New York Jets Shouldn’t Forget Value Of Bryan Thomas

Mike Tannenbaum is going to have to do some creative maneuvering with contracts in the coming week to improve the New York Jets through free agency. There has been a good amount of talk about releasing Bryan Thomas as a necessary move to free up cap space. However, too many people are writing off his value to the defense and not looking at the important question of who will fill his void.

Thomas has started every single game at outside linebacker for the Jets since Rex Ryan has taken over. In 2009, he finished with 53 tackles and 2 sacks. Last season, he followed up with 39 tackles and a team leading 6 sacks. He isn’t a flashy player but he fits well in the system and is constantly praised for doing those “little things” that don’t show up on the stat sheet.

Rex Ryan’s defense needs players who are going to take on less enviable tasks in sacrifice of their own personal stats, look at Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and any player rotating through at defensive end. Thomas is comfortable in that role and has the trust of the coaching staff. If the Jets let him walk, who are they are going to replace him with? The only in house option is Jamaal Westerman, who has shown potential at times but spent most of last season inactive and finished with a total of 7 tackles.

Outside of their own roster, why would they spend money on a free agent like Manny Lawson, Antwan Barnes, Matt Roth, or even bringing Jason Taylor back before using that money to work something out with Thomas, who should be open to moving money around on his contract considering the big deal he received from the team before the 2007 season and that he has spent his whole career in New York.

The Jets are thin enough at linebacker, there is no need to make the position weaker by parting ways with a quality starter.

Fast and Furious Free Agency On The Way

The latest reports on the NFL Lockout involve a tentative resolution being agreed upon on July 21st. In that scenario or really any scenario at this point, a frantic period of free agency will begin, which should truly separate the league’s best and worst front offices.

I would think most New York Jets fans should feel comfortable with Mike Tannenbaum pulling the strings, considering the success of the team since he has taken over as GM. Expect many teams to overpay for big name veterans in the opening days of free agency and for the more patient front offices to be rewarded with a few under the radar signings at very good market value.

There is a rumor floating around that the Washington Redskins have a strong interest in Braylon Edwards, which is about the worst news any Jets fan who wants Edwards back could hear. The Redskins are notorious for paying out lavish contracts to veterans and will likely drive Edwards price out of what Tannenabum is willing to pay, especially with Santonio Holmes likely a higher priority.

You would think Edwards would rather compete for a Super Bowl in New York than field one hoppers from John Beck on a mediocre Washington team but money talks and how much of a hometown discount would he really take?

Pro Football Focus recently compiled this list of the top 51 free agents (I strongly disagree with the ordering of these players but it does provide a good reference of who is available) and this list of bargain free agents. A few thoughts on how some of these available players could fit with the Jets —

  • I don’t see them making a big offer on an elite free agent that isn’t one of their own. The top priorities should be keeping Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, and Edwards and to a lesser extent Shaun Ellis, Brodney Pool, and Damien Woody.
  • A few middle of the road free agents I could them considering are linebackers Matt Roth or Manny Lawson, both could be options to improve depth and the pass rush, especially if Jason Taylor doesn’t come back.
  • If Antonio Cromartie leaves, I could see them adding a veteran corner…if Jonathan Joseph ends up being too pricey, Chris Carr or Richard Marshall could be solid alternatives.

Also don’t forget the Jets still need to work out a long term deal with David Harris, to finish off taking care of their “Core Four.” It is hard to see this getting done before the season starts with how much madness will be going on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets weren’t afraid to visit the issue after week one considering the circumstances.

Should The Jets Bring Jason Taylor Back?

Jason Taylor has made it clear that he is interested in playing another year with the New York Jets. The question is now, should the Jets consider re-signing him to a low-cost one year deal to improve their depth at linebacker?

Overall, Taylor was pretty good for the team last season. As primarily a rotational player, he finished with 36 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He made a handful of incredibly clutch plays that had a large hand in helping the team pull out a few victories, most notably a strip sack of Tom Brady in week 2, a safety against Pittsburgh in week 15, and a big overtime sack against Cleveland in week 10.

On the cheap, the Jets could do much worse than bringing Taylor back as their fifth linebacker. He is a better option than a free agent like Matt Roth and is more proven than a younger player like Jamaal Westerman.

If they decide against bringing him back, it will indicate the coaching staff and front office thinks he is done, as evidenced by a weak showing in the playoffs or that they are confident in a young player like Westerman stepping up. There isn’t really a better pass rushing option on the free agent market, considering the Jets will only be looking for a rotational player.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing him back on a one year deal and the Jets address outside linebacker in next year’s draft or in free agency before the 2012 season. The depth at linebacker right now is a cause for concern and Taylor is comfortable in the system and is a proven veteran performer.

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.

New York Jets Recent Cuts Open Up New Opportunities

There have been varying emotions on the New York Jets recent round of cuts. A mix of joy and disgust as the Vernon Gholston disaster finally came to an end, sadness at seeing respected veterans like Kris Jenkins and Damien Woody go, amusement at Jason Taylor now only wanting to continue his career with the Jets, a team he once despised as much as we despised him, and indifference over Ben Hartsock (sorry #84). Regardless, all of these moves are going to open up new opportunities for other players on the roster and will affect strategy in April’s draft.

Woody – The Jets are expected to have veteran Wayne Hunter and second year lineman Vladimir Ducasse battle for his old spot. For Ducasse, this a make or break battle. The Jets are going to have to admit they may have missed in last year’s second round if Ducasse begins his NFL career by losing consecutive battles to Matt Slauson and Hunter. Towards the end of last season, Hunter showed he could be adequate as a starter but  I am sure the coaching staff is hopeful Ducasse will seize the position and be the long term answer at right tackle.

Jenkins – There is still a good chance Jenkins will come back at a reduced price. Regardless, this just means embracing Sione Pouha as the quality starter he has shown himself to be. It also means the Jets will have to look defensive line early in the draft, as we expected them to anyway.

Gholston – He didn’t play enough to shake up anything on the roster. The coaching staff does seem high on Marcus Dixon at defensive end and Ropati Pitoitua is returning from injury. Expect both players to get a shot at becoming large parts of the defensive line rotation in 2011.

Taylor – He has expressed an interest in returning to the Jets at a reduced price. I have a hard time seeing that happening as the Jets will likely look to get younger at linebacker and defensive end (where Taylor frequently lined up) in the draft. Jamaal Westerman might be a guy who gets more of a shot now that Taylor is gone. Westerman showed some potential in 2009 but wasn’t given much of a chance last season…until he roughed the punter against Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game.

Hartsock – The Jets decided to keep Jeff Cumberland on the roster all of the last season, despite only making him active once in week 17. He showed potential as a pass catcher in the pre-season and clearly the Jets think he can become a bigger part of the offense, which he may need to if Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith don’t return. In terms of blocking, Matthew Mulligan should be able to step into that role as he received occasional reps in run heavy sets last season.

Check Out Hartsock’s Lone Touchdown as a New York Jet at 1:05…and his incredibly lame celebration

New York Jets Release Damien Woody, Kris Jenkins, Jason Taylor, Vernon Gholston

It is being reported the Jets have released right tackle Damien Woody, nose tackle Kris Jenkins, outside linebacker Jason Taylor, and defensive lineman Vernon Gholston. Quick thoughts….

Damien Woody – The biggest loss out of these four. Woody gave the Jets three quality years at right tackle and was a leader on the offense. He struggled with injuries towards the end of last season and the Jets managed to get by with backup Wayne Hunter filling in. Hunter (who is a free agent) will likely be re-signed and compete with second year lineman Vladimir Ducasse for Woody’s old job. Ducasse was recently moved to right tackle after losing out on the chance to start at guard in his rookie year. Similar to when the Jets released Alan Faneca last year, they will be taking a risk that a younger player on the roster can become an adequate replacement. They guessed right last year, let’s hope they do it again.

Kris Jenkins – Jenkins was a beast for the Jets in 2008 but suffered a season ending injury early in the 2009 season, and then after extensive rehab had another season ending injury in the first quarter of the 2010 season. He has claimed he wants to continue his career and is in the middle of another rehab. The Jets simply owed him too much money to bring back under his current contract. I would guess there is a good chance he is brought back if he agrees to a cheaper deal down the road. If not, Sione Pouha has been very good filling in for him the past two years, however the Jets still need to address their defensive line in this year’s draft.

Jason Taylor – The Jets took a shot with Taylor when it became clear the Miami Dolphins weren’t interested in bringing him back before the 2010 season. He was decent as a rotational player in their defense last year, finishing with 36 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. This team still needs to find a long term answer for their pass rush at the outside linebacker position.

Vernon Gholston – The bust of busts. A guy who wowed at the combine and was drafted with the #6 overall pick to sack the quarterback, yet never registered a single sack in three seasons with the team. Goodbye Vernon.

Moving up the depth chart —

  • RT Wayne Hunter (when he is re-signed)
  • RT Vladimir Ducasse
  • OLB Jamaal Westerman
  • DL Marcus Dixon
  • DL Ropati Pitoitua
  • DL Jarron Gilbert

This also increases the Jets need to draft two to three players for their defensive front seven.

Don’t Forget How Dominant Jenkins Could Be

12 Pack of Jets Off-Season Thoughts – Edition #5

Over the hump – Are you surprised that in the slowest part of the NFL calendar year, Rex Ryan has managed to make two Super Bowl guarantees for the Jets in the past two weeks? I know I’m not. Rex is going to be Rex. The big talk, the confidence, the swagger…all of that isn’t going to stop anytime soon. He was a half away from the Super Bowl in 2009 and a series away from it last season. What is it going to take for the Jets to get over the hump?

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to win the division and get a home playoff game as a start. The Jets are going to need Mark Sanchez to keep improving, the defense to get younger and faster, and certain players on offense like Dustin Keller and Shonn Greene to take their game to the next level. I am scared of this team turning into the Philadelphia Eagles of the AFC. I can’t stomach any more Championship Game losses.

CSI – I have mixed feelings about Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum appearing on CSI: New York. It is nice they performed so well on Hard Knocks that they have made the step to standard cable. However, it was a bad omen when Eric Mangini appeared on a certain popular television show.

Mr. T – Considering this off-season is going to be unlike anything the NFL has seen in awhile, I am glad Mike Tannenbaum is steering the ship on the Jets personnel and salary cap decisions. The guy has always shown an ability to be creative and work around difficult situations. I don’t know when this CBA madness is going to be settled but I know the Jets will be prepared for whatever arises in the coming months.

#81 – An issue that is frequently being ignored when people talk about either Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes leaving or the importance of keeping them both, is how Dustin Keller is more than capable of picking up the production of whomever leaves the team. Don’t forget in the four games last season when Holmes was suspended, Keller had 19 receptions, 254 yards, and 5 touchdowns. This is a major reason I have argued for bringing Antonio Cromartie back before bringing both receivers back.

Rumors – There has been some chatter about both Vernon Gholston and Jason Taylor being released before March 4th. I don’t think any of us expect either back next year, so the sooner the better I suppose. The Jets still need to find a long term replacement for Bryan Thomas and a guy who can provide some type of consistent pass rush.

Better Every Day – As you have been able to see AJ has kicked off our NFL Draft coverage with an in-depth look at a couple of potential prospects for the Jets in the first round. If there are any specific prospects you would like to see covered, don’t hesitate to e-mail me at JCaporoso@gmail.com and we’ll see what we can do. Also another shout out is needed to Randy Yaws for designing our new banner, which is a major improvement over our old one (sorry, Fanball). Finally, I hope you are enjoying the occasional linkage to my work at SB Nation and Gunaxin, which steps outside the world of the Jets and NFL from time to time.

Winning Them Over – A player who wasn’t very popular with fans prior to the 2010 season but who they now seem to be desperately clinging to, is wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Despite his early season DUI, Edwards won the fan base over with his tough and consistent play throughout the entire year. His numbers don’t jump off the page but if you watched every Jets snap this year, you know how well he played. I hope Mike Tannenbaum can work magic and get him back on the team alongside Santonio Holmes.

Defensive Questions – Regardless of what their end of the year numbers were, it felt like the Jets defense took a step back in 2010. We saw what they were capable of against the Colts and Patriots in the playoffs but they need to play at that level more consistently. It is going to be up to Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine to continue to break their own tendencies and mix up the Jets defensive approach more frequently. Beyond that, Mike Tannenbaum needs to find a couple of players who can contribute immediately to the defense and players like Kyle Wilson need to grow up fast.

Easy Dealings – David Harris signed his franchise tender without any resistance as expected. He never complained about his contract last year and never made an issue of it during the season or in the past few weeks. I hope the Jets do the right thing and eventually give him the long term deal he deserves.

BT – Even though the Jets do need a long term replacement for him and more of a pass rush. Bryan Thomas did put together a pretty good overall year in 2010. He led the team in sacks with 6 and fits well in the scheme. He isn’t a flashy guy but don’t underestimate his value.

Holding My Breath – What is the over/under on number of days until the next scandal involving a Jets player or coach occurs?

Weekend Video Clips – Glad this isn’t our quarterback edition

Time For Jets New Acquisitions To Shine

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The Jets didn’t hesitate this past off-season to add players who would improve their roster. There has been generally mixed results from the team’s new additions but the Jets need all of them to have big games Saturday night —

Santonio Holmes – 52 receptions, 746 yards, 6 TDs

The addition who made the most positive impact. Holmes made the game winning play in three games this season and has been everything the Jets traded for him to be. However, “Tone Time” as he likes to call it needs to carry over into Saturday night. Let’s be honest here, the Colts can’t double team Holmes because of the presence of Braylon Edwards and Dustin Keller, and if he is consistently left one on one, he should shred up the Indy secondary.

Jason Taylor – 36 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 TFLs, 2 FFs, 2 FRs

It was a somewhat disappointing season from Taylor, despite him having his moments like a game clinching sack against New England and a key safety against Pittsburgh. Regardless, the Jets need to put some type of pressure on Peyton Manning and Taylor remains arguably their best pure pass rusher. The Jets can’t afford to have him no show Saturday night. A big time effort against Indy makes his signing entirely worth it.

Antonio Cromartie – 42 tackles, 3 INTs, 17 passes defensed

Cromartie had a pretty good overall year for the Jets defense and did admirable work while Darrelle Revis banged up, covering the opposing team’s number one receiver. There hasn’t been a ton of big plays but Cromartie has a positive history against Manning and is a major upgrade over what the Jets had opposite Revis last year. A strong game from Cromartie is going to severely limit what the Colts can do on offense.

Brodney Pool – 53 tackles, 1 sack, 11 passes defensed, 1 INT, 1 TFL

Personally I was very disappointed with Pool for a large chunk of the year, yet he has played better as of late. Kerry Rhodes was torched all over the field against the Colts last year and the Jets need Pool to play a disciplined game alongside Eric Smith at safety.

LaDainian Tomlinson – 914 rushing yards, 368 receiving yards, 6 TDs

Tomlinson exceeded most of our expectations this year with nearly 1300 total offensive yards and 6 touchdowns. He remains valuable in the passing game and should be a good change of pace from Shonn Greene, who is better fit for the bulk of carries this week. All I know is that LT better not being standing on that sideline with his jacket and helmet on, like we always remember him doing in San Diego.

A Formula For Jets Playoff Success

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Excuse me for not being more excited about previewing the Jets/Bills backup bowl this Sunday, but my mind is already on Wild Card Weekend, where the Jets will either be traveling to Kansas City or Indianapolis. Despite the two teams being very different, the Jets road to the Super Bowl is going to need the following formula regardless of who they play.

1) The Good Mark Sanchez – We have seen the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde act from Sanchez at times over the past two years. The encouraging thing is that he played very well in last year’s playoffs and has looked great the previous two weeks. This is a quarterback driven league and the Jets are no different than any other team in that, they need their guy playing at a high level if they want make any noise in January. Sanchez has more weapons at his disposal in this year’s playoffs than he did last year, so hopefully he can create big plays and points to support his struggling defense.

2) Shonn Greene – The benefit of still using LaDainian Tomlinson too much down the stretch is that Shonn Greene is especially fresh for the playoffs. He is the type of back built for January, with his hard charging north/south running. Tomlinson is fine as a change of pace back and a 3rd down receiving option but the Jets would be foolish to not have Greene in the 18-20 carry range when the playoffs start.

3) Defensive Answers – The Jets are lacking the personnel to have a great defense but let’s be honest they aren’t completely devoid of talent and they are supposed to have one of the top defensive minds in the league coaching them. Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine are going to have to get creative to manufacture a pass rush and to avoid leaving players like Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery on an island too frequently. Beyond that, players like Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor simply have to play better.

4) Special Teams Boost – Another way to cover for the Jets defensive shortcomings is to win the special teams battle. Kick returner Brad Smith and punter Steve Weatherford have both had Pro-Bowl quality years and the Jets need them both to keep it up. Nick Folk needs to stay reliable, as he has been the previous few weeks and it wouldn’t hurt if they could rip off a big punt return at some point.

5) Santonio – I love what Braylon Edwards has done for the Jets this year, as he has surprisingly been their most reliable and consistent receiver. Yet, Santonio Holmes is the only game-changing player on the Jets offense. He is the guy who can take a 3 yard slant route and turn it into a 70 yard touchdown or come up with a 7 catch, 165 yard game where an opposing defense just can’t stop him. The Jets need ‘Tone Time to last all the way through January if they want a shot of playing in February.

TOJ Thursday Jets Reminders

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A few reminders on this Thursday for the Jets as they prepare for a trip to the Windy City…

Brian Schottenheimer…Remember that whole, “keep the defense off balance, instead of calling plays that always follow the same tendency thing” you did last week in Pittsburgh? Let’s keep that going this week. It isn’t time to have Mark Sanchez throw 44 passes and turn to the Wildcat on 4th and 2, again. Keep Chicago guessing with the well timed play action and a balanced offensive attack.

Steve Weatherford…Kick the ball away from Devin Hester. One more time, kick the ball away from Devin Hester. Let’s make sure New York’s other team is the only one with a punter stupid enough to lose a game for his team in December.

Mark Sanchez…Protect the football and keep playing with the confidence you showed last week. Remember you have won more playoff games in one season than Jay Cutler has played in during his five year career.

Jason Taylor…I loved the safety last week, which was an absolute big-time clutch play. However, we brought you here to sack the quarterback. How about improving that season total (4) to a respectable number heading into week 17?

Darrelle Revis…Remember Jay Cutler was stubborn enough to keep throwing at DeAngelo Hall, despite being intercepted four times by him and Hall can’t hold your jockstrap on the field. Get those hands ready this week.

Braylon Edwards…Nobody says you can’t have back to back 100 yard games. Keep making those tough catches over the middle.