Tuesday deal to remain in San Diego. The only lineman with reported interest from the Jets was JR Sweezy, which does not look like a compelling signing. We will see how the next two days go, but I'm getting the feeling the Jets are interested in second- or third-tier linemen and will instead focus on improving their line through the draft.
As it currently stands, the Jets' starting running back is Zac Stacy and Dri Archer is their change-of-pace running back. Whoop-de-whoop. The chances that those are the top two runners for the Jets come September is zero, so what are the Jets doing to address the spot? Not much so far. Matt Forte might be getting recruited to free agent averse Green Bay. Doug Martin and Lamar Miller will be courted extensively in free agency by other teams, and up until Monday, Chris Ivory seemed like the next best player. So far, Ivory has drawn some interest from the Raiders and Bucs, but then a funny thing happened.
Eagles GM Howie Roseman started throwing out all former coach Chip Kelly's stuff onto the lawn. Gone now are LB Kiko Alonso and CB Byron Maxwell to Miami. The Titans then started doing Titans things by acquiring DeMarco Murray, a damaged-goods 28-year-old running back with spent legs making $7 million a year. The simple fact that Philly would eat that much money to trade Murray shows how poorly the organization regarded him after just one year. What's more? Former Murray battery-mate Ryan Mathews might also be available from Philly. Will the unexpected availability of Murray and Mathews tamp down Ivory's market? Could the Jets then benefit by getting Ivory cheaper than they expected? Probably not, but only time will tell. The way things are going, expect the Jets to bring in a modest free agent (who may be Bilal Powell) to pair with a prospect in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft.