The release of Nick Mangold by the Jets over the weekend signaled that the great rebuild of 2017 is on.
If the Jets wanted to patch things together for another season of chasing 8-10 wins, they probably would have tried to bring Mangold back at a reduced rate. Instead, they just cut him loose, a sign they are accepting the fact it is time to go young this season and hope to find a few kids who can play.
The Jets have some other decisions coming up. Cornerback Darrelle Revis almost certainly will be cut, but that move likely can’t happen until March 9 because of salary-cap reasons. Safety Marcus Gilchrist could go as well.
The most interesting decision on the Jets roster is what to do with wide receiver Brandon Marshall. He turns 33 on March 23 and is coming off one of his least productive seasons. He caught just 59 passes for 788 yards and three touchdowns — his worst numbers for a season in which he started at least 14 games.
While Marshall’s production was off in 2016, he had a record-breaking year for the Jets in 2015 with a franchise-record 109 catches for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns.
That leads to the Jets’ dilemma. Marshall could still be a very productive player. Do you chalk up his slip in 2016 to poor quarterback play? Were Marshall’s knee and foot injuries worse than he let on after a vicious Week 2 tackle in Buffalo?
Marshall is scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2017. That is also the amount of money the Jets would save against the salary cap if he were cut since none of it is guaranteed. There are no deadlines for the Jets to make a decision on Marshall. He has no bonus payments coming due, so the Jets could wait to make this call or they could cut him loose now.
With players like Mangold ($9 million) and Revis ($15.3 million), it was clear their skills were no longer commensurate with their salaries. Put those two players on the street as free agents, and there is no way any other team will pay them close to those numbers.
Marshall’s $7.5 million salary is not that out of line with his skills. Marshall has even gone as far as to say he is underpaid. If Marshall became a free agent today, chances are he would get somewhere around that same number from a team as a free agent.
The bigger question for the Jets is: Does it make sense to keep Marshall? If this is going to be a rebuilding team, why have a 33-year-old wide receiver on it?
There is also the question of Marshall’s presence in the locker room. A locker-room clash with Sheldon Richardson in Week 3 in Kansas City drew a lot of attention. Revis said there was a “black cloud” over the team after that. Marshall also had a halftime confrontation with teammates in Week 16 in New England.
One of the priorities of this offseason for coach Todd Bowles has to be getting his locker room in order. Bowles has always been a staunch backer of Marshall. Did anything in 2016 change that?
Whatever the Jets decide to do at quarterback also figures into this decision. If they are signing a stopgap veteran, Marshall fits as the No. 1 target. If they are going young, though, Marshall could stunt a young quarterback’s growth if he gets unhappy with his struggles.
Moving on from the Jets could be the best thing for Marshall. He has said that all he cares about right now is winning. He has never been to the playoffs in his 11-year career. It does not look like the Jets are going to give him that chance this year. Perhaps he would be better off joining a contender.
The rebuild of the Jets is on. We’ll soon find out if Marshall will be part of it.
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