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Here Comes That Free Agency Feeling Again


Last year at this time, I was penning a piece we titled "Frantic Friday Looming for Jets, NFL." After the Jets lost 12 of their 16 games in 2007, there was every indication they would be a major player in the league's trade/free agency market.

And the Jets did make a leap on Feb. 29, 2008, acquiring NT Kris Jenkins from the Carolina Panthers in a trade and shipping ILB Jonathan Vilma to the New Orleans Saints. A couple of days later, the Green & White added a trio of quality free agents in LG Alan Faneca, RT Damien Woody and OLB Calvin Pace. Veteran FB Tony Richardson inked a deal on March 6 and TE Bubba Franks came aboard on St. Patrick's Day.

Jenkins became the defensive anchor the Jets desperately needed and he returned to Pro Bowl form and experienced a career rebirth. Big Jenks was voted All-Pro second-team along with Faneca, the former Steeler who has now made 112 consecutive starts.

Woody, Pace and Richardson all turned in solid seasons as well. While Franks and Richardson are both bound for free agency on Feb. 27, the Newark-Star-Ledger's Dave Hutchinson has reported the Jets and T-Rich are closing in on a deal.

If you take a look at the Jets' depth chart at the close of last season, three offensive starters — Richardson (contract to expire), TE Chris Baker (released) and QB Brett Favre (retired) — aren't locked in with the club. And two defensive starters — ILB Eric Barton and CB Ty Law — both will have their deals expire.

So what should we expect when this year's trading/free agency period commences on Friday? There are various reports out there about the Jets' salary cap situation, but here's the truth, folks: Nobody knows it other than Woody Johnson, Mike Tannenbaum and a couple of other select few here at the Atlantic Health Training Center.

With that being said, there are some similarities in the words spoken by Mr. T before last year's dealing period and this year's market season.

In 2008, I wrote that the Jets were in good financial position and used a Tannenbaum quote for support.

"We're comfortably under the cap, so if and when opportunities present themselves, we'll look into those opportunities," he said.

And then just last week, Newsday's Erik Boland got Tannenbaum on the phone and talked about the Jets' cap heading into this very important period.

"I would say we're comfortable with our cap situation," he said. "We're just about done with our plan. I understand why there could be discrepancies with our salary cap. When you try to track where teams are, there's ways you can create room and they're not as transparent as you might think. We have a certain way we like to do things that we feel allows us flexibility on a year-to-year basis."

Most local media types believe the Jets will make a strong play for either Ray Lewis or Bart Scott. Logical conclusion since Jets head man Rex Ryan and Green & White defensive coordinator Mike Pettine coached both talented men in Baltimore and there is currently nobody slotted next to David Harris on the inside in the 3-4. Barton's contract is set to expire at midnight Friday and reserve 'backer David Bowens was released.

"That opportunity by itself seems attractive. It sounds right," said Lewis during an interview with NFL Network when asked about playing in the New York area. "It's like, wow, if something does happen where I'm not back in Baltimore, hmm, the Jets wouldn't be bad."

Agent Harold Lewis, who represents both the aforementioned Scott and Ravens C Jason Brown, thinks one of his clients won't hit the free agent market and will remain in B-More. (Of course, Lewis could do the same or even make a trip down to Big D and get that star on his helmet.)

"My gut feeling is one of the two is going to hit free agency and the other one will probably sign," said the agent of Scott and Brown. "That's just my gut."

Former Ravens S Jim Leonhard, a 26-year-old Wisconsin product who just finished his fourth professional season, was a big fan of Ryan's in Baltimore and could follow him to New York.

"I would love to play for Rex again," Leonhard said in January. "I have a lot of respect for him. If that opportunity comes up, that would be great."

The Jets are not dissatisfied with their stable of quarterbacks, but that doesn't mean they couldn't entertain the thought of adding another signalcaller. It seems likely that the Cardinals and Kurt Warner will come to an agreement, but Kerry Collins might be free come Friday and he knows a thing or two about pitching in the Meadowlands. Byron Leftwich, Jeff Garcia, Rex Grossman and J.P. Losman are among the other notables.

It will also be interesting to see if the Jets land someone to man the corner spot across from Darrelle Revis. Dwight Lowery will return for a second season after starting 10 games as a rookie, but the Jets are always looking to increase the competition and will play more man-to-man than ever.

This year's free agency crop shrank when the Giants' Corey Webster, the Panthers' Jordan Gross and the Raiders' Nnamdi Asomugha all re-signed with their respective clubs and an NFL-record 14 players were also designated with franchise tags. The prize of this year's class might be Albert Haynesworth if the Titans can't lock up the massive DT to a gaudy long-term.

Friday looms once again. It's always exciting and anything but predictable.

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