Looking Backward, Forward at Jets' Offseason


This is the latest in a series of NFL Combine, unrestricted free agency and predraft reports Real Football Services is filing for newyorkjets.com.

For every person we speak to who likes what the Jets have done thus far in free agency, we've found someone who doesn't get it. For every fan who loves LaDainian Tomlinson, there's another who wonders what he has left. And that is really the nature of the whole NFL offseason.

There is some calculated risk in every personnel move that takes place, and the added obstacles of working in an uncapped environment, especially for a "Final Eight" team like the Jets, just make the acquisition of players that much more difficult.

So what about that signing of LT? Right now, despite the fact that the numbers show that Thomas Jones may have been more productive (4.2 yards per carry, 14 TDs, 20.7 carries per game for TJ to 3.3, 12 and 15.9 for LT), the Jets and Tomlinson are counting on the team's offensive line and top-rated running game to rejuvenate the former Pro Bowler's rushing numbers, and even in a down year his receiving numbers (20 catches for 154 yards) dwarf those of Jones.

The Jets may have underestimated Jones' impact in the locker room, but by all accounts LT is a good teammate as well. So cosmetically this is a good move at this point, but once the pads go on, the comparisons will come fast and furious.

The other thing to consider is the state of mind (and body) of Leon Washington. His status is still uncertain for the season, coming off a serious leg injury, so the Jets were right to go out and find another back to protect themselves.

But the LT signing could also serve as motivation for Washington to go out and find himself a deal. Beware of New England in that regard. Not only would Washington's skill set make him an ideal successor to Kevin Faulk, but Bill Belichick, a member of the hierarchy that oversaw the poison pill deal that brought Curtis Martin to New York, would no longer have to defend him. There is pressure on LT to perform already, but it will only increase if he is one of two backs in rotation, instead of one of three.

Another key acquisition for the Jets was the trade for Antonio Cromartie. A player of unquestionable talent, Cromartie is an upgrade over the departed Lito Sheppard. But uneven play in recent seasons and much-publicized off-the-field issues make him a risk.

However, the Jets own a trump card in that equation, and his name is Rex Ryan. The Jets head coach has the people skills to tame Cromartie, and the man schemes that he favors will better play to Cromartie's strengths as a cover corner.

S Brodney Pool, who was brought in to replace the traded Kerry Rhodes, may not have the natural skills of his predecessor, but he may be a better fit in Ryan's system. He's another guy who can benefit from playing in the head coach's defense, if he can stay healthy. The re-signing of TE Ben Hartsock, FB Tony Richardson and S Eric Smith are all smart, solid signings, and LB Lance Laury, acquired from Seattle, could be a natural replacement for Larry Izzo as a top special teams and utility player.

So have the Jets gotten better? Perhaps. The good news is that so far, their division opponents have done little to improve themselves. New England has basically re-signed its own players, Buffalo hasn't done any business of consequence, and apart from the signing of Karlos Dansby, the Dolphins remain largely unchanged.

So the Green & White still have to stand as the favorites in the AFC East. But the offseason is far from over.

The team's options have been limited in unrestricted free agency (as a Final Eight team, they cannot sign a UFA until they lose one), and though we expect the restricted market to begin to open up this week, there don't appear to be many viable players who fit the Jets' needs and/or budget. However, there could be some action on the waiver wire, and they could once again be players in the trade market.

First, keep an eye on the Adalius Thomas situation in New England. He had his greatest success under Ryan, playing in the Jets' current system in Baltimore, and could be, as some say, a product of the system. He has the ability to line up all over the field. He has experience lining up inside, can be a standup rusher off the edge or drop in coverage in 30 fronts, and can put his hand on the ground and rush the passer from that position. He's a four-down player who would not only address a need but would also allow the Jets the luxury of not having to wait for Vernon Gholston to develop.

He's also due to make $5M next season, a number that Belichick and company aren't likely to swallow. Our expectation is that he will be a Jet hours after his release.

The rumors continue to swirl around the potential acquisition of WR Brandon Marshall. Again, Ryan's ability to deal with his players makes this a viable option for the Jets, but we're not sure they would give up a first-round tender for him, which means they would have to talk trade with Denver. Are they willing to part with a second-round pick, especially when they don't have a third-round pick? Would Denver accept a low-second-rounder? Not likely, judging by their failed talks with Seattle.

If the Jets can acquire a player like Thomas to address their DE/OLB need, they might be smarter to pass on Marshall and use their 29th overall pick on a young wide receiver like Dez Bryant. Another player with some character issues, he is falling down draft boards and could fall into the Jets' lap at the bottom of Round 1. They could then address their depth needs along the O-line in Rounds 2 and 4.

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