A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Musical QBs: Another quarterback soon could be off the market, which should turn up the heat on the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The San Francisco 49ers have agreed to trade Colin Kaepernick to the Denver Broncos, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported on Saturday, but the swap is contingent on Kaepernick restructuring his contract. If the trade happens, Fitzpatrick would lose a potential suitor, perhaps the last one -- other than the Jets, of course.
Ideally, the Jets would like to resolve the contract stalemate by April 18, the start of the offseason program. Unless another team emerges from the weeds (the 49ers, perhaps?), Fitzpatrick's only options would be to take the Jets' low-ball offer (about $7 million) or not play. It's worth noting the 49ers' offensive coordinator is Curtis Modkins, who held the same title with the Buffalo Bills during Fitzpatrick's final three seasons there (2010-2012). Just saying.
I don't think Fitzpatrick's pride would allow him to cave quickly; he could try to slow-play the Jets. They could try to pressure him by flirting with Brian Hoyer or Josh McCown, but they'd better be careful. If New York ends up with one of them and loses Fitzpatrick, it's a loss for the Jets, even if they save a few million bucks. They need him, he needs them. Get it done.
2. Desperation has a limit: Everybody knows the Jets are looking for an edge rusher. The top remaining free agent, according to ESPN senior writer John Clayton, is defensive end Greg Hardy. A few folks on Twitter have asked about the possibility of the Jets pursuing Hardy. Let me answer it this way: They have zero interest in Hardy and I don't expect that to change -- pre-draft, post-draft, whenever. Could Hardy help the pass rush? Sure, he had six sacks in 12 games for the Dallas Cowboys, but there's too much off-the-field baggage, and he caused problems in the Dallas locker room. The Jets would be wise to stay away -- and they will.
3. Linebacker platoon: The addition of free-agent linebacker Bruce Carter, who agreed to terms Saturday, creates flexibility at inside linebacker. I could see Erin Henderson playing on first and second down, with Carter playing on third down in a sub package. Carter, 28, runs well and is solid in coverage, making him a good complement to the run-stuffing Henderson. This approach would be a departure from last season, when Demario Davis was an every-down player (for most of the year, anyway), as was fellow inside 'backer David Harris.
4. Two-for-one deals: Despite a salary-cap crunch, the Jets are doing a good job of adding pieces at economical prices. In replacing three starters, they were able to sign six players, saving more than $1 million in cap space in the process. Here's how:
After losing Davis to the Cleveland Browns ($3.2 million), they re-signed Henderson and added Carter (estimated combined: $2.5 million).
This is what you call making due with limited resources. Now all they have to do is hope they signed the right guys.
5. Looking at Mo money: If the Jets receive a legitimate trade offer for Muhammad Wilkerson before the draft, one of the many factors they will weigh is the cost of keeping him under the franchise tag. Right now, his tag is costing $15.7 million. In 2017, it'll increase to $18.8 million, based on the 120-percent rule. From the Jets' perspective, it's a two-year, $34.5 million deal, which isn't all that crazy. The Giants will be paying Olivier Vernon a total of $41 million over the next two years, which makes Wilkerson look like a bargain.
The Jets would be allowed to tag Wilkerson a third time, but the money jumps into a different stratosphere -- a minimum of $27.1 million. By rule, his 2018 salary would be 144 percent of his 2017 pay OR the franchise-tag amount for quarterbacks OR 120 percent of the average of the top five at his position ... whichever is greater.
Playing the tag game for more than one year isn't sound cap management -- it's also not a player-friendly approach -- but it's an option for the Jets.
6. Mo-nster of the Midway? There will be a ton of Wilkerson speculation over the next few weeks as we draw closer to the draft. One of the teams to watch is the Chicago Bears. They need a defensive lineman in their 3-4, they have $23.7 million in cap room and they own the 11th pick in the draft. I think the Jets would make the trade in a New York minute if they got the 11th pick.
7. Cat man do: From what I hear, the Jets are giving Mike Catapano a chance to become a full-time linebacker. He has dropped weight since the end of the season (he's in the 260s), which should help with the transition. A few years ago, he was a 290-pound defensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs. Catapano flashed some pass-rushing ability last season before suffering a serious foot injury that required surgery. His rehab is said to be going well.
8. The gambler: I've heard good things out of the Indianapolis Colts' organization about Brant Boyer, the Jets' new special-teams coordinator. He's described as an excellent teacher who relates well to players, which isn't a surprise because he's a former NFL player. Boyer, the special-teams assistant in Indy, comes from a program that isn't afraid to take chances in the kicking game. One risk resulted in one of the worst trick plays in history; remember the fake-punt fiasco last year? Colts coach Chuck Pagano embraces the riverboat mentality. Will Jets counterpart Todd Bowles? We'll find out.
9. On a roll: It was some week for Brandon Marshall, huh? Marshall, who moonlights as a studio analyst for Showtime's "Inside the NFL," was nominated for two sports Emmys. He also was named by the New York Observer as one of 20 philanthropic heroes under the age of 40. He got the nod for his work with Project 375, which raises money and awareness to help fight the stigma of mental illness. On Tuesday, he will be a keynote speaker and honoree at a National Football Foundation event in Manhattan.
It's not all positive, though. Earlier that day, he's scheduled to be in court, defending himself in a civil suit against a woman who alleges that he struck her outside a Manhattan nightclub in 2012. It'll be a reminder of his troubled past, which he has worked hard to bury.
10. Senator Tebow? All this recent chatter about Tim Tebow aspiring to a career in politics is nothing new. In 2012, when he played for the Jets (ah, memories), I asked him about politics and he said: "I haven't ruled it out. Whatever avenue I feel like I can make a difference in, I'd love to do. I haven't ruled out anything like that. It won't be anytime soon in my future, but it'll be something I'll at least look at and consider one day." You have to think he'll pass legislation better than he passes a football.