Jets vs. Patriots: Who Won The Free Agency Wars?

At times, in Jets nation, it seems as though there are only two teams in the NFL, the Jets and the Patriots. Everything has revolved around this New York/Boston border war rivalry that heated up to cosmic levels once Bill Parcells left Foxboro for Leon Hess Jets in the mid nineties.

The Jets and Patriots are the Yankees and Red Sox of football right no w, hated rivals who feel as though they have to be equipped in order to beat the other, otherwise reaching the Super Bowl becomes a pipe dream. When THESE two teams get at it, the fur flies the pre game hype flies, and the post game emotional damage for the losing team becomes a study to be conducted under a microscope. Consider 2010.

Last year, after the Monday night debacle in Foxboro, Rex Ryan had to bury a ball to exorcise the demons of an unexpected 45-3 massacre. A hangover then ensued in the putrid loss to Miami the following week.

It was then the Jets turn to give the Pats a dose of pain during the AFC divisional playoff round. Gang Green ruined the Pats home field advantage by eliminating them days after a week of trash talk culminating in Wes Welker’s foot fetish references. The devastating loss forced the Pats to question their personnel heading into this season.

Now enter the madness of THIS post lockout free agency. The Jets used their initial days to re-acquire home run threat Santonio Holmes and right tackle Wayne Hunter, thus keeping last year’s offensive line intact and their big play receiver in Green and White.

After a mad chase for CB Nnamdi Asomugha failed, the Jets rebounded with the pickups of WR Plaxico Burress and CB Antonio Cromartie to keep the status quo. All purpose WR Brad Smith was a casualty of the week long Nnamdi drama but the Jets kept their goal of remaining a vertical passing team capable of moving defenses out of the box against the their running attack.

The Pats sured up their run defense, exposed during their season ending loss to the Jets last year, during the first few days when they traded away a fifth round pick to the Redskins for disgruntled defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Next came WR Chad Ochocinco, who many feel has been hurt by the deteriorating play of Carson Palmer over the past few years. Ocho seemed needed after the Jets dropped eight defenders back into coverage all day during that same January game, thus exposing the Pats lack of firepower on the outside.

Sunday brought a spotlight to this border war when longtime Jets DE Shaun Ellis signed with the Pats, giving New England a line ready to take on the Ground and Pound consisting of Ellis, Vince Wilfork and Haynesworth, maybe adding some info on the Jets from the Ellis perspective as well.

The constant news regarding players gained on both sides, and even ones the Jets in particular HAVEN’T kept, have made it seem as though the two clubs have been the only active ones on the market.

We all know that the games are played on the field, not on paper, or in offices where contracts are signed. It is interesting however to consider the notion of which team got a leg up on the other these past two weeks.

For the Jets, a microcosm for this change can be seen through the WR position. Plaxico Burress and Derick Mason will replace Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. Both new Jets WRs bring with them longer careers of success and bigger numbers. They also bring with them rust and age, and a lack of familiarity with the offense. The upside, should the new duo be healthy and motivated. will make the moves an upgrade for the Jets. The downside could be a disaster.

The Patriots haven’t altered as much as they have added veterans with something to prove but again, veterans. With age on them as well. The upside for them on the defensive line could be deadly provided that Haynesworth behaves and Ellis has something left in the tank. The downside? A sluggish disruptive unit that costs coach Bill Belichick time and energy. The risk? Slight. Belichick and the Patriots have offered little to nothing financially and draft pick wise in order to obtain these players.

It will take an entire 2011 season to determine who won this free agency war. Still, it hasn’t stopped many from wondering who has gained an edge. Here are some of Jets Nation’s take on who has done better during this crazy free agency period, told to us on Twitter:

@Ton3Atlas: Pats have built a shuttle from N.Y. to N.E. because they love our players.

@JoeyScalesi: Pats unfortuantely

@jWeinstein23 Pats have gotten the bigger names but the Jets have made their team better. If Haynesworth or Ochocinco suck, it looks terrible.

@UKJets: it’s a tough question. Both teams will see the biggest benefit from development in young players like Sanchez & mccourty.

@RobKosova: Hate em but I think the Pats.

@Sanchize6: the Jets, Pats have added good pieces but who knows what they have left, the jets kept all their key pieces and are younger.

NFL Free Agency 2011: New York Jets Moving Forward

Post Nnamdi thoughts —

1. Cornerback – The Jets are pushing hard to get Antonio Cromartie back and it won’t easy as at least three other teams are in the bidding for him. They may be forced to overpay for him, as they are now scrambling to fill the spot opposite Darrelle Revis. They did sign Donald Strickland, who if healthy, can be a good nickel corner. The team has also brought back Eric Smith to compete with Dwight Lowery to start at safety opposite Jim Leonhard. Brodney Pool is a goner from everything we have heard. A backup plan for Cromartie at corner, could be trading for Asante Samuel but he isn’t a great fit for the Jets scheme. Chris Carr could be a cheaper alternative.

2. Wide Receiver – The Jets are apparently in pursuit of Plaxico Burress, who will decide between them and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are also considering James Jones, with the interest apparently waning in Randy Moss. Personally, I might like the Jones option the best as he offers the most upside and could be a long term answer opposite Santonio Holmes.

3. The Rest – You would think the Jets will have enough cap space to get Shaun Ellis back now. I would also like to see them resign James Ihedigbo.

TOJ Roundtable: Is Asomugha Coming To New York?

UPDATE: Jets have officially reached out to Asomugha

TOJ Roundtable: where each of our writers offers a quick opinion on a pressing Jets question of the day.

What is the percent chance of Nnamdi Asomugha signing with the New York Jets?

Joe Caporoso: 10-15%…I never write off Tannenbaum’s creativity or Rex’s ability to recruit but I think Houston or Dallas will make an offer too good for him to ignore

Chris Celletti: I’d say it’s very, very low, probably 10%. He’ll probably go to the highest bidder and I don’t think that’s the Jets. With Holmes as their number one priority, and the fact that they already have the best corner in the league on the roster, it’d be misguided to give Asomugha a huge deal.

Justin Fritze: 5%.  Nnamdi will not happen, it would thin the defense out too much as per salary cap.

Rob Celletti: I’d put this at a very slim 5%.  If the Jets didn’t have so many other roster issues to worry about, I’d say it was higher.  I know how much Rex loves corners, but the Jets led the league in defense two years ago with the following guys playing across from Revis at one point or another: Lito Sheppard, Donald Strickland, Marquice Cole, Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery.

TJ Rosenthal: 30%, Asomugha is either using the Jets and the bright lights of New York as leverage to obtain more dollars in places such as Houston, or he is being genuine about wanting to be a Jet. Our guess is, he wants to be a Jet, so the question then becomes, at what price? To make room for a salary like Asomugha’s, current Jets like Mark Sanchez will have to restructure their deal. Sanchez today stated that he has no problems doing that.

The second part of the equation will be how much the Jets can live with being handcuffed in trying to retain their own top level guys, or other free agents on the market due to the high cost of Asomugha. Third, is whether or not Asomugha himself would be willing to play for less than his own market value, or inflated market value from desperate teams. Should all three parts work into the process positively, then we expect the Jets to have the best chance of any team in football to acquire him. Should one of the three go against what it would it would take to make this happen, we see Asomugha on another team.

NFL Free Agent Primer

A quick look around the league at a few intriguing unrestricted free agents at each position, if the 4th year players will be UFAs as expected in the new labor deal —

Quarterback

  • Alex Smith – It sounds like the 49ers will bring him back for another year but the former number one pick should attract some interest.
  • Bruce Gradkowski – Good backup, even though they won’t pursue him, I’d feel much better if he was the Jets number two quarterback than Mark Brunell.
  • Matt Moore – There are rumors the Dolphins could sign him to compete with Chad Henne…yikes.

Running Back

  • Ahmad Bradshaw – It will be interesting to see how much money the Giants will be willing to throw at him. He is an explosive player but has a tough time staying healthy.
  • Ricky Williams/Ronnie Brown – What will the Dolphins backfield look like in 2011?
  • Cedric Benson – Hard to see the Bengals letting him go anywhere, especially since they will likely be starting a rookie quarterback.
  • DeAngelo Williams – A proven big play back who should command a hefty contract on the open market.

Wide Receiver

  • Santonio Holmes/Braylon Edwards/Brad Smith – Mike Tannenbaum just shakes his head.
  • James Jones – Very talented player who could really thrive with a bigger role.
  • Lance Moore – Productive slot receiver with a knack for making big plays.
  • Steve Smith (NYG) – Hard to see the Giants letting him go anywhere.
  • Plaxico Burress – I would guess the Eagles, Rams, or Jets.
  • Randy Moss – Somebody will give him a shot.
  • Sidney Rice – The Vikings will probably give him the money necessary to keep him.
  • Terrell Owens – Still TO…but coming off a very productive season.
  • Steve Breaston – Under the radar a little bit on this FA market but has potential to be a very good number two receiver somewhere.

Tight End

  • Kevin Boss – He had injury issues last year but has been consistently good since becoming a starter.
  • Bo Scaife – Should be able to catch on somewhere outside of Tennessee where he will get more opportunities.
  • Daniel Graham – Good blocking option.

Offensive Line

  • Doug Free – Hard to see Dallas letting him walk after a better than expected year.
  • Jared Gaither – Should be one of the most sought after offensive lineman on the market, as he isn’t expected to re-sign with Baltimore.
  • Jermon Bushrod – He has stated he wants to return to New Orleans but it remains to be seen if the Saints will pay to keep him.

Defensive Line

  • Cullen Jenkins – Brother of Kris…most people don’t expect him back in Green Bay next year.
  • Mathias Kiwanuka – Good pass rushers are always hard to find.
  • Ray Edwards – He isn’t expected back in Minnesota and could provide a solid pass rush to many teams. Cleveland is reportedly very interested in him.

Linebacker

  • Paul Posluszny – He has struggled with injuries but has the potential to be a key part of a young and improving Bills defense.
  • Matt Roth – Don’t be surprised to see the Jets make a run at him.
  • Stephen Tulloch – Had a good year in Tennessee and should be heavily pursued by multiple teams including Detroit and Buffalo.

Secondary

  • Nnamdi Asomugha – He will command a monster contract. Expect the Texans, Redskins, and Eagles all to be in the mix.
  • Antonio Cromartie – Considering how much Rex Ryan loves corners and their defensive system, there is a pretty good chance he will be back despite the high cost.
  • Jonathan Joseph – A quality starter who should get decent money in this market.
  • Carlos Rogers – He could be a good fallback option for the teams who can’t sign Asomugha or Cromartie.

Specials

  • David Akers – The long time Eagle could be testing the market.
  • Ryan Longwell – Another veteran who should find a home somewhere, if not immediately than when training camp starts.