NEW YORK (AP) Next season is already here for Mike Maccagnan and the New York Jets.
As the NFL playoffs begin without the Jets for the sixth straight year, the general manager faces plenty of questions in an offseason of uncertainty .
The biggest will be – surprise! – addressing the team’s quarterback situation, which is dismal at the moment with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith scheduled to be free agents, Bryce Petty coming off a shoulder injury and Christian Hackenberg unable to get on the field for a single snap during a redshirt rookie season.
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”I’m not going to necessarily speculate on where we are in terms of that position,” Maccagnan said earlier this week . ”I do think we have two good, young quarterbacks that we are excited about seeing going forward. But to me, all options are on the table in terms of how we are going to approach that position.”
That means the starter in 2017 could be on another roster at the moment.
Several veterans could be salary-cap casualties as New York needs to create some room to get under the cap. Cornerback Darrelle Revis (15.3 million cap hit), left tackle Ryan Clady ($10.5 million), center Nick Mangold ($9.075 million), right tackle Breno Giacomini ($5.125 million) and wide receiver Brandon Marshall ($7.5 million) could all be asked to take pay cuts or be shown the door.
That could open up opportunities for young players to have bigger roles next season, just as Robby Anderson, Wesley Johnson, Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins saw significant playing time this past season.
Here are some other youngsters who could factor into the Jets’ plans in 2017:
– WR CHARONE PEAKE: The seventh-round draft pick out of Clemson got off to a slow start in his rookie season, but he came on late with six catches over his last four games and finished with 19 for 186 yards. At 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, Peake is a big, physical receiver with some speed and could eventually replace Marshall.
– RT BRANDON SHELL: The great-nephew of Hall of Famer Art Shell didn’t get into a game until Week 7, but the fifth-rounder from South Carolina slid in at right tackle in Week 15 because of injuries. He started the last three games, drew solid reviews from coaches and enters the offseason as the potential starter on what could be a revamped offensive line.
– DT DEON SIMON: Was mainly a backup in his second season after being a seventh-round pick in 2015, but saw increased snaps down the stretch when nose tackle Steve McLendon missed the last five games with a hamstring injury. He’s big – 6-foot-3, 332 pounds – and athletic, and had a sack in the season finale. Former NFL executive Charley Casserly said last offseason that Simon could be the next Damon Harrison, the former Jets nose tackle who was selected as an All-Pro in his first season with the Giants.
– CB JUSTON BURRIS: The fourth-rounder from N.C. State had an up-and-down rookie season, as to be expected from first-year defensive backs. He saw most of his early snaps on special teams, but Burris showed some flashes – good and bad – at times at cornerback and got more action late in the season as Todd Bowles mixed and matched DBs opposite Revis in the secondary. If he shows improvement, Burris could be the No. 2 cornerback, especially if Bowles moves Buster Skrine to the nickel spot, for which he is better suited.
– OLB FREDDIE BISHOP: The former CFL standout intrigues the Jets with his pass-rushing ability. He was among the team’s final cuts last summer and was on the practice squad until mid-December, when he was promoted to the active roster. Bishop had nine total tackles and defended one pass in the last four games and could be a situational pass rusher next season for a team that finished 29th in the NFL with just 27 sacks.
– DL ANTHONY JOHNSON: He has bounced around during his three NFL seasons, going from Miami to Washington and New England before being signed by the Jets off the Patriots’ practice squad. After coming to New York, he played in each of the last seven games while splitting his snaps on defense and special teams. Could be a key backup on the D-line.
– S DOUG MIDDLETON: The undrafted free agent out of Appalachian State had a terrific training camp but was among the Jets’ final cuts in September. He was promoted from the practice squad in December and played in the final four games, seeing time at safety and special teams. Middleton also already has a touchdown under his belt after Buffalo botched a kickoff return and he jumped on the loose ball for a score.
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