It’s a good bet there isn’t another team in the NFL facing as much uncertainty heading into training camp as the New York Jets.
That’s what happens when your starting quarterback is sitting at home without a contract and your best defensive player is understandably miffed at playing under the franchise tag.
Former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had a career year with the Jets last season, throwing for 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns. But he has not drawn interest from other teams and the Jets have refused to bid against themselves, resulting in a game of poker in which neither side refuses to fold.
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, meanwhile, is without a long-term contract and isn’t happy about having the franchise tag slapped on him. Wilkerson, who broke his leg in the 2015 season finale against the Bills, will make $15.7 million if he signs the tag. That’s no chump change, but after seeing the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox get $63 million in guarantees, Wilkerson is right to be upset.
If the Jets start 2016 without Fitzpatrick and Wilkerson, they risk taking a step back from their 10-6 record of a year ago. The Buffalo News continues its look at the Bills’ opponents in 2016 with a closer look at the Jets, who visit Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week Two and then host Buffalo in the Week 17 season finale.
Additions: RB Matt Forte (previously with Chicago Bears), DT Steve McLendon (Pittsburgh Steelers), RB Khiry Robinson (New Orleans Saints), LB Bruce Carter (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), OT Ryan Clady (via trade with Denver).
Analysis: Forte is on the wrong side of 30 with plenty of mileage on his NFL odometer. His addition feels similar to when the Jets added LaDainian Tomlinson near the end of his career. … McLendon should take over as the nose tackle on a loaded defensive line. … Carter is a former second-round pick of the Cowboys who can play multiple linebacker positions. … Clady is coming off a torn ACL, but projects to be New York’s starting left tackle.
Subtractions: DT Damon Harrison (signed with New York Giants), RB Chris Ivory (Jacksonville Jaguars), LB Demario Davis (Cleveland Browns), WR Jeremy Kerley (Detroit Lions), RB Stevan Ridley (Detroit Lions), TE Jeff Cumberland (San Diego Chargers).
Analysis: Harrison worked his way from an undrafted free agent into one of the best defensive tackles in the league. … Ivory cracked 1,000 yards for the first time in 2015, but the Jets couldn’t compete with a big contract offer from the Jaguars. … Davis started 48 straight games the last three seasons. … Kerley had career lows in both catches and yards last season.
Draft report: Ohio State LB Darron Lee (first round), Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg (second round), Georgia LB Jordan Jenkins (third round), Sam Houston State P Loc Edwards (seventh round).
Analysis: Lee figures to replace Davis in the starting lineup as the Jets try to add more speed to their linebackers. Jenkins should also help in that regard, ideally becoming a Calvin Pace-type player. … Hackenberg was drafted to be the quarterback of the future, but represents a gamble. His last two seasons with the Nittany Lions were bad. ... Edwards, an Australian, punted an American football for the first time in 2012. Apparently, he's a quick learner.
Returning Pro Bowlers: Wilkerson, WR Brandon Marshall, CB Darrelle Revis.
Biggest question: Will the standoff with Fitzpatrick ever end? It’s the obvious fit for both sides, but neither one seems willing to move off their position. The thought of starting Geno Smith has to be a terrifying one for Jets fans.
Story topics: Ryan Fitzpatrick