For the second time in two years, the New York Jets are expected to be in the general manager market. Unlike the previous search, which culminated with the hiring of John Idzik, the job will have greater appeal to potential candidates -- assuming the new GM is empowered to hire his own coach.
A list of top candidates:
Chris Ballard, Kansas City Chiefs, director of player personnel -- He'll be a hot commodity. Ballard is bright and personable, with a background in scouting and coaching. He spent 12 years in the Chicago Bears' organization before joining the Chiefs' front office in 2013. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came after him last year, but he withdrew from consideration because he wasn't going to have final say on personnel.
Scott Pioli, Atlanta Falcons, assistant general manager -- He has the most complete resume of anyone on the list. Pioli was Bill Belichick's right-hand man from 2000 to 2008, helping to build three Super Bowl winners. Bill Parcells' son-in-law was a two-time NFL Executive of the Year. He left the nest to become the Chiefs' GM from 2009 to 2012. The team was only 23-41, but he drafted or re-signed nine Pro Bowl players. His football acumen is top notch; his managerial style reportedly chafed people in the Chiefs' organization.
Nick Caserio, New England Patriots, director of player personnel -- He became the new Pioli in Belichick's kingdom, helping restock the Patriots' roster. This is his 14th year with the Patriots, and there are those who believe Cesario wouldn't cross Belichick by jumping to the rival Jets. He interviewed for the Dolphins' general manager job last year.
Brian Gaine, Houston Texans, director of pro personnel -- He interviewed for the Jets' vacancy in 2013. Gaine is a Parcells disciple who played briefly for the Jets and worked his way up as a scout. He has held front-office positions with the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. Gaine is well-respected in scouting circles, regarded as a rising star.
Ryan Pace, New Orleans Saints, director of player personnel -- He worked his way up from the bottom of the organization. Pace has spent most of his time in pro personnel; he's never been a college area scout. A year ago, the Saints denied a request by the Dolphins to interview Pace for their general manager vacancy.
Tom Gamble, Philadelphia Eagles, vice president player personnel -- Gamble was thought to be the early frontrunner in the Jets' search in 2013, but he didn't knock the interview out of the park. It's hard to quibble with his resume. He has worked under Bill Polian and current San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke.
Duke Tobin, Cincinnati Bengals, director of player personnel -- There's no traditional general manager in Cincinnati, so he works closely with coach Marvin Lewis. The Bengals are notoriously cheap -- see the skeleton scouting staff -- but the roster is filled with talent.
Jerry Angelo, former Chicago Bears general manager -- He has been out of the NFL since being fired by the Bears after the 2011 season, but Angelo is a highly respected football man who built an NFC Championship team in Chicago. He interviewed for the Jets' job in 2013.
Eric DeCosta, Baltimore Ravens, assistant general manager -- It wouldn't be a list of candidates without DeCosta. The Jets sought permission to interview him in 2013, but he declined. He's had many suitors over the years, but he's considered the heir apparent to Ozzie Newsome.
Eliot Wolf, Green Bay Packers, director of pro personnel -- It's just a matter of time before Wolf, only 32, becomes a general manager. You can't beat the DNA; his father is former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who could serve as a consultant during the Jets' search.