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The Jets didn't have enough bullets in 2012, so they are biting down hard for a better tomorrow. The NFL's hard cap may send tailgaters to the hard stuff, if for anesthetizing purposes only.
They'll live. Nobody has to tell anyone who has been waiting for another championship since 1969 that the franchise has survived longer down periods than this one, without home games going untelevised. The Jets fans who care the most, who have watched six playoff teams since the millennium and had their hearts broken three times in AFC title games since 1998, want a team than can win it all. They will buy into a viable plan.
Naturally, seeing a developing top-level quarterback becomes believing in any regime. And in this case his arrival probably is a year away. But after going 6-10 in 2012 and winning just nine of their last 24 games over two seasons with an almost unwatchable offense, nobody can argue that Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller were difference makers.
The one arguably impact player lost during the first week of free agency, LaRon Landry, will be 29 in October and 33 when his deal with Indianapolis runs out. Landry is the only player that to this point the Jets have elected not to keep to ever have been selected for a Pro Bowl, and he went just once.
Mike DeVito was a solid player and an even better guy, but is replaceable and the same goes for Yeremiah Bell and Sione Po'uha, who missed three games and was limited in some others, which make him a risky re-sign.
Obviously, the loss of both starting safeties and a No. 1 reserve, Eric Smith, creates the most immediate pressure for John Idzik and the personnel guys to step up with players who can get the Jets through 2013, if not beyond. But the true test of whether this can be a two-year rather than a five-year rebuild already has largely been predetermined by the last few drafts.
It's not really Antonio Garay, a journeyman reported to be signed to a one-year deal, who is replacing Po'uha and DeVito, but Kenrick Ellis, a third-round pick in 2011. Bart Scott and Calvin Pace were cut in part because Demario Davis, a third-round pick in '12, is ready for a bigger role, as had better be Quinton Coples, last year's No. 1.
It is too early to consider Stephen Hill — a raw second-round project who played only 11 games in 2012 because of injuries — a bust, only a work in progress, and Jeremy Kerley is entering his third season.
These are the players who will either join Mo Wilkerson to make this retooling begin to pay off by 2015 or ultimately doom the Jets to another spending spree that the history of the cap area suggests rarely works.
In the meanwhile, the Jets have signed Mike Goodson, a third-down back who might have some upside, to a reportedly cap-friendly three-year deal. They are bringing in quarterback David Garrard, who played in the NFL so long ago that it's hard to remember he played well. Garrard, 35, has been more injured than Fireman Ed's feelings. So has guard Willie Colon, who will either turn out to be a bargain or cap room for 2014, a win-win kind of short-term signing.
With Greene, the Jets never pounded to Rex Ryan's expectations and now they are going to a West Coach offense regardless, making a committee of Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight and Goodson, all of whom can catch the ball, as the way to go.
It would help to get another competent receiver to help get Santonio Holmes, who returns with a renegotiated, more cap-friendly contract. But whether or not Darrelle Revis is here, the Jets have a No. 1 corner in Antonio Cromartie and an emerging Pro Bowl defensive lineman in Wilkerson, and they retain David Harris and one of the best defensive schemers in football, Rex Ryan. Pending the addition of safeties — they would seem to be an increasing draft priority — this can still be a respectable defense.
The reliable Nick Folk is back, removing that major anxiety. Now the concern is getting the ball close enough to the goalposts for Folk to make a difference. But the Jets' stance is that it's very early in a long process and that free agency will be ongoing into training camp. And the Jets have created plenty of cap room for one-year signings of players who will be hungry to extend their careers. Sometimes low expectations are the healthiest kind.