Despite One Loss, New York Jets Put Together Strong Off-Season

Prior to the past week’s free agency frenzy starting, we knew the following, whether you wanted to believe it or not –

  • The Jets prioritized Santonio Holmes well ahead of Braylon Edwards
  • The Jets needed a number two cornerback
  • Brad Smith wasn’t coming back
  • Their remaining group of veteran free agents would be a toss up on who stayed and left

Nnamdi Asomugha was a long shot who stormed out of nowhere to become a reality that quickly captivated Jets fans and their free agency coverage, and why wouldn’t he as the top player on the market? The contenders for his services began to drop off making it look like Asomugha ending up on the Jets was a sure thing.

We obviously know what happened. He shocked everybody by choosing the Philadelphia Eagles. Was it a stinging loss? Yes. Was it a death blow to the Jets free agency plans this off-season? Absolutely not. Asomugha was a luxury. Your off-season isn’t a failure if you can’t land both the best offensive free agent, which the Jets did in Santonio Holmes, and the best defensive free agent. Your team isn’t not a Super Bowl contender because they don’t have the two best corners in football on their team, especially when you still have arguably the best tandem in the league.

In the end, the Jets got Antonio Cromartie back on a reasonable contract and did keep that best tandem of corners in the league together. They did the right thing by bringing back Santonio Holmes over Braylon Edwards and suffered the obvious but necessary consequences of seeing Edwards and Brad Smith leave. Fortunately, there isn’t a gaping hole opposite Holmes as the Jets found a cheaper, short term alternative in Plaxico Burress, who does come with plenty of questions but also with plenty height, experience and talent.

Drew Coleman left but Donald Strickland was signed and if he is healthy can be a more than adequate replacement, never mind the hopeful improvement of 2010 first round pick Kyle Wilson. Eric Smith and Wayne Hunter were brought back to start at safety and right tackle, respectively. Were Brodney Pool and Damien Woody better options? Maybe, but the gap isn’t substantial enough to expect a major drop off at either position. When you throw in the expected return of Shaun Ellis and James Ihedigbo, along with the potential addition of another outside linebacker it is looking like another strong off-season for the Jets led by Mike Tannenbaum.

Is the team better on paper than it was last year? Probably not, but the potential is there for it to be substantially better especially if players like Kyle Wilson, Jamaal Westerman and Joe McKnight bring something to the table this year and the Jets get contributions out of rookies like Muhammad Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis, and Jeremy Kerley. Never mind the continued growth of quarterback Mark Sanchez.

With a few minor moves left to finish up, the Jets are still a Super Bowl contender and will be a handful for any team to deal with on both sides of the ball. If you don’t think they have something good going on in Florham Park, you’ll have to explain why Bart Scott and Calvin Pace restructured their contracts, LaDainian Tomlinson took a pay cut, Mark Sanchez volunteered to restructure his contract, Santonio Holmes took less money to stay here, and Plaxico Burress came here despite likely being able to get a better deal somewhere else.

Yes, I know Jason Taylor did leave for the Dolphins…but hey, we never liked him anyway.

Cromartie’s Return To Jets Completes The Big Four

“They say Cro is back, Cro is back all #GangGreen fans say is Cro…lol I’m on my FLT headed home glad 2 b a JET…let’s go win a Superbowl” – Antonio Cromartie on Twitter, after re-signing with the Jets early Monday Morning.

Antonio Cromartie is back in Green and White. The deal according to ESPN is for four years, 32 million dollars. That’s eight million a year. Way up from the 1.7 he earned last year as a Jet. His first with the club.

The Jets have now completed the difficult task of locking down the “big four” starting issues they came into this free agency period with just days ago: Working within the cap space in order to lockdown both starting receiver positions, the second cornerback, and starting right tackle. Gang Green did so by working out long term deals in three places while achieving a short term deal for the other.

They brought back WR Santonio Holmes with a five year deal. RT Wayne Hunter, like Cromartie, received a four year deal and the other starting WR Plaxico Burress, was brought on board for one year at three million. A cheaper solution than Braylon Edwards was going to be.

Burress, the former Giant and Steeler, will provide solid production in return for his deal, if he comes back to football in shape and focused after two years away from the NFL.

It has been a great last twenty four hours for the Jets, who have now officially made it past the sting caused by losing Nnamdi Asomugha Friday night to the Eagles. The Jets went big and lost that race, but recovered well from the disappointment over the weekend.

The Burress and Cromartie moves now allow the Jets to open camp with almost every starting position in place. On both sides of the ball. 

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Letting Go Of The Rope: Free Agents and Loose Morals

The latest episode of “Cincinatti Thrift” just ended, and Jonathan Joseph, 2006 first round pick of the Bengals, is a Texan. I am no longer shocked at how poorly run the Bengals are, I just grin and laugh with every failed attempt to keep talent, like when I watch Millionaire Matchmaker.

The Eagles seem to be heading towards the great divide of distraction and celebrity with the signing of Vince Young as a backup QB to Michael Vick, and the best second best corner in football. I repeat, the second best corner in football. Andy Reid seems to be running the hotel of broken egos and other people’s dreams.

While the period of free agency has yet to end, the past few days have signaled a shift in divisions like the NFC East and the AFC South. Before getting into the insanity of Pete Carroll and Chan Gailey, let’s take a quick peek at the Jets recent moves.

The real achievement was the resigning of Santonio Holmes, who will soon become a Pro Bowl receiver in one to two years time. Having Holmes takes pressure off their number two receiver, which will most likely be Plaxico Burress. What does this do for Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller? Single coverage.

Just this morning I was in the company of a good friend of mine who happens to be a Giants fan, when I received word that Plaxico Burress joined the Jets, and in his quotes, happened to cryptically bash Tom Coughlin while gushing about Rex Ryan. To break the news about his favorite ex-convict joining Rex & the boys made me want to scream with joy. The Jets now have one of the top ten passing tandems in the league. Two years out of the league, one preseason, they’ll both be ready to go.

On a whim, I decided to watch the 2002 through 2005 seasons in review, where I saw Mike Westhoff continually looking like a genius, regardless of who returned kickoffs and punts. Brad Smith is the ideal Mike Westhoff student. Fast, long, and versatile.

Recently, in a state of complete intoxication, Chan Gailey dreamed of Brad Smith as a starting quarterback. I think it’s going to be interesting after Brad Smith throws 3 interceptions in one game. Too far away from his role as a QB in college to start if he had to. People will get wise to the option very quick. See Auburn vs Oregon last year.

Will we miss Drew Coleman? Yes, but not as much now that we got Cromartie back. Let’s see what Donald Strickland can do on the field as my nickel corner and let Kyle Wilson go for blitzes and bump and run.

Cromartie may be under the assumption that he is good enough to be a number one corner. He isn’t. But damn if he isn’t the best number two in the league. Better than Asante Samuel in terms of complete skills. Samuel can play zone exceptionally well, but little else. Cromartie does everything well. Except tackle.

Who else should come back? Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce. The Jets need people to rotate in with their two new draft picks. If the Jets decide to get even more exotic in their blitz schemes, it will require between 2 and 4 down lineman on any given play. Look to Kyle Wilson to be used more in conjunction with Marquice Cole on blitz packages, and the linebacking core to attempt to get one more veteran before free agency is done.

Things may change. We have seen grand gestures and grand failures, the excitement of which has been enough to cause people to stop thinking clearly.

NFL Free Agency 2011: Tough Night For New York Jets

Let’s keep it short and sweet. It was a tough night for the New York Jets. Nnamdi Asomugha shocked the world and went to the Philadelphia Eagles (really) and Drew Coleman has bolted for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It is now up to the Jets to kiss and make nice with Antonio Cromartie and Braylon Edwards in an attempt to salvage an extended wait with Nnamdi Asomugha that turned up empty. It will be very interesting to see how the rest of the dominoes fall in free agency now for the Jets who have a cleared a ton of cap space by having Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, and LaDainian Tomlinso restructure their contracts and releasing Mark Brunell. There is plenty of money to spend, but who it will be on?

Antonio Cromartie seems to be option number one at cornerback, with Chris Carr as a fallback. Braylon Edwards would seem to be option number one at wide receiver, with either James Jones or Randy Moss as a fallback. Let’s see what Mike Tannenbaum still has up his sleeze.

NFL Free Agency 2011: Waiting For Nnamdi

And so the wait continues…

The decision by the Houston Texans to invest big money in free agent cornerback Jonathan Joseph last night, seemingly opened a clear path for Nnamdi Asomugha to come to the New York Jets, sooner rather than later as many expected the deal to go down last night.

Yet, we wait…

There was still good word this morning, with Adam Schefter saying on Sportscenter that it is “80 percent” that Asomugha is ending up on the Jets and Rich Cimini of ESPN New York Tweeting that “Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum will be high-fiving each other soon #Nnamdi #Jets.”

So, yes it still appears the Jets are the clear front runner but there is holdup on hammering out the financial details while teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys lurk with more money. At this point, it would be a true disappointment if Asomugha doesn’t end up in New York with this much hype around him. Yet, I would hesitate to criticize the Jets because the only free agent they have lost out on so far is Brad Smith, who was good as gone anyway.

Antonio Cromartie and Braylon Edwards are still lingering on the market and the Randy Moss to the Jets talk does sound serious. Nobody else has signed Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, Drew Coleman, or Shaun Ellis yet.

Stay tuned…

TOJ Roundtable: Is Santonio Holmes Coming Back?

Welcome to our first ever TOJ Roundtable, where each of our writers offers a quick opinion on a pressing Jets question of the day.

By the way, how about that new banner? Well done by Randy Yaws again. Remember to follow Turn On The Jets on Facebook and Twitter.

Who has the best chance of coming back to the Jets: Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, or Antonio Cromartie?

Joe Caporoso: I would still say Holmes has the best chance of returning. We have consistently heard he is the Jets number one priority and I think Tannenbaum will work out a contract competitive enough to what Washington offers, along with the Jets offering a much more appealing situation than the Redskins do.

Chris Celletti: I think it’s Holmes. He seemed to really enjoy his time in New York last season, and started creating a good rapport with Mark Sanchez. I think the Jets recognize this and would risk losing both Edwards and Brad Smith if it meant keeping Santonio in town. The only thing that scares me is a team like Tampa Bay, who is so under the cap and needs to hit the salary floor, blowing Holmes away with a ridiculous contract offer to eat up some of the money they need to spend.

Justin Fritze: I think Holmes is coming back, but two things will come into play. Does he want a Superbowl or money? The Redskins are not a top tier organization, and when you don’t have a quarterback with experience, the Jets look better and better. I think Braylon genuinely wants to remain a Jet unless he finds a better quarterback and receiving core. The jets did stick by him but never count out the idea of being the prime receiver on another team. I think Cromartie has turned off teams with his comments. He remains hard to pin down.

TJ Rosenthal: What it will come down to is whether the Jets feel as though matching offers for Holmes and Cromartie play into a gameplan that we feel seriously includes Asomugha. Putting those two issues together, we see Asomugha as a Jet, and Edwards the cheaper choice of the two starting WRs with a Randy Moss, Plaxico Burress, or even a lesser priced Roy Williams brought in as the number two. What you would lose there is vertical speed and a resume of late game winning plays with Holmes. What you gain is a complete shut down on the outside defensively.

Rob Celletti: Everything I’ve heard points to Holmes being the Jets number one priority, which makes me believe that he’ll be back.  There are pros and cons to any of the three, but in the end, Holmes was the most important player and I have to believe the Jets will be able to bring him back.

UPDATE: The Jets have officially offered a contract to Santonio Holmes, coupled with Santana Moss resigning with the Washington Redskins for 3 years at $15 million dollars.

TOJ Free Agency Link Dump: Flip Flopping On Cromartie

Throughout the off-season, I have been adamant about the importance of the New York Jets re-signing Antonio Cromartie and I still believe from a football perspective it is the right move. He fits well in the system opposite Darrelle Revis and is a better option than any one available in free agency (not counting Nnamdi Asomugha who the Jets can’t afford) and Kyle Wilson. However, it is hard not to get the impression that he is going to receive an offer from another team too pricey for the Jets to match or exceed.

His recent comments to Adam Schein indicate he will be waiting to see how much Nnamdi Asomugha is paid before making a decision, making it impossible for the Jets to lock him down in their window of exclusivity. He will also be offering no type of hometown discount to the Jets and appears anxious to explore what other teams will offer…despite the Jets fronting him $500,000 last year for child support problems he was having. Perhaps Rex Ryan’s love of corners and his defense will make him a high enough priority to receive a big contract from Mike Tannenbaum, but the momentum appears to be going the other way, especially if the Redskins drive up the price for Santonio Holmes who is a higher priority for the Jets, leaving less money to sign Cromartie.

For further thoughts on Cromartie and Jets free agency from myself and others, track the SB Nation New York stream.

A good piece expressing frustration with Cromartie from Jeff Capellini over at CBS/WFAN

Anybody care to explain to me how Santonio Holmes is a better fit in Washington than he is in New York?

Any of these potential free agents interest you on the Jets defense? I am sure Joey Porter’s name will get thrown around with the Jets if he gets released.

Eric Smith would be a cheaper alternative to bring back at safety than Brodney Pool.

If you didn’t see this yet, have a laugh at the expense of the Miami Dolphins.

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Antonio Cromartie Talks Free Agency

Antonio Cromartie was a guest today on Sirius XM radio with Adam Schein, and as he always does, managed to make a few ear opening comments:

  • He said returning to the Jets is his top priority but he won’t be offering any type of “hometown discount,” which seems to make sense for a somebody with nine children from eight different women.
  • Houston, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Seattle, Dallas, Jacksonville, and Oakland were all mentioned by him as other potential landing spots.
  • When discussing bringing back Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards, he remarked that he thought Holmes would be a bigger priority because he “is a workaholic, clutch player and doesn’t complain.”
  • He will likely wait to see the type of money Nnamdi Asomugha will be paid before signing a contract.

First off, it sounds like he is throwing Braylon Edwards under the bus which is a bit perplexing. We have heard nothing but positive things about Edwards attitude and work ethic in the past year, and it demonstrated itself on the field.

Second, don’t expect the Jets to come close to getting a deal done with Cromartie in their three day of exclusivity window to negotiate with their own free agents. He is going to want to see what the market will offer him (aka what Asomugha is paid) and look to max out his earning potential. If Houston can’t figure out something with Asomugha, I’d expect them to make a monster offer to Cromartie that the Jets can’t match.

2010 was a good, not great year for Cromartie. I have been a huge advocate of re-signing him because of his comfort playing opposite Darrelle Revis and because I am not sold on Kyle Wilson being ready yet. Cromartie is going to offer you a mix of big plays, shut down man coverage, along with penalties, and allowing his share of big plays. He is the best option the Jets will have to put with Revis at corner next year, but he could still end up being too pricey.

A Few Words On Braylon Edwards and Kyle Wilson

Two of the more contentious debates among Jets fans this off-season is whether to focus on keeping Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes at wide receiver and if the team can afford to let Antonio Cromartie leave via free agency because of the presence of Kyle Wilson. Personally, I have came down on the side of signing Holmes over Edwards and that bringing Cromartie back is a must.

This isn’t an indictment on the type of year Edwards had in 2010 and Wilson’s future as a NFL cornerback. Edwards was terrific for the Jets last year and you could make a very reasonable argument that he was more consistent than Holmes. Wilson is only entering his second year and still has plenty of potential to develop into a quality starter in this league.

However, looking at the Jets roster and considering they are ready to win a Super Bowl right now, consider the following…

Holmes is a more explosive playmaker and one of the most clutch players in the league. There is a reason for the general consensus that Holmes is a better player than Edwards and every report this off-season has the team prioritizing Holmes first: he is a better all-around wide receiver than Edwards. If the Jets end up being unable to afford Holmes and get Edwards back instead, would it be the end of the world? Of course not, the gap isn’t that substantial but the first priority should be Holmes. You can’t pass up giving your young quarterback a receiver that can change the game at any second the way he can.

In terms of cornerback, the Jets defense is built on primarily man to man coverage. They have a pass rush that struggles to get to the quarterback unless a blitz package is set up. It is too risky to hand a starting job to Wilson after the difficulties he encountered his rookie season, period. At a minimum you have to bring in another veteran to compete with him and provide better depth if Cromartie walks. You can’t allow yourself to be a pulled Revis hamstring away from Wilson and Drew Coleman (if he is even back) being your starting pair of corners.

Considering how much the Jets use three corners, it isn’t “giving up” on Kyle Wilson by asking him to be the nickel behind Revis and Cromartie, who I think is worth money considering how well he fits in the Jets man to man scheme.

In the end, I am a big fan of Braylon Edwards and what he brought to the team last year and do think Kyle Wilson has potential to develop into a reliable starter down the road, yet for the foreseeable future I think bringing Holmes and Cromartie back are the best decisions this team could make.

As Football Gets Closer…

For a refreshing change of pace, the news associated with the NFL Lockout today seems to be positive. Maybe I am being an optimist but from everything being reported today, I’d be shocked if NFL free agency wasn’t kicking off within the next couple of weeks. A few of the more interesting tidbits coming out of the today’s discussions were the following:

  • Starting in 2012, there is going to be a full 16 game Thursday night schedule to help generate revenue.
  • The players apparently are going to agree to 48& of all revenue generated by the league, the details of changing the rookie wage scale aren’t in place but it will be tweaked.
  • All players with 4-6 years of service will be unrestricted free agents.

The last point is a key one for the Jets because it means Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, and Brad Smith will all be unrestricted free agents, instead of restricted. The Jets won’t be able to keep them with a one year deal and all three are going to command substantial money on the open market, especially Holmes and Cromartie.

Braylon Edwards is also an unrestricted free agent.

It is going to be a furious few weeks of free agency when it kicks off and it will be a few weeks filled with tough decisions for Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets front office. How do you prioritize Holmes, Edwards, Cromartie, and Smith?

Personally, I rank them in the following order —

  1. Santonio Holmes – The best overall player of the group, who will also command the most money. He comes with off the field risks (including a new pending casino investigation) but he is a uniquely talented playmaker who is one of the most clutch players in the sport.
  2. Antonio Cromartie – The Jets are a defensive minded team, which means you don’t prioritize two receivers before a cornerback, regardless of how well Braylon Edwards played last year. Cromartie did an admirable job in 2010 opposite Darrelle Revis and unfortunately Kyle Wilson didn’t show enough in his rookie year to make anybody believe he is ready for the role opposite The Island.
  3. Braylon Edwards – He is coming off a terrific year and adds a physical dimension to the Jets offense in both the passing and running game. However, you can’t keep everybody and I doubt the Jets will have the money to bring him back after paying Holmes. I think Dustin Keller could replace a large degree of his production if used properly and that Jerricho Cotchery will be much better in 2011 because his back will be healthy. Also if the Jets are desperate for more height on the outside, they could pursue Plaxico Burress or Randy Moss on a short term, cheap deal.
  4. Brad Smith – An incredibly versatile player, but obviously the fourth most valuable. A team will likely offer him more money and a bigger role on offense, making it very hard for the Jets to bring him back.