(Disclaimer: This article was initially written prior to the start of the NFL free-agency period and NFL Draft for a site that my good friend Shane Dayton is planning to start. When that site goes live, this article will be removed in order to avoid issues with duplicate content)
When Shane first approached me with the idea for this article, my initial thought (as an avid Miami Dolphins fan) was “Hell yeah, I’ve always wanted to be the GM for the Dolphins”. The more I thought about it; however, the more I thought that was a cop-out answer. It seemed all too simple to be the GM of my favorite team. I wanted to really challenge myself here. Take a team that I utterly despise and turn them around, and that’s why I went with…excuse me a moment while I throw up. The New York Jets!
The New York Jets are, quite possibly, the most bereft of talent in the entire NFL. There are so many holes on this team that to compare them to Swiss cheese would be an insult not only to cheese, but also to the fine people of Swiss. As harsh as that seems, it’s the reality of the situation in New York. They have nearly no talent whatsoever. They have glaring holes at every offensive skill position, and arguably just as many holes on the defensive side of the ball. So why, then, would anyone want to play GM with a team this horribly in shambles? Cap space.
The Jets have a little over 49 million dollars in salary cap space. After you set aside the roughly 6 million you need to sign your draft choices, you’re left with approximately 43 million dollars. Even with the astronomical salaries NFL stars make these days, you can drastically alter the future of your franchise with that type of money. That’s exactly what I plan to do here, and here’s how I would do it.
The NFL is a Quarterback-driven league, that’s no secret. Having even a serviceable Quarterback can turn your franchise around in a hurry. Just look at my beloved Dolphins. The year after they went 1-15, they brought in Chad Pennington (along with a few other pieces, but that was their main acquisition that season), and suddenly they were a playoff team. Anyone who has paid attention over the past couple season knows that neither Geno Smith nor Michael Vick is the answer for the Jets, but who is? To answer that question, I look to both the draft and free agency.
The Jets have the sixth pick in this year’s NFL Draft, and it’s no secret that they need a lot of help. Conventional wisdom might say to pull the trigger and draft Marcus Mariota, who should be there when the Jets go to pick. That is not what I would do, however. Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles have made it VERY clear that they intend to add Mariota to their team. With that knowledge, I would propose a trade. Swap first round picks this year, and pick up the Eagles second round this year, and a first and second round pick next year. Is that a lot to ask for the number 6 pick? Absolutely, but when you have leverage, you go big!
Now that I’ve traded with Philly, I have a few picks to play around with. I’m going to skip ahead to the second round (I’ll double back to the first round in my next section), where I select UCLA’s Brett Hundley. I think this kid is an under-rated talent who has all the tools needed to be successful at the next level. Is he ready to be a Week 1 starter? Certainly not, but that’s where part two of my plan comes in.
Brian Hoyer. That’s right folks, the much-maligned, second-fiddle-to-Johnny-Football Brian Hoyer. In spite of what upper management may have thought, Hoyer played pretty well during his time in Cleveland, and he showed me more than enough with the Browns, and his one prominent year in New England, to take a flyer on him. Ideally I’d be able to sign him for somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 years and $5 million. This would be roughly twice as much as he made last season in Cleveland and should be more than enough to entice him to the bright lights of New York.
Bringing in a serviceable quarterback to tutor your future franchise quarterback is great, but neither one of them is going to have any measurable success if you don’t surround them with talent. The way you do that is by building a solid receiving corps. The Jets have already made strides to do that, with their trade with the Chicago Bears for stand-out Brandon Marshall. While this is potentially a great trade for the Jets, it’s not enough. Yes, they have Eric Decker there, too, but I’m not exactly sold on Decker being a solid #2 option. This is where I look to the draft. Now that we’ve traded with Philadelphia, we have the 20th pick. This is where I’m looking to either Kevin White out of West Virginia or Devante Parker from Louisville. With a brilliant showing at the NFL Combine, it might be wishful thinking that White is still on the board here, but if he is, I’m snatching him up. Parker is a great fall back option for me, though. When you watch their game tape, I don’t see a whole lot of difference in the talent level between the two receivers.
I would also give a lot of consideration to signing the recently-released Andre Johnson. Johnson is one of the greatest, and most under-rated, wide receivers in the history of the NFL. But the fact remains that he is getting older, and Houston felt he was no longer a starting-caliber receiver, and certainly not worth the cap hit that they would have taken by holding on to him. While I agree that he wasn’t worth the money (somewhere between $14 and 16 million, I forget the exact number), I think that Johnson still has a couple productive years left in him. If I were GM, I’d be reaching out to his agent to offer him something in the neighborhood of 4 years and $20 million. I would also front-load the contract so he would make $12 million of that over the first two seasons. That would put his cap number at a reasonable $6 million for this season. A downgrade for sure, but still enough to placate an ego while leaving me enough room to address the last hole in the offense, running back.
The NFL has drastically slanted towards a passing game over the last decade or so. Consider the fact that before 1984, no Quarterback had EVER thrown for more than 5,000 yards. Then Dan Marino broke that barrier with 5,084. Even after Marino accomplished this feat, no quarterback was able to match that number again until 2008, when Drew Brees reached 5,069. Since then, the number has been eclipsed 6 more times, due in large part to rules changes allowing teams to throw the ball all over the field. This can lead to the running back being phased out, and seen as a less-than-important position. I couldn’t disagree more. When you get to the playoffs, you need to have the ability to jam it down someone’s throat and RUN IT INTO THE ENDZONE FROM THE ONE YARD LINE SEATTLE!
Sorry, I got a bit off track there…where was I? Oh yeah, the running back. With the Jets letting go of Chris Johnson, they don’t have a clear #1 running back. This is where I stir up a bit of controversy and reach out to NFL-pariah Ray Rice. I want to make it clear that I, IN NO WAY, condone what Ray Rice did to his soon-to-be wife in that elevator, but I also believe that everyone deserves a second chance. Up to that point, Rice had never had any run-ins with the law and had never been abusive (that we know of). With that in mind, I would reach out to Rice and offer him a contract similar to that of the contract I offered Andre Johnson. The difference being that while Johnson’s contract was front-loaded to reward his stellar career, Rice’s would be back-loaded until he proved to me as GM, as well as the fans, that he’s worthy of a return to the NFL. Again, it would be 4 years and $20 million, but he’d only receive $8 of that over the first two years of the contract, making his cap number a palatable $4 million.
The rest of the team
Now it is at this point that you might be asking yourself “But Spoon, if you picked the Jets because they have so much cap space, why haven’t you made a splash? Why haven’t you spent more money?” Well, I’ll tell you why…Darrelle Revis. ESPN writers and Jets beat-writers alike would have you believe that Cornerback is the position that the Jets are in most dire need of. While I disagree vehemently with that, you can’t ignore the fact that it is a position of need. As it stand right now, Dee Milliner is their only cornerback of note, and even that is debatable. It’s no secret that the Jets brass would love to have Revis return to the Jets with the Patriots unlikely to pick up his option for the 2015 season at a cap number of something in the neighborhood of $20 million. While Revis is clearly one of the best corners in the game, $20 million is quarterback money, and he’s just not worth it.
With that being said, as the Jets GM, I’ve saved up plenty of money to throw at Revis, and I plan on doing pretty much whatever it takes to get him back into a Jets uniform. Three years and $45-50 million, with an option for a fourth year should do the trick. With the exception of possibly the Raiders and Jaguars, I don’t think there’s another team in the league who could comfortably throw that kind of money at Revis without leaving their team in a compromised position. Even with throwing that type of money at Revis, I’ve left myself with plenty of room to play with.
Having spent roughly half of my cap space to acquire Revis, Rice, Johnson, and Hoyer, I still have more than enough room to bring in several mid-level veterans to fill out the rest of the roster. Whether they be free agents from other teams, or resigning our own (most likely a mix of the two), there are holes on the O-line, D-line, and Linebacker corps that need to be addressed. Adding one or two good veterans to each would work wonders for turning this team from the laughing-stock of the NFL (which, as a Dolphins fan, I absolutely LOVE), to a team that can compete. If not in the AFC East, then certainly for one of the two Wild Card spots.
So there you have it, folks. That would be my plan to turn a floundering franchise into a legitimate contender. If you spend your money wisely, and take the big shots when it’s prudent, you can take a team from the bottom to the top in a very short amount of time. You see a team go from worst-to-first nearly every season in the NFL, and I have no doubts that my moves would produce close to (if not exactly) those results for my hated rivals. In conclusion, I have just one more thing to say: SUCK IT SHANE! Suh’s coming to Miami! Bet that throws a wrench in your plans!
Welcome! My name is Chris Spooner. I am an overly-passionate Dolphins fan who has many opinions about his team, and the sports landscape as a whole. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy voicing them.