What should the Jets do about their restricted free agents?

The Jets have some decisions to make in terms of players who are out of contract that they still retain some rights over. The decision on each of their restricted free agents (RFAs) and exclusive rights free agents (ERFAs) needs to be made over the next few days.

Let's therefore look at each of them to try and determine what they might do.

Restricted Free Agents

First, a quick recap of the rules for restricted free agency...

The Jets can opt to tender any of their pending RFAs at the first round level, second round level or on an original round tender. Alternatively, they can opt not to tender a player, at which point they will become an unrestricted free agent, or they can re-sign them to a new contract.

Once a player is signed to an RFA tender, any other NFL team can sign them to an offer sheet. That means they agree a contract with the player, which the team holding the player's rights then has the option to match. The player will then be signed under the contract agreed to in the offer sheet, either with his original team - if they match - or with the team that signed him to the offer sheet.

If the original team decides not to match, they usually get draft pick compensation in the upcoming draft. The three different types of tender set the level of compensation that will be paid. A first or second round tender are self-explanatory, while an original round tender entitles the team to compensation equivalent to the round in which the player concerned was originally drafted.

Once signed to a tender, the player is under contract for one season with a non-guaranteed amount dependent on the tender they were signed to. For 2018, they sums are as follows:

Xavier Cooper

Cooper was a third round pick, so that's the level of compensation a team would have to pay if the Jets opted to sign him to an original round tender. That essentially guarantees they can keep him but is it really necessary to sign him to a deal for nearly $2 million?

The Jets were able to get Cooper off the street in the middle of the season and he didn't really do much with the Jets, so there likely isn't much a market for him above the minimum salaried-level.

The most sensible thing to do with Cooper is probably not to tender him and, if interested in retaining him, offer him a minimum salary. Although, as the tender amounts are not guaranteed, another possibility is an original round tender and then, in the event he makes the team, you might seek to negotiate him down later.

Rontez Miles

Miles - the longest tenured player on the Jets' defense - led the NFL in solo special teams tackles last year, despite missing three games with an eye injury. He also contributed as a back-up safety in sub-packages and as an injury replacement.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the Jets give Miles a second-round tender because he was undrafted so they would not receive any compensation if they tendered him at the lower amount and then didn't match a resulting offer sheet. In a similar scenario last year, the Jets signed Marcus Williams to a second round tender.

Just under $3 million for one year doesn't seem unreasonable for Miles, especially with the Jets having plenty of cap room. A modest contract extension is another option.

Neal Sterling

Much like Cooper, the Jets basically got Sterling off the street (Chiefs practice squad, to be 100 percent accurate) during the season, so there probably isn't a market for him above minimum level. He impressed with five catches for 74 yards in his last game of the season, though, so maybe if the Jets don't tender him, there might be some teams interested.

He would rank for seventh round compensation in the unlikely event of a lowest level tender and offer sheet.

Quincy Enunwa

Had Enunwa not suffered a neck injury before preseason last year, he would have been a good candidate for a first round tender. Now they will probably get away with tendering him at the second round level because teams likely won't want to risk losing a second rounder before they know how he effective he will be coming off the injury. Again though, it's only an extra million, so maybe they will tender him at the highest level to remove all doubt.

Enunwa was a sixth round pick but an original round tender seems unlikely. A longer term extension is probably also unlikely, for reasons encompassing the same injury-related uncertainty.

Brent Qvale

Qvale has been a versatile and valuable reserve and spot starter over the last few seasons and will likely be tendered. He was undrafted so this would not be a situation where they would get compensation from an unmatched offer sheet.

In the event he was signed to an offer sheet, it perhaps won't be that high or contain much guaranteed money, so the Jets might even match it.

Exclusive Free Agents

Generally speaking, it's usually safe to assume that all ERFAs - players with less than three accrued seasons that are out of contract - will return. The team has a right to tender each of their ERFAs to a minimum salary contract and the players basically have no choice but to accept that. No other team can offer a tendered ERFA a contract.

Eric Tomlinson, Doug Middleton, Lawrence Thomas and Freddie Bishop are the players who fall under this category.

The Jets have until 4:00pm on Wednesday to submit a qualifying offer to their RFAs and ERFAs.