When the NFL's 2016 Free Agency negotiating period begins on March 7, the Jets will be well-prepared for every potential scenario in front of them.
"The free agency process really starts a year in advance," says Jets pro personnel director Matt Bazirgan.
Working with a talented staff that includes pro scouts Tom Gibbons & Greg Nejmeh, versatile scout Dan Zbojovsky, scouting assistant Andy Davis and seasonal assistant Tosin Kazeem, Bazirgan and his group started on this year's free agency class in the spring of 2015.
"Once free agency dies down, we go back and all of us will watch all of our non-opponents and have a write-up on every single player on that team with an eye towards this guy coming upon his next year," he said. "And that way with each player coming up in free agency, you kind of have a chronology of what he's done each year in the league."
So by the time players complete their fourth season in the NFL and are about to enter free agency, the Jets have already collected a ton of information.
"You've graded the guy every year basically, so has he been consistent throughout this career? Has he been up and down? Is he kind of ascending player who's played like 30, 40, 50 percent of the snaps? Are his play times going up? OK this guy has really been a backup, but skill set wise and projecting him to us, hey this guy can be a starter for us," Bazirgan said.
Last August, the pro scouting staff got ready to help the Jets win in '15 while keeping an eye on the future at the same time.
"During the season, we're doing our advance teams and we're putting in an evaluation on every player that we do for our opponent – strengths, weaknesses, how to attack them and how to neutralize them. But also you're earmarking those free agents on that team," Bazirgan said. "So it starts with Cleveland in Week 1 and you're doing that the last week of August. It's kind of a mix where we're self-evaluating the Jets during the season, we're doing our opponents but we're also looking at the upcoming free agents on our opponents' teams, upcoming UFAs."
The Green & White broke up their free agency watch list with Bazirgan taking 9 teams, both Gibbons and Nejmeh assigned 7.5 clubs while Zbojovsky – who contributes both on the pro and college side along with specializing in information technology – got 6 teams. Whether in the office or even in the hotel room on the road, the pro scouts opened their iPads and devoured game after game. And in the case of a potential free agent, the staff wants to see how a player fares against the best.
"Each of us will go through game film and try to see him against best competition, early season & late season," Bazirgan said. "Was he hurt? If he was hurt earlier in the season, is he healthier later in the year? A guy can be a little nicked earlier in the season and kind of round into form late. You try to do as much background as you can on a player to give him his proper due."
The staff meets formally as a group in November and they share a snapshot of the respective positional groups.
"That's where we do a lot of cut-ups. So receivers, you see all their targets. Quarterbacks – we'll see all the throws. You don't need to see them hand the ball off just to make it more efficient. Usually running backs it's touches, but then we'll show clips at the end of them in protection," Bazirgan said. "With defensive backs a lot of times it's targets and run support. We try to streamline a little bit just from a time standpoint during meetings. But the bulk of what we do is all straight game film."
In addition to the originally assigned clubs, Bazirgan, Gibbons, Nejmeh and Zbojovsky also have cross-check responsibilities as well.
"We try to ensure everybody has at least one grade and then the guys we like or at least earmarked will have a second look by position. And either myself or director of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger, we try to see the entire board. Not every single player, but every single player we would potentially have interest in whether it's a high-priced guy or a minimum salary-type guy."