Mike Tannenbaum is going to have to do some creative maneuvering with contracts in the coming week to improve the New York Jets through free agency. There has been a good amount of talk about releasing Bryan Thomas as a necessary move to free up cap space. However, too many people are writing off his value to the defense and not looking at the important question of who will fill his void.
Thomas has started every single game at outside linebacker for the Jets since Rex Ryan has taken over. In 2009, he finished with 53 tackles and 2 sacks. Last season, he followed up with 39 tackles and a team leading 6 sacks. He isn’t a flashy player but he fits well in the system and is constantly praised for doing those “little things” that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
Rex Ryan’s defense needs players who are going to take on less enviable tasks in sacrifice of their own personal stats, look at Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and any player rotating through at defensive end. Thomas is comfortable in that role and has the trust of the coaching staff. If the Jets let him walk, who are they are going to replace him with? The only in house option is Jamaal Westerman, who has shown potential at times but spent most of last season inactive and finished with a total of 7 tackles.
Outside of their own roster, why would they spend money on a free agent like Manny Lawson, Antwan Barnes, Matt Roth, or even bringing Jason Taylor back before using that money to work something out with Thomas, who should be open to moving money around on his contract considering the big deal he received from the team before the 2007 season and that he has spent his whole career in New York.
The Jets are thin enough at linebacker, there is no need to make the position weaker by parting ways with a quality starter.