New York Jets general manager John Idzik finally had a chance to stamp his identity on the team in 2014, after a surprising 2013 season, handcuffed by the unwise moves of his predecessor. However, instead of the incremental improvement predicted, Idzik has struggled to find his groove, and the result is a team with no identity, no plan, and, at least right now, no hope of improving on their 2013 season.
In 2014, Idzik had his first real opportunity to shape the team in the way he sees fit. His first taste as a GM came in 2013, a season where his activity was largely limited by some problems left to him by his predecessor. Idzik found a way to make the most of the tough situation, and some shrewd moves in free agency and the draft resulted in success which surprised all but the most die-hard fans.
Largely unshackled from these mistakes of the past, and with more than enough free cap space to make a splash, 2014 was expected to finally mark the beginning of the Idzik era. Unfortunately for the second year general manager, he has failed to create any kind of identity for the team, while quickly presenting himself as indecisive and out-of-touch.
Some of his first cap moves were hard to criticise too badly. Idzik cut Antonio Cromartie, but left the door wide open for pro bowler to return on a more cost-effective deal. He was liked with several potential upgrades at the position, including Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Alterraun Verner and Vontae Davis, and was courted by former Jets star Darrelle Revis, who expressed a desire to return.
However, quickly, it became clear that things were not all well for the team. Meetings came and went, but signings were few and far between. Idzik’s slow playing of the free agency market, which resulted in some cheap gems at rock-bottom prices in 2013 appears to have failed to deliver, as all free agents at key positions were snapped up.
Revis reportedly would have preferred a return to Gang Green over any other team, but the Jets reportedly only valued the all pro player at only around $2 million. Revis eventually signed a $12 million one year deal with the New England Patriots.
The team was reportedly “going hard” after Vontae Davis. Davis would have fit Rex Ryan’s Jets defense perfectly, and was apparently very high on the list of Ryan’s priorities.
Although Davis was reportedly close to re-signing with the Colts then, when a deal failed to materialise within the expected time frame, many took it to mean that an outside suitor had made him a better offer. Insiders indicated that the Jets were that team.
Of course, that never materialised, and Davis re-signed with the Colts soon after.
It was the same story with Alterraun Verner, who was linked to the team, reportedly became a high priority, expressed a desire to join them, but ultimately signed elsewhere after either being low-balled, slow played or completely ignored by Idzik.
The Jets even got as far as meeting with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, arguably the hottest free agent cornerback in the league.
Rodgers-Cromartie visited both New York based teams, but opted to visit the Jets first. The Jets could have locked up Rodgers-Cromartie to a deal, and ended the Giants pursuit had they wanted to.
Ultimately, Rodgers-Cromartie signed a 5-year, $32 million deal with the Giants, containing just shy of $14 million in guaranteed money. Without a doubt, this is a large contract, but certainly one which the Jets could have found space to accommodate.
Rodgers-Cromartie is still just 27 years old, and a proven and established young player. He is the very definition of a cornerstone of a defense, around which Rex Ryan, Idzik and the Jets could have built.
With Rodgers-Cromartie out of the picture, many fans expected the Jets to return to his cousin, Antonio Cromartie.
Cromartie had received only limited interest in the free agency market, largely due to the hip flexor injury which limited him in 2013, and the long-term contract he reportedly wanted. Cromartie visited the Arizona Cardinals early in free agency, but left without a contract.
Cromartie was apparently not ready to sign the one year deal the Cardinals offered him, as he still felt he could get a more long-term deal elsewhere, specifically with the Jets.
Cromartie’s one year deal with the Cardinals was a fair offer, a $3.25 million “prove it” contract. The Jets had more than enough cap space to match or improve on it, and all signs point to the fact that if they had done, he would have accepted.
By many accounts, although Cromartie expressed that he wanted to return, the Jets didn’t even extend an offer to him, in spite of their indication that he would be welcomed back if for the right deal.
Idzik simply does not appear to have a firm grasp on the free agent market, and the team now face the prospect of entering the 2014 season starting second year Dee Milliner, and a rookie they find in the draft, with no other clear starters on the roster, or available through free agency.
The cornerback position is just one example of Idzik’s failure to act and hesitance.
The same has been seen at several key positions, including quarterback, where the team have failed to find a mentor for Geno Smith and are still carrying Mark Sanchez and his $9 million salary on the roster, with only days to go before a $2 million roster bonus is due to him.
Even when the team has made moves, for example, locking up Eric Decker to a 5-year, $36.25 deal, they have been criticised as over priced, and less than ideal fits.
Idzik seems to believe that talent will find him, and does not appear to have expended any time or energy going out and finding it himself.
If he is unable to make two or three crucial signings within the next few weeks, there is no guarantee that he will still be in charge come draft day. Idzik has only a short time to prove he is still the man for the job. First up, Michael Vick.