Out on the Street
The following is an article written by Real Football Services. They are a frequent contributor on newyorkjets.com.
Though the draft has come and gone and the bulk of the NFL's veteran free agents have either signed back with their former teams or moved on to greener pastures, pro personnel executives and scouts are still looking for ways to fill holes in their rosters, or simply make their team better. We mentioned last week that there are several means of doing that, the first of which is looking for veteran players, who for one reason or another, are still "out on the street."
The Jets, like every team in the NFL, have done their self scout and identified areas of need for this year's team. But while their primary goal will be to look for players who can come in and add depth, they will also keep an eye out for potential starters and significant role players who may have slipped through the cracks, or represent an upgrade from their current players at a given position. They will also keep an eye towards the future and look for players who fit what they do on offense and defense and can be molded into future stars.
Our scouts have identified several areas of need for the Jets and examined the available veteran players. Unfortunately for the Jets, the pickings are slim, which is not uncommon. Thinking reasonably, the best available players are re-signed quickly or generate significant interest at the beginning of the free agency period. The players who remain usually have a shortcoming of some kind, be it age, injury, declining or limited skills, or unreasonable contract demands. Other players just don't fit with certain teams and their offensive and defensive schemes.
We determined the Jets top areas of need on offense to be at fullback and wide receiver. The fullback market is weak. Former Bears FB Marc Edwards, who was released at the end of the season, is a nine-year veteran who has been a career journeyman. He's a big back at 252 pounds, and has adequate receiving skills, but probably doesn't represent an upgrade over incumbent B.J. Askew. That's good news for Askew. But if he gets injured, there is a lack of depth behind him. Expect the Jets to keep an eye on Edwards and continue to comb other teams' rosters for potential cuts in the event they need to sign a FB quickly.
At receiver there are a few options. Fifth-year veteran Charles Lee is a big target with outstanding physical tools, but has failed to produce on the field. Some teams will be intrigued by his combination of size, speed, and strength, which he shows in flashes, but his lack of consistency could be enough to make the Jets say no. Still, if no other options come available, he is a physically talented player who could be kept on the radar.
Another player to watch is former Jags WR Cortez Hankton. At 6-0, 200, he has adequate size and can work out of the slot as a third or fourth receiver. He can catch the ball in traffic, will go across the middle of the field and can take a hit and still hold onto the ball. He is an ideal possession receiver, but in just his 3rd year, he lacks playing experience and needs to refine his skills. He's a player very much in the mold of Jerricho Cotchery and can contribute right away on special teams, an important factor in any signing the Jets make.
The highest rated WR still on the market is Az-Zahir Hakim. The former Rams and Saints WR/PR has had some conversations with the Lions in recent weeks, but could be a good fit for the Jets. The team is set with starters Laveranues Coles and Justin McCareins on the outside, but Hakim is an ideal slot player who uses his quickness to get off the line of scrimmage, knows how to avoid contact and has a knack for finding openings against underneath zones in the short to intermediate passing game. He can also line up on the outside if necessary and has been an explosive return man. He is an experienced player, and his versatility could be attractive to the Jets.
With the switch to the 3-4 defense, the Jets will spend a lot of time this year looking to add players who fit the scheme by virtue of their playing experience, skill set, or size. Defensive end Gary Walker is a player who fits all of the criteria. The 11-year veteran has excellent size at 6-2, 324, and has played in Houston's 3-4 defense for the last four years. The Texans are switching to a 4-3 scheme under new head coach Gary Kubiak, so Walker didn't fit their plans, but he is one of the top ranked free agent defensive linemen on the market this year. He has experience as a pass rushing DE, and at 324 pounds, he has the size and strength to occupy two gaps on the interior of the line. He is aging and has had some durability issues in recent years, but as a depth player who will be used as a backup, the Jets could limit his snaps, which might keep the wear and tear on his body to a minimum and actually help make him more productive. As a player who is already familiar with the scheme and has the versatility to play several positions along the line, he could be a valuable commodity, especially with the undersized Trevor Johnson and the unproductive Monsanto Pope listed as the backups at DE on the Jets current depth chart.
At linebacker there are also a couple high profile considerations. Victor Hobson lacks the athletic ability to play outside in the 3-4, and Bryan Thomas has never played the position. While the team has added some veteran depth, Jamar Enzor, a first-year player and former rookie free agent, is the backup at ROLB. Former Ravens standout Peter Boulware is the ideal 3-4 outside LB. The downside on Boulware is that he suffered a knee injury two years ago and lost some of his speed and quickness. He played 15 games as a spot backup last year, but Boulware could add some solid veteran leadership and can still be a situational stand up pass rusher from the outside. Though he doesn't have the rush speed he once had, Boulware knows how to get to the quarterback and could be used in the nickel in obvious passing situations while giving the Jets an experienced player in the LB corps.
Jamie Sharper is another veteran who is available. He has played outside in the 3-4 defense in Houston and Baltimore, and could have some value as a backup. Though he was injured last year and gave way to the surprising play of youngsters Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, he has been a productive player in his career, has a nose for the ball, and can make plays in the backfield or in coverage.