TOJ As Tannenbaum: Free Agent Decisions For New York Jets

I am trying to be an optimist with this whole lockout thing, so if free agency does actually start some time in the next month here is TOJ sitting in the big chair as Mike Tannenbaum and making personnel decisions for the Jets this off-season:

1. Sign Santonio Holmes to a long term deal – Yes, this will likely mean the end of Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith’s stay in New York but in the long run making sure Holmes remains a Jet is the right decision. He is a uniquely gifted and clutch playmaker who can change a game at any second.

2. Sign Antonio Cromartie to a long term deal – You need a consistent, athletic corner opposite Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie handled the job well last season. He is already familiar with the defense and it is too risky to hand the starting job over to Kyle Wilson or a free agent. If the Jets want a bigger role for Wilson in year two, they should let Drew Coleman walk.

3. Bring back Damien Woody – Don’t risk the right tackle spot to Vladimir Ducasse after he didn’t have a proper off-season. Let him spend a full year learning behind Woody at the position and have him take over next year. Wayne Hunter will likely walk in free agency if this happens but the Jets should at least make sure they bring back the versatile Robert Turner for depth.

4. Bring back Shaun Ellis – He is a longest tenured player on the team, a leader on the defense and would be a perfect mentor to Muhammad Wilkerson. The Jets should be able to work a short term deal to allow him to retire in green and white.

5. Bring back Brodney Pool – Pool began to develop into the playmaker most of us thought he would be at the end of last season. With a year of this system under his belt, he should flourish in his second year. Eric Smith likely won’t be back if this happens, but if the Jets can bring back James Ihedigbo and if a young player like Emmanuel Cook steps up, their depth should be fine.

6. Veteran Stopgap Receiver – We all have heard all kinds of name thrown around but if Braylon Edwards leaves, I expect the Jets to sign either Randy Moss or Plaxico Burress. Personally, I would sign Burress to a short, incentive-laden deal. He is a more physical player that should be able to do many of the things Edwards did for the Jets offense last season.

7. Linebacker Depth – The Jets need to add another linebacker to their depth chart, whether it requires bringing Jason Taylor back or signing somebody on the cheap like Matt Roth.

TOJ Top Five: New York Jets Free Agency Decisions

Since free agency could be here sooner rather than later, let’s use today’s TOJ Top Five to look at the decisions the Jets will have to make in the coming month or two.

5. Offensive Line

The team released right tackle Damien Woody earlier in the year but may still bring him back since second year lineman Vladimir Ducasse didn’t have a formal off-season to work with the coaches. Wayne Hunter is a free agent and could be signed as a cheaper option to compete with Ducasse if the Jets decide not to bring Woody back. Versatile backup Robert Turner is also a free agent.

4. The Pass Rush

The Jets didn’t add an outside linebacker in the NFL Draft and remain thin overall at the linebacker position. A few people have speculated they could pursue Matt Roth, who spent last season in Cleveland. They could also decide to bring Jason Taylor back, although that seems like a long shot. On the defensive line, a decision has to be made on Shaun Ellis, who is the longest tenured member of the team and could provide an excellent mentor to rookie Muhammad Wilkerson for a year or two. Veteran Trevor Pryce could also be brought back to help take some of the burden off Wilkerson in his rookie year, if the Jets decide to let Ellis walk.

3. Safety Choices…

Brodney Pool and Eric Smith are both free agents, and the Jets will likely have to pick one to bring back as the starter opposite Jim Leonhard. Pool has more potential but could cost more money, Smith struggles in coverage but is a heady player who is good in run support. Backup safety and special teams ace James Ihedigbo is also a free agent.

2. Who to put opposite of The Island?

The Jets need to decide whether or not they are going to bring Antonio Cromartie back to play corner opposite of Darrelle Revis. If Cromartie does walk, the Jets are going to need to find another veteran to compete with Kyle Wilson and provide better depth throughout the cornerback position. Jonathan Joseph, Richard Marshall, Carlos Rogers, Ike Taylor and Chris Carr are all on the market…and no I don’t think the Jets will even pursue Nnamdi Asomugha. Nickelback Drew Coleman is also a free agent and and coming off a career year in 2010.

1. Braylon or Santonio?

Which of the free agent receivers is going to get the long term deal? There is always the possibility that Mike Tannenbaum could put in an early bid for executive of the year by getting them both back but in all likelihood, one will be leaving town…probably Edwards. How it plays out with Edwards and Holmes will determine which (if any) free agent receivers the Jets will pursue in free agency or via trade, whether it is Plaxico Burress, Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Steve Smith, or any of the other names they have been associated with.

Dwight Lowery: The Forgotten Defensive Back

One of the few New York Jets defensive backs who isn’t a free agent, is cornerback/safety Dwight Lowery. There hasn’t been talk about Lowery’s role with the team moving forward this off-season, yet he was a key part of their defense in 2010.

Similar to Drew Coleman, Lowery was a defensive back who rotated into their various nickel, sub, and dime packages and made a surprisingly high amount of impact plays. He finished the season with 3 interceptions, 2 of which were returned for touchdowns, 2 sacks, 7 passes defensed, and a fumble recovery. Most notably, Lowery iced the Jets win over the Vikings with an interception return for a touchdown and then their win over the Denver Broncos the following week with a fumble recovery.

Due to injuries, Lowery began to work more at safety towards the end of last season. Many people have been clamoring for him to move there, considering his ball skills and how he struggles in man to man coverage at cornerback. Lowery’s primary position will likely depend on which free agents are brought back out of Antonio Cromartie, Drew Coleman, Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, and James Ihedigbo. Obviously, it is a benefit to the Jets that Lowery has shown he can play both positions and he should remain a big part of their defense moving forward.

I am not sure if Lowery is physical enough to play safety full time, but he does fit well there in pass heavy situations. The more the Jets can let Lowery roam in zone coverage, the better, because he lacks the ideal speed to match-up with most receivers in single coverage.

New York Jets Free Agency Rumor Round-Up

Track all of the latest New York Jets free agency updates on TOJ’s stream at SB Nation NY

A few comments on how the New York Jets will approach free agency…

1. Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t going to happen…so get the dreams of the two best corners in the NFL being on a single team out of your head. The Jets aren’t going to break the bank for him with so many free agents of their own, including a cheaper option than Asomugha at corner in Antonio Cromartie.

2. Regardless of Asomugha not happening, the Jets still need to address their cornerback position either by bringing back Cromartie or by signing somebody else like Ike Taylor or Jonathan Joseph. They didn’t draft a pass rusher and it is doubtful they will find a high impact player in free agency, hence they need as much coverage as they can get. Other corners they could look at include Carlos Rogers, Richard Marshall, Chris Carr, and Fabian Washington.

3. If I had to guess today, I would still say it is more likely that Santonio Holmes comes back before Braylon Edwards. However, I am more confident today than I was when the season ended about both of them coming back. Edwards has already gone on record saying he would offer some type of a hometown discount and if Holmes does the same, you never know what could happen. I don’t see any way Brad Smith ends up coming back. Another team will give him more money than the Jets will be willing to offer along with a bigger role on offense.

4. If the Jets lose Braylon Edwards, I am not against giving Randy Moss or Plaxico Burress a shot (no pun intended). Chad Ochocinco or Steve Smith is going to command too much money, yet the Jets should be able to get Moss or Burress on a cheap, short-term deal. The recent talk makes Moss sound like more of a possibility and I might be crazy but I think he could be productive for the Jets on the outside, especially with the attention Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, and Jerricho Cotchery need to receive in the slot.

5. In the less likely case that Edwards returns and Santonio Holmes leaves. I think the team should focus on signing Green Bay’s James Jones. Edwards is going to cost less money than Holmes so if he leaves, the Jets would have more money to invest in a longer contract to a younger player with more upside, like Jones.

6. Outside of Croamrtie in the secondary, I think the Jets will focus on getting Brodney Pool back to start at safety and then work towards getting either Eric Smith or James Ihedigbo back as a reserve. Drew Coleman is very up in the air. It depends on how they decide to handle Cromartie.

Kyle Wilson Taking Right Approach This Off-Season

“Jets Soutwhest” camp hasn’t received the type of media coverage that “Jets West” did…probably because it has only involved two players: Darrelle Revis and Kyle Wilson.

The two of them have already spent two weeks together training and still have more workouts scheduled. They have gone past just physical work in the weight-room and on the field. There has also been a breakdown of film, including a look at the receivers the Jets will be facing in 2011.

These workouts are a credit to both Revis, who is establishing himself as a leader on the defense and will be named a captain by Rex Ryan this year and Wilson, who is taking the right approach by spending as much time as possible with the league’s best corner.

By any measure, Wilson’s rookie year was a disappointment. However, that doesn’t mean he has to become Vernon Gholston 2.0. He clearly has the passion for football that Gholston lacked and the tools to be a very good corner in the NFL. By playing alongside Revis, he has access to the best in the business and should be soaking up as much knowledge as possible.

Playing corner opposite Revis Island is one of the most difficult positions in the league and there is a reasonable chance Wilson will be asked to do it next year. It remains up in the air whether or not Antonio Cromartie will come back and if he doesn’t, Wilson will be in the starting line-up.

Even if Cromartie does come back, the Jets will need Wilson to be more productive as a nickel back and in the defensive packages that he is used. He is taking a positive step this off-season by working with Revis, which will hopefully pay dividends when the 2011 season kicks off.

New York Jets: Is It Smart To Let Drew Coleman Walk?

One of the less heralded Jets free agents is cornerback Drew Coleman, who prior to the 2010 season was one of the least popular players on the team amongst fans. He struggled heavily in 2009, especially in single coverage and many didn’t even expect him to stick on the roster in 2010. However, Coleman responded by climbing the depth chart and putting together a career year as the Jets nickel back.

He finished with 41 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 1 interception, and 5 forced fumbles. Despite occasional struggles in coverage, Coleman was still one of the Jets biggest playmakers on defense and one of their better special teams players.

This off-season the Jets have to deal with re-signing defensive backs Antonio Cromartie, Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, and James Ihedigbo along with Coleman. You can make an argument that it was Coleman who had the best overall season out of all those players, outside of Cromartie.

Should the Jets make a strong effort to bring Coleman back or should they let him walk and hope Kyle Wilson can take over his role? Bringing Coleman back becomes an easier decision if Cromartie walks because more money would be freed up and the Jets would badly need the depth. Yet, if Cromartie returns the coaching staff might want to let Wilson, last year’s first round draft pick, have the opportunity to get more reps at the nickel spot. Wilson has more size and upside than Coleman and should develop into a better player in coverage. However, does he have the same knack for getting to the quarterback and making big plays?

Drew Coleman was a valuable piece of the Jets defense last year and if he leaves via free agency, it will be up to a player like Wilson or maybe even Marquice Cole to fill his production.

New York Jets: A Few Target Free Agents?

Brian Bassett over at The Jets Blog did a nice round-up today of how the Jets could approach free agency. He hit on a few interesting names, considering most of the Jets free agency hype has been centered on players like Randy Moss and Nnamdi Asomugha, most likely because of their reputation of making a splash by adding big name guys. However, don’t discount Mike Tannenbaum’s ability to look down every possible avenue to improve his roster. Here is a run down of a few players they could target and how much sense they would make…

Wide Receiver – Bassett mentioned both Chansi Stuckey and James Jones as options. Jones jumps off the page to me because if the Jets do lose Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes, I believe they should target him before looking at a big name player with tons of baggage like Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Plaxico Burress, or Steve Smith. Jones is 27 years old, coming off a productive season in Green Bay (679 yards, 5 touchdowns) and has the potential to develop into a long term starting receiver. He has played behind Greg Jennings and Donald Driver the past couple of years and could thrive in a starting role with more opportunities.

I am not as interested in Stuckey, whose skill set really limits him to being a slot receiver. He does know the offense and could be a good mentor to Jeremy Kerley, but I don’t think signing him comes anywhere adequately replacing Edwards or Holmes. If they were interested in just adding a slot receiver, I’d rather see them look at Lance Moore who has more big play potential than Stuckey.

Outside Linebacker – The Jets didn’t add a pass rusher through the draft, which has led some to think they will bring back Jason Taylor for another year. It seemed like he was done at the end of last season and I’d be surprised to see him back, unless the Jets get into camp (if that ever happens) and realize they desperately need depth. When the new Collective Bargaining Agree is figured out, Kamerion Wimbley could be a free agent and he has a skill set that could intrigue the Jets. Matt Roth is another player the Jets could target, although New England is rumored to be interested as well.

Cornerback – If Antonio Cromartie happens to get away (despite the 1,000,000 million words I have written against it this off-season) and Asomugha signs a huge deal somewhere else, the Jets could look at Jonathan Joseph or Ike Taylor. Both of those players would be a downgrade from Cromartie considering his athleticism and familiarity with the defense. Yet, the Jets would be foolish just to hand the starting job to Kyle Wilson so they would need to add somebody else to compete with him.

Offensive Line – Personally, I think if the Jets make sure both Wayne Hunter and Robert Turner are back. They will be in good enough shape next year. Hunter could hold down the fort at tackle if Vladimir Ducasse flames out and Turner provides good depth at both guard and center.

New York Jets: Enough Free Agent DBs To Make Your Head Hurt

Who should stay and who should go?

When discussing the New York Jets free agents, it is easy to get caught up in the Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and to a lesser extent, Brad Smith debate. They are big name players and everybody wants to make sure Mark Sanchez has the necessary weapons to succeed. However, don’t overlook how many free agents the Jets have in their secondary, which is priority number one on a Rex Ryan football team —

Antonio Cromartie

  • Starting Corner – 42 tackles, 17 passes defensed, 3 INTs
  • Physical freak, good compliment to Darrelle Revis
  • Always provides an intriguing quote
  • Inconsistent at times, can struggle with penalties
  • Still not a very good tackler

I won’t add too much on to the 1,000,000 words I have written this off-season about the importance of Cromartie returning. The bottom line is that Kyle Wilson isn’t ready to take over as a starter yet so the Jets need Cromartie back.

Drew Coleman

  • Nickel Corner – 41 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INT, 5 Forced Fumbles
  • Nose for the football and making big plays
  • Valuable special teams player
  • Struggles in man coverage
  • Lacks ideal size

Say what you want about Coleman, he makes plays and he was the Jets third best corner last season, which is a big role in a Rex Ryan defense. Will the coaching staff let him walk to give Kyle Wilson more reps?

Brodney Pool

  • Starting Safety – 53 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 Forced Fumble
  • Came on strong at end of last year
  • Has tough time staying healthy
  • More reliable in pass coverage than Eric Smith

Pool probably has more upside than Eric Smith as a starting safety opposite Jim Leonhard, but can he stay healthy for 16 games?

Eric Smith

  • Starting Safety – 54 tackles, 1 sack
  • Smart, physical player
  • Excellent on special teams
  • Struggles in pass coverage
  • He has also dealt with injury issues

Smith is a more valuable all around player than Brodney Pool who Rex Ryan has grown to love. He is really better suited to be a #3 safety and a special teamer than a full time starter.

James Ihedigbo

  • Extra Defensive Back, Blitz Specialist – 22 tackles, 3 sacks
  • Very good special teams player
  • Physical and aggressive
  • Limited range in pass coverage

Ihedigbo has turned into a nice role player on the Jets defense, who remains a core special teams player. They should be able to work something out to bring him back. He is capable of being a #3 safety if Smith or Pool leaves.

12 Pack Of Jets Off-Season Thoughts – Edition #12

 weekly 12 pack is back, with no specific theme…just a bunch of random thoughts, links, and videos…enjoy it, you jabronis

1. If you aren’t excited about the NBA Playoffs, you should be. I can’t think of a better way to get through your NFL Lockout frustation then by enjoying the next couple of months of basketball. Yes, the draft will be fun but we have the 30th overall pick in the first round and no second round pick. Am I excited about improving our defensive line depth? Absolutely, but the only downfall of being a consistently very good team is that you don’t have much draft day drama.

2. How much does the lockout suck by the way? Do you know at this time last year, the Jets had already signed LaDainian Tomlinson, Brodney Pool, traded Kerry Rhodes, released Thomas Jones, signed Nick Folk, and traded for Antonio Cromartie?

3. If I had to guess today, the Jets will take Phil Taylor in the first round, draft a safety in third round, and in rounds 4 through 7, add a corner, receiver, offensive lineman, and outside linebacker

4. Get excited for New York City playoff basketball returning

5. If I was Braylon Edwards publicist, I certainly wouldn’t want him calling his DUI “BS” …doesn’t exactly sound like he learned much from the incident. Regardless, he does sound much more interested in returning to the team than Santonio Holmes does. When the new CBA is finalized, I am fascinated to see how Mike Tannenbaum approaches re-signing these two, never mind Antonio Cromartie and Brad Smith.

6. Interesting that the Jets decided to work out TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, who some people think could sneak into the first round. Clearly the Jets front office is trying to create more interest in acquiring their 30th overall pick, although I don’t know who is going to buy it. Again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jets trade down, which will be sure to piss off all those Jets fans who attend the Draft on Thursday night.

7. Over the past two days, I have written pieces on three of the Jets four draft picks last year, Vladimir Ducasse, Joe McKnight, and Kyle Wilson. It is essential to the Jets 2011 success that these players begin to reach the potential the team drafted them for. Ducasse needs to develop into the starting right tackle, McKnight needs to become a contributor on offense and special teams as a returner, and Wilson needs to rise up to the challenge of being a starting corner if Antonio Cromartie doesn’t come back.

8. Sounds like all that Randy Moss talk was just a smokescreen to piss off Santonio Holmes…I wonder if Bart Scott talking about how the Jets would welcome Chad Ochocino was to…

9. Did I tell you how excited I was for Knicks playoff basketball?

10. Follow TOJ’s ongoing draft preview at SB Nation…

11. Very interested to see how New England handles their 120 draft picks this year, their defense, offensive line, and receiving core could all use a boost. I also wonder if Miami will officially throw in the towel on Chad Henne by drafting Ryan Mallett.

12. Enjoy your weekend…go New York, go New York, go…

New York Jets: Is Kyle Wilson Ready?

There was a time last summer when some of us pretended not to sweat the Darrelle Revis holdout as much as we should have because of how the coaching staff was raving about Kyle Wilson.

Revis would eventually return and then the Baltimore game happened…

Wilson was badly exposed in single coverage and began a season long struggle with playing the football in the air and picking up pass interference penalties. He was eventually passed on the depth chart by Drew Coleman and was barely a factor down the stretch, except when an interception slammed off his face mask in the AFC Championship Game.

Wilson also never stepped up in the return game, he struggled enough last year that many people, including Rex Ryan, only mentioned Jerricho Cotchery and Joe McKnight as the likely candidates to replace Jim Leonhard on punt return this year.

Despite writing 100,000 words advising against it, there is still a very real chance Antonio Cromartie won’t return next year, which will lead to the need for Wilson to move into the starting line-up. He didn’t show anything last year to make us believe he is capable of handling that role and the lack of off-season workouts this year can’t be helping.

However, there was a reason Wilson was drafted in the first round. He obviously has talent and perhaps his rookie year provided a valuable lesson on adjusting to the NFL. If the front office decides to let Cromartie leave, Wilson will have one of the most difficult secondary jobs in the league…playing opposite Revis Island, let’s hope he is ready to prove that decision would be correct.

Beyond that, if Cromartie does come back. It would be nice to see Wilson develop into a quality nickel back for now and create a few big plays, similar to the way Drew Coleman did last year.