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Juggling contracts Jets biggest concern

5/23/2010

ESPNNewYork.com reporter Rich Cimini raises a fascinating point about the fashionable favorites to win the AFC East.

Cimini writes:

Take a quick look across the New York Jets' depth chart and you will see a Pro Bowl player or a former first-round draft choice in every positional group -- more than one, in some cases. Go closer and you will notice something more unusual than that:

Eleven of the top 28 players are in contract years.

That's an ominous scenario for Jets fans convinced their team, with its mix of star power and youth, is on the verge of a dynasty.

The Jets are revving up for a Super Bowl run, but can they afford to retain them all beyond 2010 under the salary cap?

No way, but some of them -- LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes and Jason Taylor, as examples -- might not be in the team's long-range plans anyway.

Cimini takes a look at how the 11 contract-year players could help propel the Jets to the Super Bowl. Players on the verge of new deals have a history of performing at extremely high levels because they want to get paid.

"Sometimes it's good that guys are in the last year of their deal," Rex Ryan said. "In baseball, you see it all the time because a guy is motivated and has an unbelievable year. I know baseball is a team game, but it's really about the numbers. Here, it's about wins and losses."

Star cornerback Darrelle Revis, center Nick Mangold, linebacker David Harris and defensive end Shaun Ellis all have stated a desire for contract extensions already.

An opposing general manager, speaking anonymously, told Cimini "I would rather have the players hungry than not. Ultimately, you have to perform. If you don't perform within your position group, you won't get playing time and you won't get the desired end result -- the big contract."

A Super Bowl run aside, the GM added that other AFC East teams might have more manageable futures.

"If you managed your cap correctly, you wouldn't have this type of situation, but the Jets feel this is their year," the GM said. "The New England Patriots are down, the Miami Dolphins could go either way. They feel they're the best team in the East. Their window is now. Every move they made was with that in mind."