The NFL scouting combine kicks off in Indianapolis on Tuesday, with more than 300 college football players, and more than a thousand agents joining GMs, coaches, scouts, doctors, executives from every NFL team. Here's what to watch for with the Jets -- and what the Jets will be watching -- over the next week:
What They're Watching
Chances are someone from the Jets will be staking out Mike McCartney, the agent for free-agent QB Kirk Cousins, to watch his every move.
As for the college players, their contingency plan at quarterback figures to be taking one with the sixth pick, so they will keep their eyes on those drills too. The Jets will be looking for young offensive linemen and speedy pass rushers and perhaps another weapon for their new quarterback. They'll cast a wide net here, knowing they can fill many of their needs in free agency first.
They'll watch all the quarterbacks, of course, but unless they plan a big move up in the draft, it figures that Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and maybe Wyoming's Josh Allen are the most likely to fall to the Jets at No. 6.
Mayfield, of course, is one of the more interesting and polarizing quarterbacks in the group. Other interesting prospects who could be available there include Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson, Alabama CB Minkah Fitzpatrick. Maybe even N.C. State DE Bradley Chubb, though only if there's a real run on QBs in the Top 5.
The Jets don't seem to feel any urgency to retain any of their free agents, and won't mind if they test the market. But there are a few they'd like to keep if the price is right.
So, they are expected to meet with the agents for C Wesley Johnson, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, LB Demario Davis, and CB Morris Claiborne. None of them figure to be prohibitively expensive. But the Jets will want to know their price and intentions before the market opens in mid-March. It's possible one or two of them will get signed before the market opens, too.
At some point soon, the Jets will cut DE Muhammad Wilkerson, and clear an extra $11 million in salary cap space (or $17 million if they designate him a "post-June 1" cut). It's a no-brainer move they've been planning for months, even before he was essentially suspended for the final two games of the season.
There are other players on the bubble too, including CB Buster Skrine ($6 million), RB Matt Forte ($3 million). G James Carpenter ($4.45 million) could be on the bubble too. He also could be asked to take a pay cut, though that seems unnecessary given all the cap space the Jets have.
No Tampering (wink, wink)
The Jets are going in on the Cousins sweepstakes and, according to one team source, they had scheduled an organizational meeting for before the combine to plot their strategy, and lay down some financial parameters. They know the basics, of course.
But at some point, they'll corner McCartney, and see exactly what Cousins wants - and if he will seriously consider the Jets. No offers can legally be exchanged, and this discussion actually can't officially be had until March 12. But don't be naïve. The Jets will leave Indianapolis knowing exactly where they stand with the free-agent quarterback they crave.
Meet the Press
GM Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles are scheduled to meet the media sometime this week. Don't expect them to detail their plans to woo Cousins, or any other parts of their offseason strategy. But here are a few of the topics that are expected to come up and key questions they might be asked:
- What's Plan B at QB if they don't land Cousin? We'll have to read between their lines here, to see if there's another free agent they seem to like or if they intend on getting a QB with the sixth pick in the draft.
- What about Christian Hackenberg? No, not as a starter. But with the Jets determined to find a QB, can they trade him? Will he stay as a backup? Or will they cut him and just admit a major second-round mistake.
- What are there other big areas of need? Everyone can name a few -- receiver, edge rusher, corner for starters. It'll be interesting to hear what they think, though.
- What are their plans for Robby Anderson? This will be their first comments since his latest arrest. They're not happy about it, obviously, and they know he's facing a suspension. But at this point, do they even want to keep him at all?