The Jets held their annual predraft news conference in between two minicamp practices today. And before they actually spoke about the prospects, general manager Mike Tannenbaum cleared the air about a couple of notable veteran camp absences.
"Thomas Jones, as you all are aware, is not here, but I just want to emphasis that we're at the part of the year that is voluntary," he said. "And with Erik Ainge, he is also not here for personal reasons. We didn't expect either player to be here and we are moving forward with the guys that are here. I think we have had three good practices so far."
The 30-year-old Jones, who rushed for 1,312 yards and a career-high 13 TDs last season, is said to be unhappy with his contract and has not attended any of the voluntary off-season workouts, either. Ainge, the second-year man from Tennessee, is unfortunately not getting any reps this weekend as Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff begin their quarterback competition.
The Jets are owners of the No. 17 overall selection in the draft and currently have six scheduled picks next weekend. (You can include Lito Sheppard as part of the draft class because the Jets sent their fifth-round pick to the Eagles as part of the package for the former Eagles corner.)
And after signing LB Bart Scott, S Jim Leonhard, CB Donald Strickland, DE Marques Douglas and DT Howard Green in free agency, many people believe New York's AFC representative will go heavy on offense next Saturday and Sunday.
"We are going to try to let the board, as much as possible, dictate what we do," Tannenbaum said. "You just never know how it's going to go. Certainly our numbers, as [offensive coordinator] Brian Schottenheimer says when he walks by my office twice a day every day, are a little skewed right now from a strictly numbers standpoint, but we really want to take the best player possible."
The poker game is under way. Publicly, the Green & White continue to state their confidence in their quarterbacks. But Tannenbaum is always exploring ways to improve his team and there has been much speculation focused on if the Jets would be willing to (a) move up in the opening round to get in a position to take Southern Cal QB Mark Sanchez or (b) stay put and draft Kansas State QB Josh Freeman.
Joey Clinkscales, the Jets' vice president of college scouting, wasn't about to reveal how many quarterbacks the team has awarded a first-round grade to.
"There are several quarterbacks that have a lot of ability and talent, I will say that," Clinkscales said. "There has been a lot of publicly about the top three of four quarterbacks and I think all of those guys will make great professionals, but I couldn't tell you how many we had with a first-round grade."
With the departure of Laveranues Coles, the Jets could look to fill that void in-house with David Clowney or Chansi Stuckey. But this is considered a solid draft for wide receivers and as many as seven WRs could be selected within the top 35 picks. The Arizona Cardinals also said this week that they will entertain trade offers for Anquan Boldin, who has had at least 1,000 yards receiving in four of his first six pro seasons.
"Anquan is a player under contact with another team, so I can't talk about him," Tannenbaum said.
The Jets also have to add another tight end at some point. Dustin Keller, whom the Jets moved up to get late in last year's first round, had 48 receptions his rookie season. It would be interesting if he was paired up with Oklahoma State product Brandon Pettigrew.
"I think he's a fantastic talent," Clinkscales said of Pettigrew. "He's big, he's athletic, he can catch the ball, and he can block."
While it's virtually impossible to predict what the Jets will do next weekend, you should expect some wheeling and dealing. This is not a team that is comfortable standing pat.
"We've actually traded away 15 picks in three years and we've acquired 15 picks," Tannenbaum said. "And we also do like trading up at the bottom of the first round like we did with Dustin [Keller], so we are an equal opportunity trader."