New York Jets Officially Sign Derrick Mason

Despite it seeming a foregone conclusion earlier in the week, Derrick Mason flapped in the wind for a few days before officially reaching a decision today to join the New York Jets. Fortunately for the team’s depth concerns, he will come on board and immediately become the slot receiver and provide good insurance if Plaxico Burress can’t stay healthy.

Here is a look at Mason’s stats the previous four seasons, as you can see he still has the ability to be very productive:

  • 2010 – 61 receptions, 802 yards, 7 touchdowns
  • 2009 – 73 receptions, 1,028 yards, 7 touchdowns
  • 2008 – 80 receptions, 1,037 yards, 5 touchdowns
  • 2007 – 103 receptions, 1,087 yards, 5 touchdowns

However, the Jets have now had serious turnover from this year to last year at wide receiver. Consider that last year their top four receivers were Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, and Brad Smith…they are now Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason, and Jeremy Kerley.

New York Jets Moving Forward With Offensive Question Marks

It is hard not to feel good about the New York Jets defense this year, or any year where Rex Ryan is the head coach. There has been a few minor changes and they will need a handful of young players to contribute, like Kyle Wilson,  Jamaal Westerman, and Muhammad Wilkerson but on the whole they should be one of the league’s top units again. However, the Jets still have plenty of question marks on the other side of the football, where there could be issues with Mark Sanchez’s supporting cast.

Rob already raised the valid questions about the Jets backfield yesterday and now even more questions surround their group of wide receivers. Derrick Mason still hasn’t signed a contract with the Jets, so at the moment we are a Plaxico Burress rolled ankle away from Patrick Turner starting opposite Santonio Holmes with rookie Jeremy Kerley or journeyman Logan Payne in the slot.

Mason coming on board would add some stability but the guy is 37 years old and Burress will remain a question mark until we start see him producing on the field. I don’t care how good a player like Kerley, Payne, or Scotty McKnight looks in practice, they are all completely unproven at the NFL level and you can’t expect anything out of them until they do it in a regular season game. Do you remember how good Kyle Wilson looked in camp and pre-season last year?

The overall instability of the receivers around Mark Sanchez isn’t a good thing. It now becomes critically important that Santonio Holmes becomes the veteran leader of the group and a reliable safety valve for Sanchez on top of being a big play threat. There should also be a ton more targets going Dustin Keller’s way as he should be the receiver Sanchez is the most comfortable with. He must respond by giving the Jets the Pro-Bowl caliber year he is capable of, talent-wise.

Don’t forget the Jets are also breaking in a new full time right tackle in Wayne Hunter.

If the Jets are going to be back to competing for a Super Bowl, the overwhelming majority of these questions need to be answered “Yes” –

  • Can Mark Sanchez take another step in his development and improve his completion by at least 4-5 percentage points?
  • Can Santonio Holmes give the Jets the production of a true number one receiver for a full year?
  • Can Dustin Keller finally meet his potential for a full year?
  • Is Shonn Greene ready to be a lead back?
  • Can Wayne Hunter make sure there isn’t a substantial drop off from Damien Woody?
  • Can Plaxico Burress stay healthy and produce at a reasonable level for a number two receiver?
  • Can the Jets find a number three receiver, if Derrick Mason walks on them?

TOJ Roundtable – A Tribute To Jerricho Cotchery

The NFL is a cold business sometimes and that was on display today as the Jets decided to release veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, in favor of signing Derrick Mason. Our writers discuss the move and their memories of Cotchery with the Jets, who gave them his entire seven year career.

(The photo above is Cotchery’s last reception as a New York Jet, a touchdown in the AFC Championship Game)

TJ Rosenthal

All heart. all soul. What a sad day. Many are asking us why is the release WR Jerricho Cotchery imminent. J-Co is a staple of consistency, toughness and symbolic of the notion of the phrase “Play Like A Jet.” The answer is simple. It’s business. A cruel business. Football is the greatest sport but the business aspect of it is the worst.

Cotchery had back surgery in February. We’ll assume that his health is playing a primary part in this decision. Derrick Mason is now a Jet, replacing one vet for for another.

To remember Cotch here in New York, you only have to look back to one play. One day. One moment that embodied the quiet class and leadership from a guy who has done nothing but what he’s been asked to do here.

It happened at the Dog Pound last season, when Cotchery pulled his groin BEFORE making a key drive saving third and nine catch in OT at Cleveland. The first down never amounted to the game winning drive. That took place later for the Jets, but it was the “team first” effort, the willingness to sacrifice the body in order to help the team, that stuck with players and fans after the game. It was a play repeatedly shown on ESPN and all of the sports news sites.

Damien Woody called it one of the best plays he’d ever seen. We call it the symbol of what Jerricho Cotchery was here. A player who provided the Jets heart, soul, and selfless spirit.

You will be sorely missed J-Co. Get healthy and get back onto the field. You will be a great addition to any club that hires you.

Derrick Mason has been a productive player for years. His presence has dropped since he landed in Baltimore but what WR ever thrives there? He’s 37. The Jets would be taking a chance if they felt he could provide extensive production at this point in his career, one that includes 900 plus receptions.

The Jets can take what they can get out of his experience, especially on third down. All the while hoping that a speedier option like a Jeremy Kerley turns into a slot weapon a some point in 2011.

Rob Celletti

To no one’s surprise, the Jets continue to roll the dice, looking to catch lightning in a bottle on offense, but this move will certainly be met with some negative reaction.  A lot of people looked at Cotchery as a comparable receiver to Mason, although Mason has quietly put up eight 1,000 yard seasons in his career.  Still, something about this move just doesn’t seem right.  Cotchery is 8 years younger than Mason, and you’d think that the Jets would want to keep as many pieces around Sanchez in tact as possible as they shift to a more pass-oriented offense.  It’s a shame the Jets couldn’t find another way to save $900k, instead of losing a heart-and-soul guy like Cotchery.

It’s tough to pick one favorite Cotchery play, but one comes to mind immediately: In 2006 vs. the Patriots, the Jets were mounting a furious comeback after falling behind 17-0 at halftime, and Cotchery made one of the most hard-nosed, heads-up plays I’d ever seen.  He caught a pass from Chad Pennington and was knocked off of his feet by Chad Scott, but somehow fell directly on top of Eugene Wilson and never hit the ground.  What looked like a tackle and the end of the play to the other 21 players on the field plus the 80,000 in attendance was turned into a touchdown by Cotchery, who athletically got to his feet and coasted home for six.  The comeback fell short of course, but this play typified #89.  As Herm Edwards used to say about Cotchery and his penchant for timely heroics, “there goes 89 again, makin’ a play.”  J-Co will be missed.

Chris Celletti

This is just a head scratching move as far as I’m concerned. Santonio Holmes is a given, but who knows what you’re going to get from Plaxico Burress? He’ll be 34 in a few days and has already picked up an injury in training camp. Not to mention he’s spent the past 24 months in the slammer. Derrick Mason has been productive the past few years but his reception and yardage totals have gone down each of the past three seasons. At 37 years old, how are we to expect that trend will reverse? I know they won’t be expecting a ton out of Mason, but what if Burress is not healthy, or not close to his old self? Cotchery would have been a perfectly reliable number two if Burress goes down. You’d much rather have Cotchery in that situation than Mason.

Cotchery’s catch against the Browns last season when he came up lame in mid-route and still made a diving catch summed him up as a player. It was a gritty, selfless, and clutch play. Cotchery embodied those three traits, and he’ll be seriously missed.

Joe Caporoso

Jerricho Cotchery was never truly appreciated during his time with the New York Jets. Whenever he was given the chance, he found ways to make plays, specifically at the most important of times. I will always remember Cotchery consistently moving the chains on third downs, running impeccable routes, and carrying himself with a degree of humbleness and class only matched by Curtis Martin since I have watched this team.

Favorite play? Too many to pick. I will remember him as a Patriot killer. In 2006, staying on his feet when everybody thought he was down and turning it into a 70 something yard touchdown at the Meadowlands. Later in the season, when the Jets upset New England in their building, he pulled in a ridiculous over the shoulder touchdown to ice the game and then in their playoff meeting scoring a 77 yard touchdown to give the Jets a first half lead. What about in 2008, when he acrobatically pulled in a bomb from Brett Favre with the ball pinned against his shoulder and helmet? In 2009, he turned the momentum in the Jets week two upset of New England with a huge catch to start the second half and of course last year, he scored a TD against them in week two and swung the momentum in their playoff game with a 58 yard 4th quarter reception.

Derrick Mason is 900K cheaper and has had a much more productive career than Cotchery, and I do think he can be a valuable addition. However, let’s not turn a blind eye to him being 8 years older than Cotchery and the Jets continually switching up the wide receivers around quarterback Mark Sanchez. Do you think Plaxico Burress or Derrick Mason will be here in a year or two? I am not so sure. Sanchez has continually been asked to work with a receiving group filled with moving parts.

In the end, I have faith in Mike Tannenabum and like his desire to constantly improve. However, that doesn’t mean I have to approve of he handles veterans of this organization who are leaders in the locker room and examples of how you want your players to act. This was a cold move, but let’s hope it proves to be a smart one.

New York Jets Putting Finishing Touches On Roster?

We know the New York Jets still have plenty of money available to spend, so a pair of recent decisions made by the front office shouldn’t come as a surprise.

First, they smartly decided to re-sign safety Brodney Pool to a one year contract. Pool came on strong at the end of last year as a starting safety and has a greater upside than Eric Smith opposite Jim Leonhard. Rex Ryan has already declared Smith the starter but Pool will be involved in plenty of defensive packages, especially on passing downs and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taking the bulk of reps by the end of the year. He improves the depth and continuity of the Jets defense.

Second, the Jets are bringing in veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason for a visit today and it is believed there is a good chance he will leave with a contract. Mason would be a very good addition to the Jets offense, as he had 802 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns last year, which compares very well to the 904 yards and 7 touchdowns the Jets lost from Braylon Edwards. Also prior to last year, he had three straight 1,000 yard seasons. Mason could hold down the number two receiver spot as Plaxico Burress gets acclimated and then could move into the number three role later in the season.

Unfortunately, a Mason signing would likely mean the end of Jerricho Cotchery’s career with the Jets. If Mason signs for a veteran minimum’s contract, he would cost half as much as Cotchery, meaning Cotchery will either be traded or cut. This would be a tough move to swallow as I already documented Cotchery’s value to the team yesterday.

Does it make sense from both a football and financial standpoint to switch from Cotchery to Mason? The answer is yes, considering the questions about Cotchery’s health that have currently landed him on the PUP list. It is a sad reality because the guy deserves better. The NFL can be a cold business and I still don’t want to see him leave, but if they lock Mason down it is hard to see him staying on the team and getting after Mike Tannenbaum for making the move.

Jets vs. Ravens: Game Breakdown

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Offense: We all know the Jets want to run the football, yet if they want to move the ball against the Baltimore Ravens it is going to make sense to throw more than usual. The Ravens are beat up in the secondary in a big way. They won’t have Ed Reed taking people’s heads off and intercepting everything in sight and will be without Dominique Foxworth and Ladarius Webb at cornerback. The bottom line is they will have a very average collection of players in their secondary and the Jets must take advantage. I’m not saying to completely ignore the ground and pound, yet the best formation for the Jets offense this week might be Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, Brad Smith and Dustin Keller split out with LaDainian Tomlinson in the single back or motioning out to the slot.

There isn’t a corner on Baltimore who could physically match up with Edwards, who is coming off a great off-season and will have the chance to show these first four weeks he is capable of being the Jets number one receiver. Cotchery should be able to be very effective in the slot and Keller will be a tough match-up for the Baltimore safeties, although Dawan Landry is a talented player who is athletic enough to battle with Keller.

PhotobucketObviously, left guard remains an area of concern. The Ravens will be attacking Matt Slauson and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Jets left the running back in to pass protect more frequently than usual. I am interested to see the division of reps between the halfbacks and fullbacks in week one. This will be Shonn Greene’s first career start, yet I wonder if he will get the chance to get around 20 carries. Tomlinson could get more reps than usual because of a more pass centric than usual game-plan and his pass protection abilities. I am sure we will see John Conner in short yardage packages but there should be plenty of Tony Richardson out there, again because of his experience in pass protection.

Defense: Ray Rice. Ray Rice. Ray Rice. Regardless of all their additions at the wide receiver position, Rice is the most dangerous player on the Ravens offense. He can kill you as a pass catcher out of the backfield and obviously has the ability to rip off huge runs at any moment. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a ton of Kyle Wilson shadowing him, if he motions out to the slot and when he is in the backfield, it will be on the linebackers and safety to contain him. Eric Smith will get the nod at safety in place of an injured Brodney Pool and will have his hands full right out of the gate. The Jets don’t have the fastest collection of linebackers, which could prove to be a problem when attempting to slow down Rice.

In the secondary, we should be seeing Revis Island matched up Anquan Boldin primarily, which leaves Antonio Cromartie to deal with Derrick Mason and Kyle Wilson to focus on Rice out of the backfield and TJ Houshmandzadeh. Todd Heap is also one of the better pass catching tight ends in the league. It will be interesting to see who the Jets match up on him. I would imagine the responsibility would fall mostly to Eric Smith, Jim Leonhard, and maybe Dwight Lowery. All in all, this will be a good test for the Jets secondary because the Ravens have a very legit five pass catching options in Boldin, Rice, Housh, Heap, and Rice.

As we saw in the playoffs last year, Joe Flacco can be pressured into making poor decisions. He does have a big arm and put together a pretty productive season in 2009, yet the Jets defense should be able to force him into a couple of turnovers. Jason Taylor has been invisible in the pre-seaosn but he will have the chance to show he can still get after the quarterback while filling in for Calvin Pace. Also don’t be surprised to see some Jamaal Westerman on certain pass rushing downs.

Special Teams: You can bet both team’s fanbases and coaching staffs will be cringing each time their kickers line up. Nick Folk and Billy Cundiff both still have to win over everybody’s confidence. Brad Smith will be the primary kick returner for the Jets, while punt return could be a combination of Jim Leonhard, Jerricho Cotchery, and Kyle Wilson. Chris Carr is a fairly explosive return man for the Ravens, but I don’t expect the Jets to do anything out of the ordinary to avoid kicking him the ball.

It’s Just About That Time