Not only does the NFL's free agency signing period begin Friday morning but so does the 2008 trading period after the expiration of all '07 contracts. The Jets, who are comfortably under the $116 million cap, could be active on both fronts.
"I know we're prepared," said general manager Mike Tannenbaum. "We're going to work on what we can control. We can sign seven guys or not sign any. You just never know the vagaries of free agency, but we're prepared and we'll see what happens. We're working hard to put ourselves in position to react to the market."
Last week, the New York Daily News reported that veteran LB Jonathan Vilma had received permission to shop himself to another team. David Harris emerged last season at ILB after Vilma, a defensive captain and former team MVP, went down with a knee injury.
"If opportunities present themselves, we'll carefully evaluate them," Tannenbaum said. "It's kind of a sensitive time with those things. But he's a Jet, Jon's done a lot of good things for us, and we'll see what the future brings."
The Detroit News lists the Lions as a potential suitor. Head coach Rod Marinelli was asked about Vilma at the Indy combine and he was very complimentary of the 'backer who racked up a career-high 187 tackles in '05 while playing the middle in a 4-3 front. The Lions employ the Tampa-2 scheme and could be interested in Vilma up the middle.
"He's a heck of a player," Marinelli said.
One player not expected to be dealt is QB Chad Pennington. While Tannenbaum has always maintained he'd listen to any offer, the Jets have indicated they'd like Pennington to return and compete with Kellen Clemens for the starting job. Clemens replaced Pennington midway through the '07 season but head coach Eric Mangini sounds like a man committed to QB competition.
"We'll look at that situation through the course of OTAs, training camp and the preseason games and evaluate them on what gives us the best chance to win," he said last week at the combine.
The free agency landscape is a lot different than years past. This recent trend has teams with more money available to keep their own talent — by either slapping the franchise tag on a player or inking someone to a long-term deal.
"I just think there are a limited number of guys in free agency," said Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' executive vice president of football operations. "The price of what guys are going to be paid is astronomical. I don't foresee us being a big player."
That's an interesting take from the Redskins, considering their track history of spending. And if the Jets are one of the clubs that don't make a quick strike on Friday, that doesn't mean they won't be movers.
"Sometimes there is a lot of overspending early in the market and then things kind of taper off and teams are able to plug players in," said Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.
The Jets are likely to address their offensive line in free agency and/or the draft. The most heralded offensive lineman in the '08 FA Class is Steelers LG Alan Faneca. The 6'5", 307-pounder is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote Monday that the Jets will make a run at him.
Mangini used to mentor CB Asante Samuel when the two were employed in New England. Samuel will command a huge payday after watching fellow corner Nate Clements strike it rich with the 49ers last year. While the Pats seem destined to lose Samuel, will they keep Randy Moss in-house? After not franchising the record-breaking receiver, Moss will also be a UFA but many figure he'll re-up in Foxboro.
If Moss isn't available, the Broncos are shopping WR Javon Walker and Chad Johnson reportedly wants out of Cincinnati. A pair of Pats — Donté Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney — are set to be free.
Now removed of the franchise tag, LB Lance Briggs is going to be heavily pursued. The Eagles recently released DE Jevon Kearse and the Lions let go of CB Fernando Bryant, so their respective agents will be busy.
And there are other notables as well, such as Cowboys LT Flozell Adams. He'll turn 33 in May but he still does a fine job of protecting the quarterback's blind side. RB Michael Turner, a long-time understudy in San Diego, will fly out of SoCal and become someone's top back.
Whether Friday is frantic remains to be see but there'll be plenty of movement over the next couple of weeks as there is more than just one avenue for personnel to change.