The New York Jets have been telling the world since the end of the season -- actually, before that -- they will be active in free agency, which is what you'd expect a team with close to $100 million in salary-cap space to say. They're not going to save it for a rainy day because, in case you haven't noticed, it has been pouring for a few years.
The question is, how will they spend it?
General manager Mike Maccagnan recently gave a not-so-subtle hint, saying of the offense, "With the maturation of Sam [Darnold], it's definitely an area we're going to focus a lot of our attention in the offseason." Of course, he also said the defense is "a few pieces away."
The first priority is to figure out which of their own pending free agents the Jets would like to re-sign. They have 23 expiring contracts in the unrestricted category -- 23 out of the 65 players on the 2018 roster, including injured reserve. That's a lot of free agents. The group accounted for close to $60 million in cap room in 2018. In other words, the Jets will eat up nearly two-thirds of their cap room simply by replacing those salaries. So that $100 million, well, it's not the deep war chest it's perceived to be.
The Jets took care of some business by extending wide receiver Quincy Enunwa at the end of the season. He was their No. 1 priority. There are eight starting-level players among the remaining 23, plus two Pro Bowl specialists, but none of them falls into the "must-keep-at-any-cost" category. They're replaceable, which speaks to the overall talent level on the roster.
Their top restricted free agent is wide receiver Robby Anderson, who likely will receive the second-round tender (approximately $3 million).
A look at their top unrestricted free agents, ranked in order of importance:
Morris Claiborne: He drives fans crazy because of his penalties (nine total), but Claiborne is a solid No. 2 cornerback with press-man skills. Truth be told, he was more reliable last season than Trumaine Johnson, the Jets' so-called prized free agent. Because of his past injury history, Claiborne hasn't generated much of a market the past two offseasons, resulting in a couple of one-year contracts. He could draw more interest now that he has solved the injury jinx, although age (he turns 29 Thursday) is starting to become a factor. The Jets should re-up with Claiborne because their pipeline (Parry Nickerson, Derrick Jones, Jeremy Clark, et al) hasn't produced any standouts. 2018 salary: $7 million.
Henry Anderson: He improved his market value last season, recording a career-high seven sacks in a contract year, but he could fall victim to a square-peg, round-hole situation. He's not a scheme fit for the Jets, who probably will switch to a 4-3 front under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Anderson has played his best ball in a 3-4, going back to his days with the Indianapolis Colts. He's a good football player, only 27, and it would be a bonus if the Jets could re-sign him, but he probably will get better offers elsewhere. He figures to command a deal that averages somewhere between $5 million and $7 million annually. 2018 salary: $1.9 million.
Jason Myers: How much is a Pro Bowl kicker worth? We're about to find out. Maccagnan's track record suggests he'd rather pinch pennies when it comes to kickers, but he's never had one as good as Myers, who turns 28 in May. A year ago, the Chicago Bears gave Cody Parkey a four-year, $15 million contract, including a $9 million guarantee. The Bears might regret the deal now, considering what transpired in the playoffs, but the market is the market. No matter what happens, Myers figures to at least triple last season's pay. 2018 salary: $705,000.
Darryl Roberts: He had a sneaky-solid year for the Jets and he will attract second-level interest because of his age (28) and versatility. Because of injuries in the secondary, Roberts played 726 defensive snaps (65 percent), third among the Jets' defensive backs. He's a natural cornerback, but he filled in at free safety when Marcus Maye was injured. The Jets would be wise to keep him around in a utility role, but don't be surprised if he reunites with Todd Bowles in Tampa Bay. 2018 salary: $705,000.
Andre Roberts: This is a tough one. Roberts was magnificent last season, earning a spot in the Pro Bowl, but there's usually not a big demand for 31-year-old specialists. He played only 196 snaps at wide receiver -- 20 percent of the total, which figures to decrease if the Jets get their receiving corps straightened out. It's hard to quantify a market for Roberts because of the role, but something in the $2 million neighborhood seems right. 2018 salary: $1 million.
Brandon Copeland: New defensive coordinator Williams will have a lot of input on this decision: Can Copeland (6-foot-3, 263 pounds) play defensive end in Williams' 4-3 front? He was listed as a linebacker in the old 3-4, but he lined up 89 percent of the time in a three-point stance, per ESPN Stats & Information data. So the answer would appear to be yes. Copeland, who turns 28 in July, recorded a career-high five sacks in 2018. Considering the paucity of edge rushers, he'd be a good guy to re-sign as a situational rusher. 2018 salary: $1.5 million.
Jermaine Kearse: Somebody will get a bargain with Kearse, who is a better player than he showed last season. The receiver's numbers were way down compared to a career year in 2017, but he was victimized by the rookie-quarterback factor and an offensive coordinator who didn't believe in him. Critics say he struggled to gain separation. Well, he averaged 2.7 yards of separation per target, slightly better than Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown (2.6), per NFL NextGen Stats. The Jets probably will move on even though they have a crying need for a No. 3 receiver. 2018 salary: $5 million.
James Carpenter: He gave the Jets four solid years, earning every penny of his $19 million, but he's coming off shoulder surgery and turns 30 next month. In recent years, Maccagnan has shied away from doling out starter's money to players in the 30-and-up category. It looks like the Jets will have a new left guard in 2019. 2018 salary: $4.7 million.
Buster Skrine: Like Carpenter, Skrine belonged to Maccagnan's first free-agent class and played out the length of his contract, making $25 million. Like Carpenter, Skrine will be 30 next season, so a multiyear contract seems unlikely from the Jets. He's a competent No. 3 corner who played 694 snaps (62 percent), and he cut down his penalties, but Williams needs to infuse some youth into the position. 2018 salary: $6.5 million.
Josh McCown: There's a chance he will retire, meaning the Jets will be in the market for an experienced backup quarterback. They can't trust the untested Davis Webb in that role because this has to be a win-now season, and they need a proven No. 2 behind Darnold. What if McCown, who turns 40 on July 4, decides to return? He's an invaluable resource for Darnold, but it's hard to look past his shaky performance last season in three starts. 2018 salary: $10 million.
Steve McLendon: He's a heart-and-soul player, valuable in the locker room, but he's 33 and plays a young man's position: nose tackle. McLendon is expendable because the Jets have enough bodies inside with Leonard Williams, Mike Pennel, Nathan Shepherd and Folorunso Fatukasi. 2018 salary: $3.4 million.
Bilal Powell: The team's longest-tenured player in 2018 has three factors working against him: age (30), injury (surgically repaired neck) and position (running back). There won't be much of a market for Powell, whose days with the Jets probably are over. It's too bad because he has been one of their most underrated players of the past decade, but Elijah McGuire -- likely the RB2 -- is a younger version of Powell. 2018 salary: $4 million.
Their other unrestricted free agents are WR Rishard Matthews, TE Neal Sterling, T Ben Ijalana, T Brent Qvale, C Jonotthan Harrison, G Dakota Dozier, LB Josh Martin, LB Jeremiah Attaochu, LB Neville Hewitt, LB Emmanuel Lamur and S Rontez Miles.