INDIANAPOLIS -- Fourteen months ago, John Idzik was drawing a paycheck from the Seattle Seahawks. Last month, he hosted the Denver Broncos at the New York Jets' team facility before Super Bowl XLVIII.
Looking back paints a clear picture of where the Jets want to go.
"We're tracking," said Idzik, who is entering his second year as general manager of the Jets. "We take a lot of positives from our 2013 experience but we've got to build on that."
At the event one year ago, he was peppered incessantly by more than 40 media members regarding the future at quarterback and a soured relationship with cornerback Darrelle Revis.
"Who?" Idzik said with a manufactured smile "Where we are one year later, is it's much easier for us as a staff this year."
Idzik settled one of the team's most pressing questions in January, a contract extension for coach Rex Ryan. Ryan had one season at $3 million remaining on his deal, but in a conversation with owner Woody Johnson prior to the season finale at Miami learned he would be asked to return for a sixth season.
Together, there are myriad questions left to answer entering the new league year, which kicks off with free agency March 11. The Jets could have as much as $24 million under the projected salary cap of $130 million, a number that would rise to up to $50 million if high-priced veteran quarterback Mark Sanchez, wide receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie are released.
"Our guys, our pro department, has done a great job of giving us a list of several guys," Ryan said. "The coaches, we're just now getting through that, the evaluating of not only our players but potential free agents. We've done that. We're ready for it to begin and we'll see what happens."
The Jets are discussing contracts with some of their own pending free agents. The combine often includes sessions with agents, planned or by happenstance, laying groundwork for upcoming talks. Kicker Nick Folk, tight end Jeff Cumberland and outside linebacker Calvin Pace are likely to get some re-signing consideration from the Jets.
Idzik and Ryan believe some were surprised with their picks in the 2013 draft, including quarterback Geno Smith in the second round. Ryan, who during Super Bowl week that he "couldn't say" Smith was his starter entering this season, didn't elaborate Thursday.
Asked to assess the quarterback group, Ryan said he preferred to focus on Smith's final few games, a month in which Smith proved to the coaching staff he was of NFL timber. Ryan said only Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was better on game-ending drives. Point of fact, Smith was 3-4 in the Jets' final seven games, but was not sacked or intercepted in his final two starts -- wins over the Browns and Dolphins that got the Jets to 8-8.
"If you look at the quarterbacks that led last-minute winning drives, only two NFL quarterbacks had five game-winning drives to close out games and that was Tom Brady was one and Geno was the second one. I think that's encouraging to me," Ryan said.
Sanchez is technically still a part of the team but his $13.1 million salary cap figure and $2 million roster bonus all but guarantee he'll be released next month. Ryan said his only dialogue since midseason with Sanchez was about his health, not any business decisions or what's to come.
"We tend to let things play out," Idzik said, declining to comment on whether Sanchez has begun throwing. "We still have some time there. I know one thing for sure, Mark is diligently handling his rehab. We'll just let that take its course."