With free agency set to begin March 10, we'll examine the New York Jets' top free agents over the next few days:
Player: Bilal Powell
Position: Running back
Previous contract: He made $3.23 million in his rookie contract, which covered four years. That included a playing-time escalator last year that increased his base salary to $1.4 million.
2014 stats: Powell was the forgotten man, stuck behind Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson. He played only 22 percent of the offensive snaps, finishing with only 44 touches -- 33 rushes for 141 yards (4.3 average) and 11 catches for 92 yards (8.4). He scored one touchdown.
The case to keep him: After parting ways with Johnson, the Jets have only two experienced tailbacks under contract -- Ivory and Daryl Richardson, who spent last season on the practice squad. In retrospect, some of the former coaches believe they under-utilized Powell last season. He showed some promise in 2013, when he was thrust into a larger role, but the arrival of Johnson changed everything. Powell isn't flashy, but he's a consistent, fundamentally sound player. He can be trusted in pass protection and never fumbles. He didn't lose a fumble in 2013 and 2014, and only nine backs with at least 200 carries can make that claim. He also can play on all three downs, increasing his value.
The case to let him go: The Jets need a dynamic player in the backfield to complement Ivory's bruising, north-south running style. Powell is a lot of things, but he's not a big-play threat (career long rush: 39 yards).
Crystal ball: The Jets want to re-sign Powell, who would draw a fair amount of interest if he hits the open market. His former coach (Rex Ryan) and position coach (Anthony Lynn) are with the Buffalo Bills, who could lose C.J. Spiller in free agency. Powell's best football is ahead of him, and the Jets know it. They will make a sincere effort to keep him in the fold. He figures to land something in the $1.6 million-to-$2 million-a-year range, based on James Starks' two-year, $3.2 million deal last year with the Green Bay Packers. Their career production is similar, and Powell is nearly three years younger.