EA: Jets Match, Retain 'Big Play Abe' Elam

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"Big Play Abe" isn't going anywhere.

The Jets today matched an offer sheet that restricted free agent Abram Elam signed with the Cleveland Browns last week, ensuring Elam will remain with the Green & White in 2009.

The 6'0", 207-pound safety, who started a career-high nine games last season, recorded 56 tackles (43 solo), two sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles. He also was a valuable special teams performer, tying for sixth on the team with 11 tackles.

After appearing in 15 games with the Dallas Cowboys during the 2006 season, Elam signed with the Jets on Sept. 12, 2007. In his first two seasons with New York's AFC representative, he appeared in 27 games and made eight starts at safety. His cumulative numbers over that time included 65 defensive tackles plus 22 special teams stops.

But Elam's career breakthrough took place last season. He scored his first professional touchdown in the 26-17 win at Buffalo, returning a Trent Edwards pass 92 yards for a touchdown. His strip-sack against the Rams produced Calvin Pace's scoop-and-score.

Elam tallied 10 tackles and a forced fumble in a trouncing of the previously 10-0 Tennessee Titans. And his blitz off the blind side and strip sack of J.P. Losman enabled Shaun Ellis to return a fumble for the go-ahead TD with 1:54 to play in the 31-27 home win over the Bills.

It was no surprise that the Browns were interested in Elam. Cleveland head coach Eric Mangini served as the Jets' head coach from 2006-08 and had the opportunity to watch him develop as a player.

The signing of Elam, who also has been a quality addition in the Jets community relations program under Jesse Linder, means the Jets have more options and more depth at safety. Kerry Rhodes and the recently acquired Jim Leonhard could start and Eric Smith also returns. But head coach and defensive mastermind Rex Ryan will find packages for the hard-hitting Elam, who has excelled inside the box.

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