<
>

Sunday notes: New York Jets' bulk shopping has pros and cons

A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Sweet 16? General manager Mike Maccagnan has done a nice job of increasing the competition at virtually every position on the roster, acquiring 16 new players, but he has spent a little too much time shopping in the aisle marked "Older/Injured Players."

Eight of the 16 will be at least 30 years old when the season starts and, more concerning, six ended last season on injured reserve -- Brandon Marshall, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Stevan Ridley, James Brewer, Jamari Lattimore and Corey Hilliard. Another player, Joe Mays, began the season on IR and returned at midseason. All told, the new players missed a total of 63 games because of injuries, not counting Erin Henderson, who sat out the year because of substance-abuse issues. Then there's Marcus Gilchrist, who didn't miss a single game but is limited this offseason due to a residual shoulder injury.

Maccagnan went into the second wave of free agency with his eyes open and, appropriately, reduced the risk by doling out nine one-year contracts for minimum salaries and small signing bonuses. In other words, if they're hurt or ineffective, they're gone -- with no damage to the salary cap. My prediction is at least 10 or 11 will make the team, but you wonder how many will contribute on special teams. And that's what backups are supposed to do, right? Only three played at least 100 special-teams snaps last season -- Lattimore, Buster Skrine and Kevin Vickerson.

This approach, in part, was born of necessity. Save for 2013, the recent John Idzik and Mike Tannenbaum drafts failed to produce the kind of numbers you need to sustain a healthy roster, leaving gaping holes on the depth chart. So, basically, Maccagnan did some bulk shopping at cut-rate prices, saving the big money for Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Skrine.

If you're a Jets fan, you'd better hope Maccagnan doesn't start trading away draft choices, thinking the older/injured can hold the fort for more than a year. The draft remains the lifeblood of successful organizations.

2. Ridley on the mend: Of all the newcomers, the most seriously injured was Ridley, who is only five months removed from major knee surgery. Nevertheless, the Jets are optimistic about his recovery. He soon will report to the offseason program to continue his rehab. Barring a setback, he should be ready to go for training camp, a source said. This is a prove-it year for Ridley. He signed a one-year deal, although he's not behaving like someone who expects a one-and-done with the Jets. On Friday, he posted an Instagram video of himself getting a rather large "Jets" tattoo on his right forearm. Imagine if he signed a Revis-type deal; they would've run out of ink.

3. Maybe ball deflation is the answer: The biggest criticism of Ridley is that he's a fumbler, which is weird because his former team -- the New England Patriots -- is known for excellent ball security. From 2012 to 2014, he fumbled seven times on rushing attempts. The only running backs with more fumbles over that period are Jamaal Charles (13), Alfred Morris (11), Joique Bell (10), Reggie Bush (nine), C.J. Spiller (nine), Marshawn Lynch (eight) and LeSean McCoy (eight), according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's a pretty good group; the Jets probably could tolerate a few miscues if Ridley can produce like those guys.

4. Motivation behind the Coples move: The Jets' decision to exercise the fifth-year option for Quinton Coples gives them another year to evaluate the talented, but inconsistent former first-round pick. It simply buys them time before they have to make a call on whether to pony up the serious money. Let me explain. Right now, his 2016 salary ($7.8 million) is guaranteed for injury only. The salary doesn't become fully guaranteed until the start of the 2016 league year in mid-March. If Coples has a terrible year, he can be released before then with no cap ramifications.

Teams still are getting comfortable with the concept of the fifth-year option because this is only the second year of its existence. Some facts and figures from last year: Thirty first-round picks from 2011 were eligible for a fifth-year option. Of those 30, 21 had their option picked up, including the Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson. Four of the 21 received long-term deals; the other 17 remained on their teams. That includes the San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith, who restructured his contract.

5. The joy of six: There are six elite prospects in the draft, according to a consensus from four well-respected experts -- Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay of ESPN, Rob Rang of CBSSports.com and Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Media. After compiling their player rankings, six stood out above the crowd (in order): USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White, Florida defensive end/linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The good news for the Jets, picking sixth, is they're guaranteed to get one of these players. Wide receiver no longer is a need, but I think Maccagnan would have a tough time passing on Cooper. Yeah, they'd have a crowded receiving corps, but I'd rather take the value than force a "need" pick.

6. A chip off the ol' Tuna: Todd Bowles is a Bill Parcells disciple, which might provide some insight into how he wants to build his defense. Parcells always subscribed to the bigger-is-better theory, especially in the front seven. There is a lot of speculation about the Jets picking an outside linebacker with the sixth pick, but neither of the likely candidates fits the ideal mold from a height-weight standpoint. Shane Ray and Vic Beasley are on the small side. They're both 6-foot-3, but they're probably maxed out at 245 and 246 pounds, respectively. Randy Gregory (6-foot-5, 235) has the skill and the frame to add weight, but his stock could suffer because of admitted marijuana use. Fowler (6-foot-3, 261) would be a nice fit, but he probably won't get out of the top five.

This brings us back to the previous item. If the choice is between a stud receiver or an undersized pass-rusher, take the receiver. Bowles can always scheme up a pass rush, especially with Revis & Co. protecting on the back end.

7. Time to grow up: Winston's attorney, David Cornwell, offered a brutally honest assessment of his client, telling a sports law symposium the quarterback is "not ready to be an NFL player off the field." Cornwell later tweeted that he'd put all rookies in that category. Maybe, but all rookies won't be the No. 1 pick in the draft. With that comes responsibility and pressure, and you have to wonder if Winston can handle it. Imagine him in New York.

An NFC scout said of Winston, "He wins football games. The only thing you have to worry about, especially in New York, is that he's a celebrity quarterback before he even gets there. He's only three years out of high school, and he acts like it."

It would be high drama if, for some reasons, the Jets had a shot at Winston. I bet they'd take him in a New York minute.

8. This Ali's the greatest (among small-school prospects): Hobart's Ali Marpet, who attended Hastings-on-Hudson High School in Westchester, New York, could be the first Division III player to be drafted in the top 100 since Ferrum College's Chris Warren in 1990. He's a 6-foot-4, 310-pound offensive lineman with mad athletic skills. The Jets are intrigued. They were among a handful of teams that checked him out last week in a mini-pro day on his campus in upstate New York.

9. Lucky/unlucky six: If the Jets stay put in the first round, it'll mark their fifth selection at No. 6 overall in the common-draft era. The first time was 1971; they chose John Riggins, now a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The last time was 2008; they picked Vernon Gholston, who washed out of the league after three years. Going out on a limb here, but this year's pick probably will fall somewhere in between.