New York Jets Pre-Free Agency/Draft Roster Breakdown – Defensive Backs

Cole Patterson breaks down the New York Jets defensive backfield before Free Agency and the Draft.

Before you know it, your favorite NFL team will undergo a dramatic facelift and hypothetically improve their prospects for the 2014 season. Don’t forget, however, the 2013 rosters are still set and old faces will play just as important roles as the new ones. As of today (Monday, March 3) there are eight days until NFL Free Agency and the start of the new league year. So, each day, we at TOJ will address a new position group and where there will be change. Today, defensive backs.

2013 New York Jets Depth Chart:

Cornerbacks

  • Antonio Cromartie – Status: Expected cap casualty
  • Dee Milliner – Status: Under contract through 2017/18
  • Kyle Wilson – Status:  Under contract through 2015, trade/cap casualty talk hypothesized
  • Darrin Walls – Status: Restricted Free Agent
  • Ellis Lankster – Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
  • Isaiah Trufant –Status: Restricted Free Agent
  • Aaron Berry – Status: Injured Reserve, Unrestricted Free Agent

Safeties

  • Dawan Landry – Status: Under contract through 2014
  • Antonio Allen – Status: Under contract through 2015
  • Ed Reed – Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
  • Jaiquawn Jarret – Status: Under contract through 2014
  • Josh Bush – Status: Under contract through 2015

As Currently Constituted:

The Jets would be in a good spot having Cromartie, Milliner, and Wilson return as their top three corners in 2014. Milliner showed marked improvement over the last quarter of the season. Some in the organization believe that Cromartie’s struggles were the result of a lingering hip injury that should be fully healed in time for the 2014 season. Kyle Wilson, though overmatched in a starting capacity, is an decent nickel corner with the versatility to move outside or to safety.

Speaking of safety, Allen was a pleasant surprise last season and played himself into a starting roll on defense. Landry played consistently passably and could hold down the fort for another season if necessary. Jarret and Bush provided good depth and good special teams play. This group of defensive backs, though overwhelmed early in the season, came along nicely and showed promise.

Keeping it In House:

All (including the man himself) expect Cromartie to be cut in order to shed his hefty cap charge. However, the cornerback has expressed an interest in remaining a Jet and the coaching staff has expressed its confidence in him. With that in mind, expect #31 to be cut and resigned at a lower cost. He may test the market but Cromartie’s best opportunity will still come in New York.

Walls showed potential when he spot started for a struggling Milliner. Though he looked slightly overwhelmed at first he should continue to develop and provide good depth for the Jets. Like Walls, Berry has shown potential (in camp and Detroit) as a contributor. If the Jets disagreed, they would not have placed him on Injured Reserve and continued to pay his salary. Look for both to return in 2014.

Lankster and Trufant have also shown ability on defense to varying degrees but really shine on special teams. If they are willing to be paid the minimum, they could return.

The Ed Reed signing was a divisive force in an otherwise low key season from the New York Jets. He clearly showed his age on the field and even proved to be a liability at times. Though he picked off a few opportune passes, Reed’s snap count should have been far more limited. The most heinous result of his addition to the team was the snaps taken away from Allen, an ascending player. If the coaching staff can self moderate and keep Reed as a reserve player, his leadership and tutelage could be good for the younger defensive backs. Otherwise, his empty locker could be addition by subtraction.

The Market:

If Cromartie returns, the cornerback position will look much the same as it did last year. However, a replacement may be necessary or insurance may be brought in. In terms of a replacement, Alterruan Verner is the best option out there but he will come at a steep price. The Jets may better spend their money on Cromartie and some low cost insurance like Walter Thurmond III or Terrell Thomas.

The Jets could use some playmaking ability at safety. Allen and Landry showed consistency but they could use a difference maker and this year’s safety class is a deeply talented one. Jarius Byrd is the star of the class and could flourish as the deep back in Ryan’s system. Unfortunately, his price tag may prove too hefty. TJ Ward would provide an upgrade as well but will likely remain in Cleveland. A lower tier free agent (e.g. Chris Clemons, Louis Delmas, Steve Gregory) or a reclamation project (e.g. Malcom Jenkins, Nate Allen) may be in the cards. The draft too holds many promising options that may still be available when the Jets pick at #18: Ha Ha Clinton Dix, Darqueze Dennard, and Bradley Roby to name a few.

For more on the FA DBs see:

Author: Cole Patterson

Cole has attended American University in Washington DC and is currently completing a double major in history and global communications at Ramapo College in Northern NJ. He has served as an NFL Analyst for a local DC radio show, Fanatic Radio. He lives and dies with the New York Jets. Cole will help lead Jets coverage and analysis.