Analysis of Jets' roster reveals sobering truth: A long way to go

GM Mike Maccagnan has lots of cap space and decent draft capital, which is good news given the dismal shape of the Jets' roster. AP Photo/Mel Evans

When the New York Jets gutted the roster last offseason, the long-term plan was to create a war chest in salary-cap space for 2018.

Mission accomplished. Right now, they have a projected $75 million in cap room, according to overthecap.com.

They also wanted to add draft capital, and they did that by acquiring a second-round pick for Sheldon Richardson. Now they have three picks in the top 49.

Armed with those resources, the Jets soon can go to work on a roster that needs major repairs. The sobering reality is, the rebuilding isn't close to completion.

Let's break it down, position by position, analyzing the players under contract for 2018. (Note: Listed separately are the free agents -- unrestricted (15), restricted (six) and exclusive-rights (five). It also doesn't include those who signed future contracts.)

QUARTERBACK (2): Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty.

Analysis: The wrecking ball is coming. After three years of trying to build up the position, general manager Mike Maccagnan is expected to tear it down. Petty, in the final year of his contract, probably is a goner. Hackenberg could stick as a backup (did someone say redshirt year No. 3?), but he won't be in the mix to start. Maccagnan will look to add at least two arms -- a veteran (Josh McCown?) and a rookie.

Free agents: McCown (UFA).

RUNNING BACK (5): Bilal Powell, Matt Forte, Elijah McGuire, Akeem Judd, Jahad Thomas.

Analysis: Forte's days are numbered. His expected release will save $3 million against the cap, creating more opportunities for the younger backs. Powell remains productive in a complementary role, but his $4.9 million cap charge is relatively high for a running back who turns 30 next season. They'd save $4 million by releasing him. Clearly, this position needs an infusion of young talent.

Free agents: FB Lawrence Thomas (ERFA).

WIDE RECEIVER (9): Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Chad Hansen, ArDarius Stewart, Lucky Whitehead, JoJo Natson, Charone Peake, Devin Smith, Brisly Estime.

Analysis: The big question is whether Quincy Enunwa's return from a season-ending injury will make Kearse expendable. Kearse posted career numbers as a possession receiver and established himself as a strong locker-room presence, but he's vulnerable because of a $5 million cap charge. The Jets would clear the entire amount by releasing him. Maccagnan has invested considerable draft capital in the position and he still doesn't have a No. 1 receiver.

Free agents: Enunwa (RFA).

TIGHT END (1): Jordan Leggett.

Analysis: It's not hard to figure out that work needs to be done. The top storyline surrounds Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who hits free agency after a solid season. The Jets have interest, but they won't go crazy to keep him. A lot depends on his asking price. Leggett, coming off knee surgery, is the same type of tight end as Seferian-Jenkins, but has no game experience.

Free agents: Seferian-Jenkins (UFA), Eric Tomlinson (ERFA), Neal Sterling (RFA), Chris Gragg (UFA).

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (3): Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Shell, Ben Ijalana.

Analysis: Ijalana, who played only 56 offensive snaps in a backup role, is in trouble because of a $6 million cap charge. The Jets would save $4.75 million by cutting him. Beachum likely will return because his $8 million salary is guaranteed. This is a position of need.

Free agents: Brent Qvale (RFA).

GUARD (2): James Carpenter, Brian Winters.

Analysis: Carpenter could be on the chopping block because of a $6.8 million cap number and a slippage in his play (the Jets would save $4.7 million by cutting him), but he's far from their biggest concern. Winters, whose $7 million salary is guaranteed, is coming off abdominal surgery. Depth is a major problem.

Free agents: Dakota Dozier (UFA).


Analysis: Time to dial 911. This will be a major priority in free agency and the draft. They're starting over in Year 2 of the post-Nick Mangold era.

Free agents: Jonotthan Harrison (UFA), Wesley Johnson (UFA).

DEFENSIVE LINE (4): Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon, Muhammad Wilkerson, Deon Simon.

Analysis: The Jets can't cut Wilkerson until Feb. 5, the day after the Super Bowl. They have to do it before March 17, the third day of the league year. If he's still on the roster by then, his $16.8 million salary becomes fully guaranteed. There's a better chance of Woody Johnson tweeting a selfie with Queen Elizabeth than Wilkerson collecting that money. He counts $20 million on the cap, but the Jets will save $11 million by cutting him.

Free agents: Kony Ealy (UFA), Xavier Cooper (RFA), Ed Stinson (UFA), Mike Pennel (RFA).

LINEBACKER (7): Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin, Obum Gwacham, Dylan Donahue, Lorenzo Mauldin, Edmond Robinson.

Analysis: This is another major construction zone. The Jets will attempt to re-sign Demario Davis, who held down the middle. They also need to find an edge rusher, either in free agency or the draft. Do we sound like a broken record? Maccagnan's draft picks really need to step it up, particularly Lee.

Free agents: Davis (UFA), Bruce Carter (UFA), Julian Stanford (UFA), David Bass (UFA), Freddie Bishop (ERFA).

CORNERBACK (8): Buster Skrine, Juston Burris, Darryl Roberts, Jeremy Clark, Derrick Jones, Rashard Robinson, Xavier Coleman, Bryson Keeton.

Analysis: Does anybody see a No. 1 cornerback? A No. 2? Didn't think so. There has been some speculation about Skrine because of his bloated cap number ($8.5 million), but it doesn't make sense to cut him unless something better comes along. The Jets have interest in re-signing Morris Claiborne, but they'll probably let him test the market. This team badly needs to draft an impact corner.

Free agents: Claiborne (UFA).

SAFETY (2): Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye.

Analysis: Behold, the rarest of rarities: a position that should be set for several years.

Free agents: Rontez Miles (RFA), Terrence Brooks (UFA), Doug Middleton (ERFA).

SPECIALISTS (2): P Lachlan Edwards, LS Thomas Hennessy.

Analysis: The team was pleased with kicker Chandler Catanzaro and will try to re-sign him. Now if they could only find some returners.

Free agents: Catanzaro.