The Jets have been careful with their cap space thus far, trying to maximize value with affordable players who have the chance to be bargains if they can stay on the field.
They’re far from done, although I don’t expect to see any big free agent splashes coming aboard any time soon. The bulk of the free agent pool has already found new homes.
One position that the Jets may look to upgrade however, possibly in free agency, possibly via the trade market or the NFL draft in April, is running back.
Shonn Greene is the Jets starting running back as of today, with third-year man Joe McKnight and second-year man Bilal Powell immediately behind him on the depth chart.
None of them are proven, all-purpose backs, and it would wouldn’t be shocking to see the Jets acquire one more running back and carry four again, like they did last season when they had LaDainian Tomlinson.
Recently, the Carolina Panthers signed fullback/halfback Mike Tolbert to a four-year deal, which got me thinking: are the Panthers thinking about putting any of their running backs on the trading block?
Their starting running back is DeAngelo Williams, who signed to a five-year, $43 million last July and probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Tolbert reportedly will be playing mostly fullback in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, but he’s a versatile player capable of carrying and catching the football as well.
I’m not sure how the Panthers plan to use fourth-year back Mike Goodson, who is a cheap backup wherever he’s needed.
That leaves 25-year-old tailback Jonathan Stewart, a fifth-year pro who is in the last year of his contract and seems like he could be a plausible trade candidate.
Stewart, a 2008 first-round pick from the University of Oregon, will make a base salary of $1.3 million with a $2.6 million cap hit in 2012.
The word out of Carolina is that they plan on keeping all of their backs, at least for now, which means a possible trade for Jonathan Stewart may never materialize.
Of course, it couldn’t hurt to try. “The Daily Show” Jon Stewart would be a great pickup for any team needing a quality running back.
For his career, Stewart’s averaged 4.8 yards per carry and he also had 47 receptions out of the backfield last season, despite never having a season with over 240 touches on offense.
He’s young, he’s got fresh legs, and he’s affordable in a contract year. If the Panthers decide to make him available, the Jets would be crazy not to make a call.
Stewart would give the Jets a solid compliment to Shonn Greene, a speedy all-purpose back who can give the Jets a dynamic weapon on offense they haven’t had at the running back spot in a long time.
Maybe Carolina relents and gives him up in a package involving at least a third- or fourth-round pick, for starters.
The Jets and Panthers have done business before. Kris Jenkins was traded to New York prior to the 2008 season for a third- and a fifth-round pick, and that deal worked out great for both sides.
However, if the asking price rose to let’s say, a second-round pick, I think that’s a little steep.
At that point I’d rather keep the second-rounder and use it on a player like Boise State’s Doug Martin, if he’s available, for one.
Bottom line, Jonathan Stewart is a name worth keeping an eye on. He’s an underrated, solid back who would help a lot of teams.
Carolina doesn’t seem too keen on putting him on the trading block just yet, though. Maybe they’ll change their mind, however. Stay tuned.