The free agency floodgates have opened and the rumors and reports of which players will sign with which teams have been pouring in, but one name void of any such headlines is Darrin Walls.
Set to enter his fourth year in the league, Walls would have become a restricted free agent last Tuesday, but general manager John Idzik and the Jets signed the cornerback two weeks ago before he could hit the semi-open market.
"I didn't want to go anywhere else," Walls told newyorkjets.com. "I was anxious to say the least because I wasn't sure if a deal would get done, and I wanted to be a Jet."
The camaraderie among teammates and the familiarity with Rex Ryan's coaching staff were the two factors that most influenced Walls' decision to remain with the Green & White.
"I just felt comfortable," he explained. "I've established relationships with a lot of guys on this team, and I didn't particularly want to have to start all over again. Plus, I think it's always good to play for coaches that you like and coaches that like you, so I was very happy when we finally reached a deal."
In 2013, Walls played in all 16 games and started three (Weeks 4-6) when a hamstring injury sidelined Dee Milliner. While many would consider that feat alone to be impressive for a player who was passed over by all 32 teams in all seven rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft, Walls has no plans to settle in contently as simply a spot starter.
"You don't necessarily want to prove people wrong, but you just want to go out there and … I guess prove people wrong," he said with a laugh after a pause. "My whole goal as a rookie was to come in and eventually be a starter in the NFL, and I think with the Jets bringing me back, they're going to give me an opportunity to do that."
To obtain that goal, Walls has been working with his trainer this offseason on his explosiveness to be able to compete for the football at its highest point.
Additionally, he'll be taking the advice of his now former teammate, CB Antonio Cromartie, to take more risks and be more aggressive in coverage. Playing up to Cro's expectations of physicality has been a mental hurdle that the 6'0", 190-pounder knows he must overcome.
"The crazy thing is I think I've always been hearing that piece of advice for years now," Walls said. "Coming out of Notre Dame, that was probably the biggest thing that a lot of people wanted to see me do is be more physical, be more aggressive. My trainer's been pushing me hard mentally to be able to be that physical player."
Walls, 25, will be in the prime of his career with an opportunity to compete for a significant role. Perhaps most important to him, though, he'll be competing as a member of the Green & White.
"I think there's a lot of excitement that we share," he said. "We know that we have a lot of players who can play, and I think we've seen as a team what we can do with the players that we have. We see this team on an up-rise and I think everybody in that locker room is excited to get started."