The New York Jets were widely scrutinized at the beginning of free agency for not doing enough to improve the team, but those critics have quickly been silenced.
When the Jets first signed Eric Decker, everyone said that he was only the product of a Peyton Manning led offense and couldn’t produce outside of it. While Decker obviously benefited from playing with one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, he is also a big, physical receiver who has solid hands and will be a reliable option in the passing attack.
After the Decker signing was still being analyzed, the Jets made a huge move by signing quarterback Michael Vick. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this move when I first heard it, as I thought it would just become a media circus and shake the confidence of Geno Smith. After taking some more time to analyze it, however, I found that it was a win-win situation for Rex Ryan. Smith can outwork Vick in training camp and prove that he is ready to run the offense, or Vick could win the starting job with his playmaking abilities and allow Smith to have an extra year to learn and develop.
Finally, the signing of running back Chris Johnson put the icing on the cake. Former starter Chris Ivory is a quick, strong back who will try to bulldoze any defender in his way, and Johnson is a speedster who is a dual threat in the rushing and passing attack. These two backs will create a nice 1-2 punch.
The Jets still need to improve on defense as the team ranked 22nd against the pass in 2013, but New York was able to finish the year with the sixth-best rush defense that only allowed an average of 88.3 rushing yards per game. Long-term solutions can be found in the 2014 NFL Draft, however, so Ryan may finally be able to live up to the high expectations he set for himself many years ago.
Looking around he AFC East, the Jets have actually built one of the more well-rounded teams in the entire division. The Buffalo Bills are still waiting to see what E.J. Manuel can do in a full season, the Miami Dolphins need to add more protection for Ryan Tannehill and greatly improve on defense and the New England Patriots will need to find ways to win if Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola can’t finish a full season.
With great free agency moves and an opportunity to add future stars in the draft, don’t be surprised if the Jets find themselves playing for an AFC Championship.