Because the NFL season never ends, we present our 2009 Offseason Roadmaps for front offices to navigate through the summer.
What a difference five weeks made for the New York Jets. From 8-3 to 9-7. from Eric Mangini as head coach to Rex Ryan, and from Brett Favre as the starting quarterback to, well, your guess is as good as ours. Those last five games sent the franchise into yet another new direction, one that will only start coming into focus when free agency opens on Feb. 27.
While the Jets have no real worries about losing players on their roster, they have a few glaring holes that need to be filled this offseason. None is bigger than the starting quarterback, because that decision, along with Ryan's hiring, will be the one that officially sends the team down its new path.
Free Agents: LB Eric Barton (UFA), CB Ahmad Carroll (UFA), RB Jesse Chatman (UFA), S Abram Elam (RFA), K Jay Feely (UFA), TE Bubba Franks (UFA), CB Ty Law (UFA), DT C.J. Mosley (UFA), K Mike Nugent (UFA), CB Hank Poteat (UFA), S J.R. Reed (UFA), FB Tony Richardson (UFA), LB Cody Spencer (UFA)
Draft Picks: 1 (17), 2 (52), 3 (76), 4 (111), 5 (145), 6 (180), 7 (201, 211)
1. Quarterback. Right now they've got Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge on the roster. Clemens started eight games in 2007, but failed to definitively nail down the starting role before Favre joined the team in '08. The other two have never played in a regular season game and none inspires much confidence about the immediate future. Expect to see them add a veteran QB, with names like Kyle Boller, Byron Leftwich and, if he becomes available, Marc Bulger at the top of the list. The draft may bring another candidate. If they fall in love with Mark Sanchez, it wouldn't be surprising to see them move up for a shot at him.
2. A consistent pass rush. Ryan has been brutally honest about Vernon Gholston's awful rookie year, saying that he's gotta decide if he's a player at this level. If he decides to put the work in, you have to figure that Ryan's the best bet to turn him into something. The Jets need it, because they will have to put pressure on opposing offenses to make Ryan's scheme a success, and they probably don't have enough cap space to chase someone like Terrell Suggs.
3. Secondary. As you can see above, the Jets have several corners hitting free agency, and none of them would have been locks to return even if they were under contract. Darrelle Revis is a star on one side, but they'll need growth from Dwight Lowery or a new face opposite him to shut down receivers while the rest of the defense gets after the passer. Ryan has talked about turning Kerry Rhodes loose, and he'll need someone like Baltimore's Jim Leonhard to provide steady enough play at strong safety to make that happen. Leonhard, as it happens, is a free agent.