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Jets GM John Idzik has needs to address and cash to spend

John Idzik looks on before a game against

John Idzik looks on before a game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 20, 2013. Credit: Lee S. Weissman

John Idzik finally has the money and the draft picks to improve the Jets in a big way.

At this time last year, he was trying to figure out how to upgrade a new team on a restrictive budget in his first year as an NFL general manager. But Idzik now has salary-cap flexibility and a wealth of draft picks (as many as 12) at his disposal -- and fans are anxious to see how he'll beef up the Jets' mediocre roster.

The team currently is about $24 million under the $133-million salary cap. But with the expected release of veterans Santonio Holmes ($10.75-million cap charge; $8.25 million in savings if cut), Antonio Cromartie ($14.98M, $9.5M) and Mark Sanchez ($13.1M, $8.3M), the Jets will have even more spending money to put toward their roster.

The re-signing of tight end Jeff Cumberland, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent at 4 p.m. Tuesday, was a good first step toward addressing the offense. But much more needs to be done -- particularly at wide receiver.

Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley emerged as a much-needed safety net for rookie quarterback Geno Smith last season and free-agent signee David Nelson proved to be dependable. But offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg needs a No. 1 receiver to replace Holmes.

Eric Decker leads the pack of free-agent wideouts after posting career highs in receptions (87) and receiving yards (1,288) and catching 11 touchdown passes in 2013. But he likely will be out of the Jets' price range.

The Seahawks' Golden Tate might not be. Hakeem Nicks could be an option, but the Jets might be leery of going that route, given Nicks' history of injuries and subpar seasons with the Giants in 2012 and '13. The Steelers' Emmanuel Sanders also should be on the Jets' radar.

The wide receiver position, however, is just the tip of the iceberg on offense. The Jets also must address the offensive line and the quarterback position.

They're taking a wait-and-see approach with veteran right guard Willie Colon, who suffered a biceps tear in Week 17, and currently are in negotiations with Austin Howard's agent. The right tackle is scheduled to become a free agent on Tuesday, but the Jets hope to lock him up.

Many expect Smith to take the first-team reps at the start of training camp, but the Jets still haven't said definitively that he will be their starter for the 2014 season -- and it's unlikely they will do so anytime soon. As a result, quarterbacks will be in play for Idzik, either in free agency or via the draft.

Although Michael Vick isn't the dynamic playmaker he once was, he still can win games. He played for Mornhinweg in Philadelphia.

Josh McCown of the Browns also could be a free-agent target. But if the Jets can't come to terms with a free-agent quarterback, they might decide to keep Sanchez.

Central Florida's Blake Bortles, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and of Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel likely will be off the board before the Jets make their first selection at No. 18. But Idzik & Co. could always wait until the later rounds to nab a young quarterback.

New York Sports