Giants, Jets head in opposite directions
In the NFL’s offseason free agency frenzy, the New York Giants and Jets have come out with completely different results. The Giants made great moves and improved their lackluster defense, but the Jets lost key players and have not adequately filled those holes. The Giants’s available cap space has allowed them to improve the talent on defense while the Jets lack thereof has handcuffed their ability to sign more free agents and keep their better players. In the first 24 hours of the free agency period, the Giants spent $204 million, with $114 million as guaranteed money. Although the Giants have made great improvements, some of their signings came at a price.
The Giants’s first move was re-signing defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul for a one-year deal that could be worth up to $10.5 million. The biggest splash the Giants made was signing the former Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon to a five-year, $85 million deal with $52.5 million guaranteed, making it the largest contract for a defensive end in NFL history. The Giants had to outbid the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire Vernon, who is only 25 years old and did not miss a game in his four seasons with the Dolphins. Many questioned whether Vernon was worth this much money, as he is getting more guaranteed money per year than Houston Texans’s defensive end J.J. Watt, who is arguably considered one of the best players in the league.
The Giants also signed former Jets defensive tackle Damon Harrison to a five-year $46.5 million contract with $24 million guaranteed. Harrison was a cornerstone for the Jets’s very effective run defense, which was ranked second in the league with Harrison’s help. Their last big move was signing former Rams’s cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who may have been the best cornerback available in free agency, to a five-year deal worth $62.5 million, with $29 million guaranteed. Jenkins will serve as a replacement for former Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara, who the Giants did not want to re-sign after an injury-prone career with the team. This deal makes Jenkins the second-highest paid cornerback in the league, behind the Jets’s Darrelle Revis. Many have considered that Jenkins could either be a high-reward or a high-risk factor because of his varied history of failure and success. While only two players have allowed more touchdowns than Jenkins’s 22, he has 10 interceptions over his four-year career, which is tied for 12th most over that period.
As for the Jets, their free agency so far has been a disaster. Because the Jets spent most of their salary cap during free agency last offseason, the team could not retain some its own players and did not have the flexibility to make other big moves. The Jets have lost many key players and have, for the most part, only replaced them with serviceable players. Some of the team’s biggest losses include Damon Harrison, Demario Davis and Calvin Pace, all major components of the Jets formidable defense. The Jets’ one good signing came in former Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, who replaced former Jets star running back Chris Ivory. Many say that the Jets had to let Ivory go because of his asking price and because of his age. Ivory’s punishing running style has been an asset to the team, but concerns about his health raises questions about how many more years the 28-year-old has left in the league.
One crucial decision that the Jets have yet to make in free agency is whether or not to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, the team’s starting quarterback who nearly led them to the playoffs last season. One possible reason for the delay could be that the Jets have been hurt in contract negotiations, because the demand for quarterbacks has raised contract prices. Texans’s quarterback Brock Osweiler received a deal giving him $18 million per year, even though he only started seven total games last season with the Denver Broncos. Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Sam Bradford, who has been riddled with injuries throughout his career and struggled even when he was healthy, signed a deal that will give him $17.5 million a year. Although Fitzpatrick has proved his worth, as opposed to Osweiler and Bradford, other teams with deficiencies at quarterback are not willing to match the lucrative deals other players are receiving. Still, the Jets only offered him $7 million a year, which is insulting given that it does not even come close to what Osweiler and Bradford were able to get. Although Fitzpatrick’s lack of suitors gives the Jets leverage over Fitzpatrick in contract negotiations, they still should not be too confident of their position, because they do not have any other viable option at quarterback. This shows the Jets’s dysfunction as an organization, because even after they found a sufficient quarterback in Fitzgerald, who fits well with their offensive scheme, they are unwilling to actually keep him. If the Jets and Fitzgerald do not work out their differences, then there lies a long season ahead for the Jets.