Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Rex knows Jets are NFL's hot destination
By Tim Graham
NEW ORLEANS -- Florham Park, N.J., is the NFL's version of Ellis Island.
At the base of Rex Ryan's statue of liberty -- the one where he's proudly holding up a goddamn snack -- the motto reads: "Give me your inspired, your core contributors, your huddled players, yearning to be free agents."
The New York Jets head coach will take them all.
"I'd like to have every player in the league want to play for the Jets," Ryan said Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting in New Orleans. "We're on the right path because I think a lot of players do want to play for the Jets. And the great thing is the players we have want to play for the Jets. That's important to me."
In November, a Sports Illustrated poll of 279 anonymous NFL players asked "For which other coach would you like to play?" A whopping 21 percent chose Ryan. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was a distant second at 12 percent. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was third at 9 percent. Former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher was at 8 percent and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick at 7 percent.
Speaking even more to Ryan's personal allure as a fun and charismatic boss, he was the only coach among the top seven not to have been to the Super Bowl -- yet.
"I'm letting every player in the league know that if you want to win a Super Bowl," Ryan said, "you should probably come to the Jets."
The Jets reaching back-to-back AFC Championship Games and being featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" last summer are the dominant forces to boosting the Jets' profile as a hot destination.
"I wanted to show our facilities off, show how we take care of our players and what kind of organization we have with our owner, Woody Johnson, and our GM, Mike Tannenbaum," Ryan said of the entertaining shows. "I think that helped us. I also think you're in the best market in the world, and oh by the way, we have a heck of a football team and have a good time playing, too."
Even a couple players from the cross-town rival New York Giants -- safeties Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips -- wished out loud that coach Tom Coughlin could be more like Rex.
"It's good to hear players want to come play for us," Ryan said. "There's no denying that."
There's a big problem. The NFL's immigration department is prohibiting arrivals until a new collective bargaining agreement can be struck. Free agency and player trades aren't allowed.
The Jets can't re-sign their own free agents, either. Receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith and cornerback Antonio Cromartie are the most notable they must address once a new CBA is in place.
That leaves Ryan and his roster in limbo and places a serious crimp in his plans for a second straight offseason. The Jets faced restrictions last year under the "final eight plan," a wrinkle of the uncapped season.
Clubs that reached the divisional playoff round weren't allowed to sign unrestricted free agents unless they dropped one of the same salary value. The Jets parted ways with reliable kicker Jay Feely to make room for outside linebacker Jason Taylor.
The Jets were able to get involved with players such as running back LaDainian Tomlinson and safety Brodney Pool, who technically weren't unrestricted free agents because they were released from their previous teams.
"They can want to play for you, but you couldn't do anything about it anyway," Ryan said.
Ryan will keep his torch burning.