Rhodes prepares for the tackle
The Jets, perhaps the most active NFL team since the free agency/trading period began, made sure Kerry Rhodes wouldn't be on the market next year. Rhodes, a developing star at safety, officially signed a contract extension with the team on Thursday.
"I think it's great that we got it done early," Rhodes said during a late afternoon conference call with reporters. "It's a big lift off my back knowing where I'll be for the next couple of years and having a little security. Every player wants that and I was able to get it early. Once I actually signed it, it was a relief knowing that I'll be here with the team I like and the guys that I'm familiar with."
The 6'3", 210-pound Rhodes is entering just his fourth professional season. His five interceptions led the club in '07 and he became the first Jet to record a pick in four consecutive games since Otis Smith accomplished the feat in 1995.
"I was pretty confident that something would be done just because of the feedback I got at the end of the year that something would be in the works for me down the line," he said. "They were proactive in trying to get something done, so I always had an idea that it would get done."
When the Jets selected Rhodes in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, the Louisville product was still considered a raw talent. But the tremendously gifted athlete blossomed immediately and has started in each of the 48 regular-season contests (plus one playoff game) he's appeared in. Two seasons ago, Rhodes' five sacks were the most by a DB in franchise history
"I had a chance to come in with a team that gave me a chance to play," he said. "Terry Bradway [Jets general manager from 2001-05 who is now GM Mike Tannenbaum's director of player personnel] and those guys thought I had a chance to come in and be special. I came in and worked it, and this is just evidence that hard work can pay off and that's something I'm going to keep doing."
In three seasons, Rhodes has collected 10 interceptions, eight sacks, 25 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. And he's become more of a physical presence, averaging 89 tackles a season with many of the punishing variety.
Already viewed as a defensive leader, Rhodes expressed a desire today to step up more in the future. While sad to see friend Jonathan Vilma depart, he said JV will be a better fit in the Saints' 4-3 and the Jets will have to compensate for his absence.
"He was the guy in the huddle that everybody looked up to. I called him 'the General,' " Rhodes said. "He's the guy who took control of the huddle, so there's definitely opportunity and room for me to grow in that area and I'll definitely try to do that."
In addition to keeping Rhodes in-house, the Jets also solidified the middle of their defense with the acquisition of NT Kris Jenkins from Carolina and got better on the edge with the free agent signing of OLB Calvin Pace. Rhodes said it's going to be fun to see how the pieces fit together in camp but there's no questioning the abilities of the newest Jets.
"We know they can play or they wouldn't be here," he said. "Just the fact that they've been so open already and have shown leadership skills early on is a pretty good deal for us."
Getting Rhodes locked up is also a pretty good deal. Once given the nickname "Hollywood" for a few acting roles, he has his mind strictly focused on a leading actor role in New York.
"I actually had a couple of [acting] opportunities but I turned them down to just get away from everything and try to keep a clear head coming into this year," he said. "This is a big year for us."