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.

NFL Free Agency 2011: Brad Smith Leaves, Jets Play Waiting Game

In a move that most of us expected, wide receiver/quarterback/running back/kick returner Brad Smith has left the New York Jets. It was however somewhat surprising that he decided to join the division rival Buffalo Bills, who seemed to come out of nowhere today to snatch him up on a 4 year, 15 million dollar contract.

According to Smith, the Jets did reach out to him but couldn’t move on signing him until the situation with Nnamdi Asomugha shakes out. The Jets do still have plenty of room under the cap but apparently their top priority right now is filling the cornerback spot opposite Darrelle Revis, whether it is Asomugha, Antonio Cromartie, or a cheaper option like Chris Carr.

It will be interesting to see the contingency plan if Asomugha decides to sign with Houston or San Francisco. Cromartie would probably be the immediate fallback option but he might still not be around or the Jets could consider him too pricey and look to go with Carr and then hope to still have a shot at getting Braylon Edwards back.

Regardless, it seems like the Jets next two major moves will be signing a cornerback and a number two wide receiver, with Asomugha, Cromartie, Carr, Edwards, and Randy Moss all in play.

In other news…

LaDainian Tomlinson did agree to take a pay cut to help in the Jets pursuit of Asomugha.

The Jets aren’t going to make an attempt to resign punter Steve Weatherford. No more shakeweights at camp.

According to Manish Mehta of The Daily News expect a long term deal with David Harris to worked out some time next week.

Back To Football: Upcoming Week’s Timeline

Here is what to look for…

Today – Free agency list will be distributed and the league will announce that teams can have 90 man rosters for training camp.

Tomorrow – Trades and free agency begin, including team’s having the ability to sign undrafted free agents, their draft picks, their own free agents, and other team’s free agents. Players can enter team facilities.

Wednesday – Some teams begin reporting to training camp.

Thursday – Players can be cut starting at 4 PM.

Friday – Transactions can be filed to the league office and become official starting at 6 PM.

Sunday – Jets expected to report to training camp in Florham Park, New Jersey.

August 15th – Jets open pre-season in Houston on Monday Night Football.

A few other nuggets from around the web

TOJ at Gunaxin with a quick look at what to remember about all 32 teams

Rex Ryan welcomes fans back to football with a short video

Apparently, Rex dropped a gem of a speech to team employees today, where he said “the Giants talk about the past, but the Jets talk about what we’re going to do in the future.”

ESPN Chicago is reporting the Bears are interested in Brad Smith

Let the bidding war for Santonio Holmes begin

Closer Look At Jets Rushing Attack In 2010

If you haven’t noticed yet, Turn On The Jets has a new title after our name: “Ground and Pound Writing”…so clever and original, right? The reasoning is that for years the Jets were a franchise without an identity, outside of being the ugly stepchild of New York football. Fortunately with Rex Ryan has came the identity of the Ground and Pound, which is the Jets are going to be a physical football team led by their defense and rushing attack. This brand of football has carried the Jets to back to back AFC Championship Games and pulled them from irrelevancy to a national team, who will have five prime-time games this season.

Let’s take a closer look at the “ground” half of the equation in 2010. After losing Thomas Jones to free agency and trading away Leon Washington, the Jets worked a two back approach, with LaDainian Tomlinson as the primary ballcarrier and Shonn Greene as the supporting back. Here is a breakdown of their numbers (averages out of 15 games, since both were inactive in week 17)

Tomlinson

  • 219 carries
  • 914 yards
  • 4.2 yards per carry
  • 6 rushing touchdowns
  • 14.6 carries per game
  • 60.9 yards per game

Greene

  • 185 carries
  • 766 yards
  • 4.1 yards per carry
  • 2 rushing touchdowns
  • 12.3 carries per game
  • 51 yards per game

As a pair the duo combined for about 27 carries and 111 yards per game, along with a touchdown every other week. It is worth noting Brad Smith served as the de facto 3rd back, with 38 carries for 299 yards, although most of those came out of the Wildcat formation.

Compared to 2009, when they had the league’s top rushing attack, the Jets ran 73 less times for 382 less yards, along with 7 less rushing touchdowns and fell to third in the NFL in rushing yards per game. It is hard to complain about being ranked in the top three, especially with the following factors in play —

  • A more open offense to accommodate an improved Mark Sanchez and the addition of Santonio Holmes
  • Replacing Alan Faneca with Matt Slauson…Slauson was better than expected in his first year as a starter but still has a ways to go before he is on Faneca’s level, especially in run blocking.
  • Damien Woody missing time late in the season.
  • The lack of a true number one back, don’t forget Thomas Jones ran for over 1400 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009.

It will be interesting to see if the Jets can approach their 2009 production in the running game this season. Slauson will be a year better. The Jets will likely be losing one of their starting receivers, which could limit how open their offense will be. Obviously, the biggest factor will be how Shonn Greene handles the starting role and if he can be the type of back Jones was in 2009, while Tomlinson supports as a third down back. Look for Joe McKnight to compensate for the yards left behind by Brad Smith, who will probably be signing with a different team.

Waking Up From 4th Of July: Round-Up Of Jets News

After a five day hiatus to work on a few technical changes to the site in anticipation of football starting in the coming weeks and all that will come with that, TOJ is back with a quick round-up of recent Jets news…check back throughout the day for a new TOJ Top Five and Justin’s latest article…

Good interview with Bart Scott – The stats don’t jump off the page for Scott, especially since joining the Jets but he remains a key part of their defensive scheme and does a big chunk of the dirty work necessary for it to succeed. It is encouraging to hear that he thinks Jamaal Westerman is ready for a bigger role, as the Jets need improved depth at linebacker and could use another pass rusher. Scott also has praise for Ropati Pitoitua, Joe McKnight, and Vladimir Ducasse.

There has been plenty of hype around Pitoitua’s potential because of his size but we have never really seen him with the chance to flourish in a bigger role because of his injury last year. It will be interesting to see how much he will play this year, although it will largely depend on how quickly Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis adapt to the NFL and if the team brings back Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce.

McKnight is in desperate need of a strong training camp to show he learned from the mistakes he made during his rookie season. I think he can fill the void that will likely be left by Brad Smith in the Jets offense. He can take over those touches, except instead of working out of the Wildcat (which he could still do), he could take primarily outside handoffs and be an option in the screen game.

I am not sure if Ducasse will get much of a shot to start at right tackle. It sounds like the Jets are likely to bring Damien Woody back for another year, which could be good for Ducasse in the long run as he could spend a year learning the his new position behind Woody.

NFL Top Ten – The NFL Network’s top 100 player countdown concluded this past Sunday, with Darrelle Revis finishing at number eight. It isn’t worth getting worked up about lists like this but how is he behind Andre Johnson? I am pretty sure they have went head to head twice and Revis has completely shut him down both times.

Another Free Agent Thought – Roy Williams is likely going to be cut by the Dallas Cowboys. If the Jets can work out a low cost deal with him, which he may have to consider if there isn’t much interest in him on the market, he could be a potential replacement for Braylon Edwards if he leaves via free agency.

If You Haven’t Seen It Already – A great parody of Field of Dreams by Funny or Die, which features a cameo by Antonio Cromartie.

Just About That Time – July 15th is the supposed deadline for a deal to get done so a “normal” season can occur with a full training camp and pre-season. We are now only 9 days away from that date…and only 23 days away from when Jets training camp is supposed to open in Florham park.

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.

Where Will The Jets Go Cheap?

There will inevitably be some tough decisions the New York Jets front office will have to make when free agency starts. Certain positions are going to see a higher concentration of money spent, while others will be forced to be handled more cheaply with hopes of younger players stepping up. Where will Mike Tannebaum decide to invest the most?

Wide Receiver – We know money is going to be spent to keep either Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards, but would the Jets invest enough in the receiver position to keep both, or perhaps one along with Brad Smith? It doesn’t seem likely considering this is a run first offense, but they may want to insure Mark Sanchez has the best weapons possible at his disposal to help him flourish into a top-tier quarterback in the NFL.

Defensive Line – The Jets could go young and not pay up to bring Shaun Ellis back and also not work to coax Trevor Pryce out of retirement. However, they will be putting a high amount of pressure on first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson to produce immediately and relying on unproven players like Ropati Pitoitua and Marcus Dixon to play large roles on the defensive line rotation. If they can’t work something out with Ellis, it would be smart to at least bring Pryce back on a cheap, one-year deal as insurance.

Offensive Line – When the Jets released Damien Woody this off-season, the original plan seemed to be allowing second year player Vladimir Ducasse battle with veteran Wayne Hunter to take over at right tackle. Hunter filled in for Woody a few games at the end of last season and is also a free agent, but would cost less to bring back. Now with the way this off-season has been affected by the lockout, can the Jets risk thinking Ducasse is ready to compete for a starting job and have somebody like Hunter as the only alternative or will they pay up to bring Woody back for another year? They also need to decide if they are going to bring back versatile back-up Robert Turner.

Secondary – Antonio Cromartie is going to be a highly sought after free agent and if the Jets decide to let him walk, they will be taking a risk at corner opposite Darrelle Revis by hoping Kyle Wilson is ready to step in as a starter. The Jets could always look to sign a free agent to compete with him but if they are going to spend money on a veteran, why not just stick with Cromartie who is comfortable in the system and handled the job well last year? They also need to make a decision at safety, where Brodney Pool will probably cost more than Eric Smith but provides better range and long-term potential next to Jim Leonhard.

Linebacker – The Jets could go into the year with their current depth chart and hope a player like Jamaal Westerman or Josh Mauga steps up as an option in certain packages and as reliable backups or look to bring back Jason Taylor or sign a free agent to support a position that is relatively thin.

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.

Lockout Off-Season: Rounding Up Top Jets Offensive Storylines

Despite the lack of formal workouts and traditional media access, there has still been plenty of storylines that have grown out of this New York Jets lockout infected off-season. Here is a round-up of them, check back later in the day for the top defensive storylines —

Quarterback

  • The continued development of Mark Sanchez’s leadership

Sanchez has further asserted himself as one of the leaders of the team by putting together both “Jets West” and “Jets Lockout Camp.” From what the other players have said this season, it is clear the amount of respect they have for Sanchez and the way he carries himself. One of his best traits is his work ethic and dedication to all things football, regardless of what else he has going on in his life, and his teammates clearly recognize that.

Running Back

  • Shonn Greene moving into the lead back role

Brian Schottenheimer, Rex Ryan, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Shonn Greene all agree that Greene is going to take over as the number one back this year and he is ready for the challenge. It remains to be seen how he can handle 18+ carries on a weekly basis but the only way to find out if you have a lead back is to give him the chance to be one.

  • LaDainian Tomlinson embracing the third down role

As he said in many interviews, including one right here with TOJ…Tomlinson has accepted and embraced the idea of being a third down back this year in the Jets offense. Considering his age and how he wore down at the end of last season, Tomlinson should maximize his effectiveness by being limited to this role.

  • John Conner announced as starting fullback

Nobody expected Tony Richardson back for another year, but this clinched that the fullback job would be handed off to Conner.

Wide Receiver

  • Free Agent Decisions

The endless debate over who the Jets should prioritize bringing back, Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards, has arguably been their biggest off-season storyline. Holmes has said he won’t sign a restricted free agent tender and would basically be looking for the most money possible. Edwards has been more diplomatic and discussed the potential of taking a hometown discount. Brad Smith is also a free agent and unless he agrees to come back for less than another team offers, probably won’t be back.

Offensive Line

  • Right Tackle

Damien Woody was released early in the off-season but there is now speculation he could return because of concern about Vladimir Ducasse being ready to step in as a starter. Considering that Ducasse didn’t play a meaningful snap last year, I would think that is a reasonable concern.

TOJ Top Five: Brad Smith Plays

Since New York Jets wide receiver, Brad Smith, has recently created a Twitter account (@ReadBradSmith) and unfortunately there is a good chance he won’t be back next year, let’s look at his top five plays as a Jet…

5. Fifth Gear

This past Thanksgiving, Brad Smith torched the Cincinnati Bengals for the second year in a row. His first touchdown came on a 53 yard reverse, which really demonstrated his downhill speed as he kicks it into fifth gear and is off to the races.

4. Wildcatting Into The Playoffs

With a wild-card spot on the line in the final week of the 2009 season, the Jets beat up on the Bengals led by Smith who got things going with a huge run out of the Wildcat and then later blew the game open with a touchdown run out of the same formation.

3. One Last Bengals Highlight

The shoeless kick return…one shoe and still the fastest guy on the field.

2. Start It Off

Heading into their December match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Jets were riding an ugly two game losing streak and staring another later season meltdown in the face. Fortunately, Smith started off the game with a kick return for a touchdown which provided a much needed boost that would ultimately lead to a Jets victory.

1. Finally, A Pass

The one and only big pass Brad Smith ever completed for the New York Jets was against the Colts in the AFC Championship Game, when he surprised everybody in the stadium by rolling out and hitting Jerricho Cotchery on a bomb that would set up a big first half touchdown for the Jets.