Shopping Season to Begin
The following is an article written by Real Football Services. They are a frequent contributor on newyorkjets.com.
In recent weeks, we've been telling you about the feverish efforts of pro personnel people all over the league; how they are looking for ways to improve their rosters before the start of training camp in July. By this time, every team has had at least one mini-camp and has made a complete evaluation of their team and their remaining needs. They have hand-picked players in the free agent market, selected future contributors in the draft, and picked up players off the street who might not only fill immediate needs as starters, but also as backups and as future prospects.
This week, several teams will be making cuts of high-priced veterans. After June 1st, there are significant cap savings for the 2006 season that can be realized by releasing aging veteran players who may no longer be making contributions equal to the financial commitment the team must make to them. However, we told you last week in this space that the new collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the owners and the player's union created a new salary cap ceiling for the 2006 season, resulting in a $16.5 million increase for each team. This created some financial relief for many teams, and as a result, there may not be as many free agents available in June as in the past.
But there is one more piece to the puzzle. While all of these things have been going on, the pro scouts within each organization have started to take a hard look at rosters around the league to determine which teams have a surplus of players at a given position. Scouts will look for teams who may have a surplus at a position that is a position of need for their own team. The Jets, for example, may be in the market for a wide receiver. If the Philadelphia Eagles hypothetically have seven viable receivers fighting for five roster spots at the end of the summer, chances are that a couple pretty good receivers are going to be released in Philadelphia. The Eagles automatically go to the top of the Jets list. Jets scouts will be in attendance at Eagles preseason games and will file detailed reports on the receivers they feel could be available to the Jets at the end of the preseason, and could make a contribution in New York.
Of course, one of the most important keys to any competitive situation is knowing who you are competing against. Obviously, every team is out there doing the same thing. But several teams are also looking for defensive linemen, linebackers, corners, wide receivers, and even fullbacks; all potential areas of need for the Jets. You can bet that 3-4 defensive teams like the Patriots, Steelers, Browns, Cowboys, Chargers, and 49ers will all have their eye on defensive linemen and linebackers who fit their scheme. Likewise, there are teams like San Francisco who need to find another experienced WR to fill the roster.
So where are the surpluses for the Jets? The easy ones to find are on defense. While the Jets are making a switch to the 3-4, several teams like Minnesota, Buffalo, and Houston are doing the opposite and may be stuck with players at defensive line and linebacker who don't fit their new Tampa Two defense.
Houston DT Seth Payne, if he's not a June 1st cap casualty, could be a potential player who comes free. He has played DT in 3-4 schemes at Jacksonville and Houston, and now that Gary Kubiak is changing gears on defense, Payne, though an older player, is versatile enough to play as a backup at DE or DT and has a tremendous amount of experience within the system. The same goes for his teammates at LB, Kailee Wong and Antwan Peek. Former 1st round pick Jason Babin, like Peek, is a 3-4 OLB who is being moved to DE in the 4-3. If they can't make the transition to the new system, look for them to come free at the end of the summer. Dallas, Cleveland, and San Diego all look to have surpluses at LB on the surface, but remember that all three play the same system as the Jets, and it is not uncommon for 3-4 teams to keep as many as nine LBs on their final roster.
Baltimore is another former 3-4 team that is changing up their defense. Players like Peter Boulware and Tommy Polley are already available, but former Syracuse standout Ryan Lacasse is a versatile rookie player who can play inside or outside in either scheme. If he develops quickly, he could make some veterans in front of him expendable. If not, his speed, tackling ability, and speed could make him an attractive project for the Jets.
On the offensive side of the ball, there are a handful of teams with a glut of wide receivers. And that doesn't include teams like Washington, where James Thrash and David Patten are probably too old for the Jets plans, and Detroit, who could make former first round pick Mike Williams available, though most likely through trade. At 6-5, 229, Williams doesn't fit the new offensive system being incorporated by offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
Let's go to Philly. Even after trading away a young prospect like Billy McMullen, the Eagles still have eight legitimate receivers fighting for five roster spots. Reggie Brown and Todd Pinkston are listed as the starters, and Greg Lewis is a favorite of QB Donovan McNabb. Jabar Gaffney was signed this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, and the team used draft choices on Jeremy Bloom and Jason Avant. That means that players like Darnerien McCants, a 2005 college free agent who impressed in limited action last season, and Hank Baskett, a rookie with excellent size and good production, could be available. Both fit the Jets mold of smart players who are young enough to develop into regular contributors.
Others who fit the mold are Denver's Darius Watts and Charlie Adams, who were already playing behind Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie, and could be pushed out by the acquisition of Javon Walker and David Terrell, as well as draft picks Brandon Marshall and Domenik Hixon. In New Orleans, Michael Lewis, a six-year veteran, could be replaced by Reggie Bush, who has outstanding return ability and will be a big part of the Saints passing game as a receiver out of the backfield. Dane Looker is one of 12 receivers on the St. Louis training camp roster and is the best of group behind Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Kevin Curtis, and Shaun McDonald that will be severely cut back now that new head coach Scott Linehan is committed to a more balanced attack. Young but experienced receivers Tyrone Calico, Roydell Williams and Bobby Wade could all be available in Tennessee, and though he is troubled, WR Chris Henry may have worn out his welcome in Cincinnati with his off the field issues.
There are even a few options at FB in Baltimore where Alan Ricard and Ovie Mughelli could lose time to newly acquired Mike Anderson. The Dolphins signed Fred Beasley in the offseason, which could make the versatile Sammy Morris available, and the Bears have a solid FB in Bryan Johnson, but used a draft choice on Oklahoma's JD Runnels. Either player would be a welcome addition to the Jets.