Anyone who thought the Jets were going to take a timeout from their impactful offseason of trades and signings for a quiet, no-trade five-selection draft have to be checking their pulse rates right about now.
Following a wild Saturday in which the Jets traded Leon Washington to Seattle, drafted two more backs for the offense (RB Joe McKnight and FB John Conner) and confirmed the release of perennial Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan met with reporters for a news conference that was less a postdraft wrapup than a Super mission restatement.
"We've kept the nucleus of our team," Ryan said. "We did lose some excellent players, but we've added a lot of tremendous players. Everything we do is for the betterment of our football team. It's easy to stand pat. We've had a lot of great people who've left our building, but we've got a ton of 'em still in it. We are committed to winning a championship here."
The Leon situation was Exhibit A for this approach. A Pro Bowl kickoff returner and team record setter in 2008, Washington broke his leg in Week 7 at Oakland last year and
"Leon's one of the most fascinating people I've ever met — inspiring," Tannenbaum said. "I would never bet against him. But we have to make the hard decisions, and the hard decision was long-term it would've been very hard to keep him, very hard. Now in the backfield we have LaDainian [Tomlinson], Shonn [Greene] and now [Joe] McKnight. Even with the addition of Santonio Holmes, we're going to be a run-first offense — that's not changing. But we felt once we had Joe, we could move on."
The Faneca calculus was similar, both men said.
"It was a tough decision," Ryan said. "Alan's coming off of nine Pro Bowls. It wasn't easy. He's a great teammate and all that. But in this business you've got to move on. That's what we're staying to. We're trying to win a Super Bowl. We're trying to win one this year."
"Alan did a lot of great things," Tannenbaum said. "But as Rex said, we looked at it carefully for us, what's in the best interests of the Jets. Knowing where we wanted to go, that line couldn't stay together forever. Now was the time. One more year, that was not the correct decision in our minds."
Just as the plan unfolded to move forward from Washington with the drafting of McKnight with a Round 4 tradeup with Carolina, the Faneca succession began with the spending of the Jets' own second-round pick the night before on Vladimir Ducasse from Massachusetts, along with the sixth-round pick of Matt Slauson a year ago.
"We feel good about Matt. We feel good about Vladimir stepping in and competing for that job," Ryan said. "We never would've let Alan go if we didn't think one or both of those guys could do the job."
Along with the trades for Holmes and CB Antonio Cromartie, the free agency signings of RB LaDainian Tomlinson, S Brodney Pool and most recently of pass-rusher Jason Taylor, the Jets have transformed several areas of their already strong team that held a lead in the AFC Championship Game at Indianapolis on into the third quarter in January.
One area Ryan was questioned about not seeming to upgrade was defensive line. But the coach said that area also didn't go untouched by change.
"We're getting [Kris] Jenkins back but we don't have Marques Douglas and Howard Green, some guys who played last year," Ryan said. "But we expect Ropati [Pitoitua] to step up and be a contributor. We're also going to put Vernon Gholston in position to back up Shaun Ellis, and I think that's going to give us an opportunity to get more athletic at the position. Our plan all along was let's put Vernon in position where he can be successful, and when we were able to pick up Jason Taylor, that allowed us to make that move."
Many of these moves are being made not only to strengthen the 2010 team but to enable the teams of 2011 and beyond to remain strong by having the wherewithal to sign their top young stars. But fans and players will worry that by being proactive and letting proven veterans such as Faneca, Washington and Thomas Jones depart, the chemistry in the locker room will suffer. But that's not how the Jets' brain trust sees it.
"The new guys we've added, they wanted to be Jets," Ryan said. "They wanted to come here and be a part of something. I think everybody realizes, hey, we're a team going forward, we're a team whose expectations are set extremely high. Any competitor would want to be in that situation. Now, did we take a hit by losing some outstanding football players, outstanding men? Absolutely we did. But we're bringing in some outstanding people as well.
"We're all in here with the same thing in mind, and that's to win a championship."