The 2016 NFL Combine has come to a close, and free agency gets started next week. Since news is going to start picking up shortly, it is time to continue our annual review of the San Francisco 49ers upcoming opponents.
We will be providing three breakdowns. This first one will review the previous season for each team. It will also include a list of each team's free agents, and a look at some potential needs heading into free agency and the draft. The second one will come in April, providing a look at where teams are at following free agency, and what the draft means for each team. The third set will come in July, providing a recap of the offseason and a look ahead to training camp for each team.
Today, we continue our look at the 49ers AFC opponents, moving on to the New York Jets. The Todd Bowles era got off to a pretty solid start. After four straight seasons of .500 or worse football, the Jets went 10-6 in 2015. It was not enough to earn a playoff berth in a tough AFC, but the team showed significant growth on both sides of the ball.
The two big stories on offense were Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Jets somehow acquired Marshall for a fifth round pick a year ago, and he proceeded to catch 109 passes for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns. Eric Decker added 80 receptions for 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns, giving them one heck of a pass-catching duo. That was a big help to journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. He emerged as a starter after a locker-room fight resulted in a broken jaw for Geno Smith. Fitzpatrick finished the season with 3,905 passing yards and 31 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.
On defense, the Jets saw some significant improvement from their secondary. Antonio Cromartie was a bit of a disappointment, but Marcus Williams emerged as an intriguing young option. He finished tied for 5th in the NFL with six interceptions, as the Jets tripled their interceptions from the previous year. Football Outsiders ranked them No. 9 in passing, but a big part of that might be due to the fact that they were No. 1 against the run. Teams could get nowhere on the ground, and the secondary teed off when opponents went to the pass.
Unrestricted free agents: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, CB Antonio Cromartie, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, OLB Calvin Pace, DT Damon Harrison, RB Chris Ivory, RB Bilal Powell, S Jaiquawn Jarrett, RB Stevan Ridley, DE Leger Douzable, CB Darrin Walls, OG Willie Colon, DE Stephen Bowen, TE Kellen Davis, ILB Jamari Lattimore, OT Ben Ijalana, S Antonio Allen, ILB Erin Henderson, ILB Demario Davis, WR Chris Owusu, K Randy Bullock
Restricted free agents: WR Kenbrell Thompkins, TE Zach Sudfeld, P Ryan Quigley
The Jets took care of some business on Tuesday, when they designated Muhammad Wilkerson as their franchise player. There are rumors the team is looking to try and trade him due to their defensive line depth, but it remains to be seen what kind of compensation they will want in return.
The offensive side of the ball features some serious questions. Ryan Fitzpatrick put together a strong 2015 season, but now hits free agency. Brandon Marshall said he wants him back, but we'll see what the Jets do. Geno Smith has no panned out, so they could face some serious question marks.
Their top three running backs, Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, and Stevan Ridley are all due to hit free agency. The Jets ground game was not exactly an overwhelming presence, so the team could decide to improve the position in the draft or with outside free agents.
On defense, the team released Antonio Cromartie, but their bigger questions right now are Damon Harrison, Calvin Pace, and Demario Davis. All three are unrestricted free agents.
Cap space: $6,687,256
Draft picks: 1(20), 2(20), 3(20), 4(20), 5(18), 7(20) - no comp picks
They need to figure out something with Ryan Fitzpatrick, otherwise quarterback becomes a huge need. There was a Colin Kaepernick rumor earlier this month, but that has quietly died down for now. Even if nothing comes of that in the coming weeks, the Jets still have to figure out their quarterback situation. They will also need to figure out what's next at running back. They got decent play from Ivory and Powell, but nothing particularly special.
Our friends at Gang Green Nation see a need for a right guard, and some help at linebacker, both at inside linebacker, and in a pass rush role. Additionally, with the release of Antonio Cromartie, and Darrelle Revis not getting any younger, cornerback is a position of need.