AFC East: Brodney Pool

Early look at Jets free agency

February, 8, 2012
The New York Jets have a lot of questions entering free agency. They have a lengthy list of names about to hit the market, spelled out clearly by Brian McIntyre of the well-respected Mac's Football blog.

Here's the list:

Analysis: There are not many "must-haves" on this list. The Jets already are strapped for salary-cap space and had locker-room issues. I expect plenty of turnover in free agency. Big names like Tomlinson and Burress are not expected to return on offense, and injuries suffered by Leonhard (knee) and Thomas (Achilles tendon) will hurt their chances to come back on the defense. If I had to pick two players from this unrestricted group who could return, it would be Folk and Pouha. But both would have to be at the right price. In terms of restricted players, I think Maybin is a guy the Jets will keep. They found a niche for him in New York and gave him a chance to jumpstart his career. Maybin also was one of the team's best pass-rushers last season.

Free-agency watch: One question

January, 12, 2012
Plenty of focus this week has been on the New England Patriots, who are the only division team remaining in the playoffs. However, let's briefly put the spotlight on the other three teams already planning for the offseason ahead.

Here is one free-agency question we have for each team.

1. Will the Miami Dolphins go after Matt Flynn?

Analysis: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was clear in saying the team needs a long-term franchise quarterback to make it to the next level. Matt Moore is a great backup and part-time starter. But he is not capable of leading Miami to a Super Bowl. Unfortunately for Miami, the team is in a tough spot trying to find a starting quarterback. The Dolphins will pick No. 8 or No. 9 in the NFL draft, depending on a coin flip with the Carolina Panthers. Miami’s pick will be too low to land Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck or Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in April’s draft. It’s possible the Dolphins could look to move up into the top three picks. But there are no guarantees. Moving up would be costly and other quarterback-needy teams could be interested in doing the same. Something the Dolphins could control is pursuing pending Green Bay Packers free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn. He has been Aaron Rodgers' backup for four years and is looking to get his own opportunity next season. Flynn looked great in limited playing time. He threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in Green Bay’s Week 17 victory over the Detroit Lions. That performance will make Flynn a lot of money if he hits the open market. The Dolphins should be one of the first suitors in line.

2. Do the New York Jets need two safeties?

Analysis: It’s easy to focus on the quarterback position. But any chance of the Jets trading for or signing Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is mere speculation unless he becomes available. But what is clear is New York needs a lot of help at the safety position. Starter Jim Leonhard and top backup Brodney Pool are both free agents, and Eric Smith struggled last season. The Jets may need to sign and/or draft two starting-caliber safeties next season. Opponents eventually figured out you can attack New York’s defense by avoiding the corners and throwing over the middle. Tight ends, in particular, had huge days against the Jets’ defense. Teams will continue to attack the Jets over the middle next season unless they drastically upgrade at safety.

3. Will the Buffalo Bills really chase big names?

Analysis: I like what I’m hearing from Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix. According to Nix, Buffalo can -- and will -- spend to the salary cap this offseason. That should be music to Bills fans’ ears. Buffalo has been notorious for not doing much in free agency. Nix and head coach Chan Gailey both know 2012 is a big year for the current regime. The Bills are showing slight improvement (4-12 in 2010, 6-10 in 2011) but need to make a bigger jump next season. Spending to the cap would help. The Bills have big holes at several key positions and there are a lot of players available. A pass-rusher is perhaps the Bills’ biggest need. One player I’d like to see on Buffalo’s radar would be Houston Texans defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams. The former No. 1 overall pick will be an unrestricted free agent coming off a season-ending pectoral injury. Houston’s defense finished second in total defense and looked fine without Williams. If the Texans aren’t willing to pay a huge extension or give Williams the franchise tag, he could provide the pass rush the Bills need.

Jets with, without S Jim Leonhard

December, 14, 2011
The New York Jets are in an eerily similar spot this year without starting free safety Jim Leonhard.

The quarterback of New York’s secondary will miss the final stretch of games for the second consecutive season following a knee injury Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. Leonhard was put on injured reserve.

In 2010, Leonhard broke his shin in practice before Week 13 and things didn't go well for New York's defense. The Jets were just 2-3 without Leonhard and, according to ESPN's Stats and Information, allowed 5.4 more points per game.

The difference this year is the Jets (8-5) did not get off to a fast start. The Jets are fighting for their playoffs lives and cannot afford to lose three games down the stretch like they did last season. New York controls its own playoff destiny but has to win out to guarantee the sixth seed in the AFC.

Beackup safety Brodney Pool has the important assignment of filling in for Leonhard the rest of the year. Pool is the team’s most athletic safety. But the team loses versatility and deep knowledge of the defense without Leonhard.
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: Miami should certainly start at the top. But if we’re talking Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden, I don’t think it will work. Miami is unwilling to give up complete control and that’s what it will take to land the very best.
Morning take: Fitzpatrick is streaky and hasn’t been at his best in the second half of the season. Fitzpatrick still has a lot to prove that he will not be the next Kevin Kolb.
Morning take: Losing Jim Leonhard for the season is big for New York, but Pool can help soften the blow. Pool is the team’s most athletic safety.
Morning take: New England has been playing down to its competition lately. Whether it’s not finishing or keeping games too close, the Patriots have a few more weeks to work through it before the playoffs.

Report: Jim Leonhard out for season

December, 11, 2011
The New York Jets' locker room didn't seem optimistic about Jim Leonhard's knee injury after Sunday's 37-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. And according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, it was for good reason.

Mehta reports that Leonhard will be out for the season with a knee injury. Leonhard's leg was twisted after making a second-quarter interception that led to a New York touchdown.

This is an important loss for the Jets. Leonhard played for several years in head coach Rex Ryan's system with the Jets and Baltimore Ravens. In many ways, Leonhard was the quarterback on the back end and New York's best safety.

Brodney Pool will fill in for Leonhard and combine with safety Eric Smith.
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday morning in the AFC East:
  • The New England Patriots won't face Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, who is out indefinitely with a hand injury.
Morning take: New England's easy schedule gets even easier with the struggling Chiefs missing their starting quarterback. Enter Tyler Palko at Gillette Stadium on "Monday Night Football." Oh boy.
Morning take: Those are big words from Dansby. I disagree that he’s the NFL’s No. 1 linebacker but I think it’s good that he feels that way. More importantly, Dansby needs to continue to play that way and help Miami win games.
Morning take: This is a big blow to the Bills, who already have injuries on the offensive line. Wood was the quarterback in the trenches who worked well with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Morning take: Pool definitely could have helped New York’s pass defense last weekend against New England. He’s the team’s most athletic safety.

Patriots-Jets inactives: Chung out

November, 13, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Here are the players you won't see in Sunday night's game between the New England Patriots (5-3) and New York Jets (5-3):


Pats-Jets II: Will 'Plax' play?

November, 10, 2011
There is increasing concern with the New York Jets on the playing status of receiver Plaxico Burress.

New York's starting receiver is still struggling with a back injury and didn't practice for the second consecutive day. Burress has one last chance to get a full practice in Friday before New York's huge game against the New England Patriots (5-3).

Burress was bothered by a bad back all last week but gutted it out for the Jets (5-3) in their win over the Buffalo Bills. Burress led New York in receiving with five catches for 79 yards. The Jets' passing attack would be hampered if Burress cannot play, particularly in the red zone where Burress is at his best.

Jets backup running back Joe McKnight (toe) and safety Brodney Pool (knee) also didn't practice for the second straight day. For the Patriots, safety Patrick Chung (foot) and linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee) missed Wednesday and Thursday's practice, leaving their playing status uncertain.

Rapid Reaction: Jets 17, Giants 3

August, 29, 2011
WHAT IT MEANS: So the New York Jets captured the Snoopy trophy as the winner of the first annual MetLife Bowl against the New York Giants. Yawn. Based on the way his team played, Rex Ryan should punt the trophy. Forget about the final score, 17-3; the Jets’ starters were badly outplayed in the first half, out gained 209 to 61. The offense was a disaster and the Jets made dumb penalties. Basically, they played like they didn’t give a hoot about the preseason.

WOE IS O: Mark Sanchez & Co. was brutal. Can you say “regression”? In seven possessions, the Jets’ starting offense punted five times, lost a fumble (Sanchez) and, somehow, saved face with a touchdown -- a 17-yard pass to Santonio Holmes. They probably wouldn’t have scored the touchdown if it weren’t for Antonio Cromartie, who set up the offense at the Giants’ 35 with a 70-yard kickoff return.

Sanchez (8-for-16, 64 yards) was off his game from the outset, appearing indecisive as he made his reads. But this mess wasn’t all his fault. The pass protection was shoddy and his receivers, namely Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason, couldn’t gain separation against the Giants’ cornerbacks. That could be something to watch, as Burress and Mason -- 34 and 37, respectively -- aren’t the fastest guys around.

The starters won’t play in Thursday night’s finale against the Eagles, which means the No. 1 offense scored only three touchdowns in 5 1/2 quarters for the preseason. Blech!

DUMB & DUMBER: The Jets were undisciplined, committing five major penalties. The biggest blunder came from rookie defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who was ejected in the third quarter after taking a swing at running back Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs swung back, so he, too, was tossed. Wilkerson, whom the Jets are counting on to be a starter, deserves an earful from Ryan. That is unacceptable behavior.

But Wilkerson wasn’t the only guilty Jet. Right taclke Wayne Hunter (unsportsmanlike conduct), safety Brodney Pool (chop block on a punt), safety Emanuel Cook (facemask) and cornerback Donald Strickland (unnecessary roughness) all committed 15-yard penalties. Shame on them.

All told, the Jets had seven penalties for 79 yards, including a holding call on wide receiver Courtney Smith that nullified a touchdown run by backup quarterback Greg McElroy.

THE PLAX EFFECT: Burress doesn’t need to touch the ball to have an impact on the game. You saw that on Holmes’ touchdown reception. Burress lined up in the right slot, with Holmes on the outside, against the Giants’ three-by-two coverage. Safety Kenny Phillips rolled toward Burress, leaving Holmes in man-to-man against cornerback Corey Webster. Phillips tried to get back, but it was too late. Holmes ran a post route and got open in the back of the end zone.

Aside from that contribution, Burress’ anticipated matchup against his old team turned out to be a big zero -- as in zero catches. Burress, coming off his sensational debut against the Bengals, was targeted four times. In fact, Sanchez completed only four passes to his wideouts.

OPPORTUNISTIC D: For a team with a very good defense, the Jets made an alarmingly low number of interceptions last season (12). So far, they seem to be reversing the trend. Safety Jim Leonhard and linebacker David Harris intercepted two of Manning's passes, giving the Jets six picks in three games (two by Leonhard). Leonhard’s interception was set up by Harris, who came on an inside blitz and slammed Manning.

BEND BUT DON’T BREAK: Aside from the interceptions, the Jets’ No. 1 defense did some nice things in one half of play, holding the Giants to 2-for-8 on third down and 0-for-1 in the red zone. But -- and this is a big "but" -- they were pushed around between the 20s. The Jets allowed 209 total yards in the first half, uncharacteristic for a Rex Ryan-coached defense. Their conventional pass rush was nowhere to be found and there were a couple of missed tackles in the open field, including a big one by linebacker Bart Scott.

THE NEW BRAD: The Jets finally unveiled their 2011 version of the Wildcat, with rookie wide receiver Jeremy Kerley -- no surprise -- taking the direct snap and playing the role of Brad Smith. The Jets ran it four times, resulting in 39 yards. Kerley ran twice for 13 yards, handed off to Joe McKnight for eight and threw a pass -- yes, a pass! -- to Matt Mulligan for 18. That will give the Cowboys a little extra to think about as they prepare for the season opener.
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each AFC East team:

Buffalo Bills

1. Add new blood: For the most part, most of the Bills’ free-agents-to-be would not be big losses. Buffalo should have plenty of money to spend once free agency does finally open. Obviously, this has been a losing franchise for some time now, and transforming the roster and changing the culture of the organization should be a very good thing. The Bills did take a fine step in the right direction in the 2011 draft, taking several prospects from big-college programs with winning histories.

2. Keep Paul Posluszny: Although inside linebackers generally are not difficult to find, Posluszny is the type of guy Buffalo needs to keep within the organization. He is productive, tough and able to lead the defense on every down. Last season wasn’t his best, but Posluszny was fantastic in 2009, and I fully expect him to get back to that form, especially playing behind what should be a vastly improved young interior defensive line.

3. Eliminate needs: I list the Bills’ three greatest needs as left tackle, outside linebacker and tight end. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if Buffalo could knock out one or two of these needs in free agency, it would go a very long way in its rebuilding process. Jared Gaither or Doug Free could potentially fill Buffalo’s left tackle position for years to come, while Matt Light could hold down the fort and provide leadership until Chris Hairston or a future draft pick is ready. An outside linebacker such as Manny Lawson, Matt Roth or Mathias Kiwanuka could also be money very well spent to pose an edge presence opposite Arthur Moats, whom I featured in my Soon to be Stars series. Zach Miller is really the only free-agent tight end who would qualify.

Top free agents: Posluszny, Donte Whitner, Drayton Florence

Miami Dolphins

1. Add running back help: Miami used the 62nd overall pick in 2011 to select Daniel Thomas, a big, bruising runner with a lot of ability. But of course, Thomas is going to be a rookie this season, and fully counting on him to carry the load and learn the pass protections would be foolish. Miami needs a backup plan. Bringing back Ronnie Brown, or more likely, Ricky Williams, wouldn’t be a terrible situation. But just adding Brown or Williams wouldn’t be enough. Snatching up Ahmad Bradshaw or DeAngelo Williams would obviously be a huge addition and would push Thomas to backup status. Even bringing in a reliable back like Joseph Addai or Jason Snelling might do the trick as Thomas develops. Another option is to add a specialty player like Darren Sproles.

2. Find competition for Chad Henne: Personally, I am not ready to write off Henne. I believe in the approach that Miami has taken this offseason. The Dolphins have surrounded him with pieces to make his life much easier. But still, adding a veteran signal-caller seems like a must at this point. Suitable options include Marc Bulger, Donovan McNabb or even Vince Young, who is soon to be released by Tennessee. If quarterback remains a problem after this year, then Miami needs to sell the farm to draft its next franchise quarterback. But in the meantime, this would be my approach.

3. Make a splash on D: To me, the Dolphins’ three biggest needs are quarterback, running back and then free safety. Even if Miami didn’t add a defender of any sort in free agency, I would rank its 2011 defense among the best in the NFL. I am that high on this group. But what if the Dolphins could land a real talent at free safety? Imagine the possibilities. This is a deep free-agent class of safeties. I would love to see the Dolphins sign someone like Michael Huff or especially Eric Weddle. Even adding a solid player with upside like Brodney Pool would be helpful here.

Top free agents: Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Tony McDaniel, Richie Incognito, Tyler Thigpen

New England Patriots

1. Lock up Logan Mankins: Because the Patriots designated Mankins their franchise player, I didn’t include him among their top free agents. But New England does have to get him locked up. Mankins might just be the best guard in all of football. With Matt Light potentially leaving town, the Patriots cannot afford additional unrest along their offensive line. Mankins would be the ideal player to line up next to Nate Solder to help the rookie’s transition to the NFL.

2. Find a pass-rusher: I see outside linebacker as New England’s greatest need, followed distantly by wide receiver and defensive end. Although I expect Jermaine Cunningham to develop quickly into a solid starter, adding one more edge player who can be disruptive on throwing downs is something that still needs to be addressed after the team curiously ignored it in the draft. The name I like best for the Patriots here is Mathias Kiwanuka, if his health checks out. He is smart, versatile and has some experience at linebacker. Two other players who fit the bill are Matt Roth and Manny Lawson.

3. Acquire a deep threat: I am not as sold as most that New England must add a wide receiver who can stretch the field. But this is a tremendous organization, and the Pats just don’t have many needs, so picking up such a luxury player could be the difference between a Super Bowl championship or another early exit in the postseason. My favorite fit for the Patriots is Braylon Edwards. Edwards is immensely talented, and if submersed in this environment with Tom Brady throwing him the ball, he could quickly rank among the top wideouts in all of football.

Top free agents: Matt Light, Gerard Warren

New York Jets

1. Make critical decisions on their own players: The Jets have a lot of free agents, and they are one of the teams in the league with the least amount of money to spend as it stands today. New York has come very close to its goal the past couple of seasons, but this free-agency period is absolutely critical to staying among the best teams in the NFL.

2. Address wide receiver: Considering who is up for free agency, wide receiver has to be the biggest worry for the Jets right now. I greatly respect Braylon Edwards’ abilities, but Santonio Holmes is just the better player right now. In fact, I see Holmes as a top-10 wide receiver. He is incredible in the clutch. Mark Sanchez needs quality options to throw to at this point of his young career. If the Jets brought back Holmes, increased TE Dustin Keller's role and also found a bargain at wide receiver late in free agency (maybe Randy Moss or Chad Ochocinco), then I think they would be OK.

3. Don’t forget about the trenches: The Jets are a physical team that is strong on both lines of scrimmage. Two of their starting offensive line spots are uncertain at this point. And although they drafted Muhammad Wilkerson and Kendrick Ellis, rookie defensive linemen rarely make a major impact -- especially in a 3-4. Shaun Ellis is probably going to be playing elsewhere, and New York doesn’t have a high-end outside linebacker. So there are concerns up front. The Jets will have to sign some cheaper veteran options -- probably to one-year contracts -- to shore things up.

Top free agents: Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Shaun Ellis, Antonio Cromartie, Brodney Pool, Brad Smith

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.

Jets back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Jets' coaching staff and much of the roster will remain intact, which reduces the learning curve. But the Jets won't have training-camp bonding time at SUNY Cortland, an enhancement Rex Ryan and his players prized the past two seasons. They already pulled the plug on their upstate training camp and will convene at team headquarters in Florham Park, N.J.

Biggest challenge: All their free agents. The Jets have some biggies, most notably at wide receiver. They must keep young quarterback Mark Sanchez's support staff stocked with weapons, and receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith are about to hit the market. So are cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safeties Brodney Pool, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo.

What a rush: The Jets quietly tied for eighth in the NFL in sacks last season but didn't have a fearsome presence in an overall defense designed to create mayhem. Of the 40 sacks they recorded last season, more than a quarter of them belonged to defensive backs and almost half were rung up by players who aren't under contract. The Jets released outside linebacker Jason Taylor (5 sacks). Defensive end Shaun Ellis (4.5 sacks) also has an expired contract.

Key players without contracts for 2011: In addition to the above, fullback Tony Richardson, cornerback Drew Coleman, top special-teams tackler Lance Laury, kicker Nick Folk, punter Steve Weatherford.

Prepare for a chaotic week

July, 24, 2011
Random thoughts and observations as we head into the homestretch of the lockout:

If free agency starts next Saturday, the latest tentative starting date, it'll make for a bizarro training camp. For the first few days of camp, teams will have swiss-cheese depth charts as their free agents shop the open market.

Imagine what it'll be like for the Jets: They will have Jerricho Cotchery (if medically cleared) and Patrick Turner as their starting wide receivers, with Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith potentially shopping for deals. At safety, you could see Jim Leonhard (if cleared) and Dwight Lowery, with Brodney Pool, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo testing the market.

On, say, Day 3, they could have a new starting receiver show up, maybe Randy Moss. He'll sign his contract, receive a playbook and be sent out to the field to meet his new teammates. It's going to be chaos. It'll be a distraction for players and coaches, all of them wondering who's coming and who's going. It'll be taxing for the coaches, who will have to spend extra time teaching the system to new players. It'll be minicamp, OTAs and training camp all in one, with a revolving door of players. Fasten your seatbelt.
  • I'm all for player safety, but the elimination of two-a-days and the reduction of padded practices in the regular season (only 14) is a bit ridiculous. Come on, it's football, not lawn tennis. I agree with Bart Scott; it'll make player soft. The product on the field will suffer, especially the tackling. Old-school coaches believe players lose their edge when they're not practicing in pads.
  • The elimination of the No. 3 quarterback on the game-day roster, one of the proposed changes in the CBA, will increase the value of free agent-to-be Smith. A former college quarterback at Missouri, Smith can be the unofficial/emergency No. 3 while playing all his other roles. He'll save a roster spot or two, and that has value.
  • I don't know Robert Kraft, and I didn't know his late wife, Myra, but after reading all the tributes and seeing the number of players and former players that attended her funeral (including Curtis Martin), it's not hard to see why the Patriots are such a well-run organization.
  • You give Mike Tannenbaum six months to prepare for free agency, and you have to expect a big-splash move that catches people by surprise. He's not the wallflower type. If you're a Jets fan, though, you have to hope he doesn't outhink himself.
  • If I'm the Jets and I can get Nnamdi Asomugha for Darrelle Revis money (about $11.5 million per year), with a creative, backloaded deal, I'd do it. I'd rather spend a few million more for Asomugha instead of overpaying Antonio Cromartie. How often does a player of Asomugha's caliber hit the open market? I say go for it.
  • Question for owners: Was it really worth it?

Leonhard's health great news for Jets

June, 22, 2011
Here's some news that will make New York Jets fans -- and anybody who roots for overachievers -- smile.

Jets safety Jim Leonhard, one of the NFL's great stories of perseverance, has recovered from the horrible leg injury that ended his season at Thanksgiving. Leonhard missed the Jets' final five regular-season games and the entire playoffs with a broken right shin bone.

He told Newark Star-Ledger reporter Jenny Vrentas he recently was cleared for full football workouts after three months of grueling rehabilitation.

"This week was a definitely a huge breakthrough," Leonhard told Vrentas. "I felt I could push as hard as I wanted to and not have setbacks. ... I'm getting excited. I want to play football and prove I'm back; prove I’ve done the work to get back."

Proving people wrong is how Leonhard made his career. He walked on at Wisconsin, wasn't drafted, latched on with the Buffalo Bills and eventually became a favorite of Rex Ryan with the Baltimore Ravens before joining the Jets.

Leonhard's health is pivotal for the Jets' secondary. As a veteran of Ryan's defenses, Leonhard made all the defensive backfield calls on the field. His return also is critical because three other Jets safeties -- Brodney Pool, Eric Smith, James Ihedigbo -- are free agents.

Inside view on getting Jets over hump

June, 15, 2011
Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes, Brodney PoolGetty ImagesAccording to one Jets insider, the team should bring back Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes and Brodney Pool.
While yakking with a key starter from last year's New York Jets squad this week, I asked a question I posed on the AFC East blog last month and have addressed regularly in my weekly chat.

What team is the class of the division? The New England Patriots, coming off 14 victories and another title? Or the Jets, who knocked the Patriots out of the playoffs and reached their second straight AFC Championship Game?

"Until we dethrone them," he said, "the Patriots are the class of the AFC East. That's the bottom line. There's no other way to slice it. You've got to knock them off the pedestal. That's goal No. 1, winning the division. That's the easiest way to get to the ultimate goal of the Super Bowl."

That comment alone wasn't enough for the player to request anonymity, but the next part of our conversation made him feel it was necessary for the sake of diplomacy and because he wants to keep his job next season.

I wanted to know more. To extract his veteran insight on the state of the Jets, I asked what his game plan would be if I could appoint him general manager for the next couple months.

How would he get the Jets over the hump from runners-up to AFC East champs and into the Super Bowl? He must have pondered that very question over the past few months because, without much thought, he rattled off six key steps to propelling the Jets upward.

Here they are, in order of what he felt was most important, along with his reasoning:

1. Re-sign receiver Santonio Holmes.

"You have to do that," our embedded analyst said. The Jets have three prominent free-agent receivers, but Holmes must be the priority over Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith. Holmes missed four games while serving a suspension but made 52 catches for 746 yards and six touchdowns. He was a clutch performer and added a couple more touchdowns in the playoffs.

"If I had to choose between Santonio, Braylon or Brad Smith -- I don't think you can re-sign them all -- I'll take Santonio because of his body of work," the Jets insider said. "He's more established."

Smith averaged 28.6 yards on kickoff returns and scored two touchdowns, and was the club's third-leading rusher with 299 yards and a TD as a gadget quarterback. The Jets led the NFL in average start position after a kickoff (at the 31.5-yard line). But the insider said revamped kickoff rules would neutralize Smith's impact in 2011.

The possibility of signing Plaxico Burress is intriguing and could help the Jets cope with any inability to re-sign Edwards or Smith. As for whether Burress would be a problem for head coach Rex Ryan, the insider laughed.

"With everything we have in our organization, he'd be just one of the guys," he said. "He wouldn't stand out like a sore thumb.

"Guys just love playing for Rex. With Rex's personality and the way he runs the show, Plaxico would just fit right in. Rex doesn't have problems with guys who have so-called character issues or big personalities. Rex is a big personality himself. A guy like Plaxico would do well with the Jets."

[+] EnlargeDavid Harris
Alan Maglaque/US PresswireDavid Harris is slated to become a free agent after the 2011 season.
2. Get inside linebacker David Harris signed to a long-term contract.

Harris led the Jets with 119 tackles. He recorded three sacks, 14 quarterback hits, a forced fumble and a recovery.

He signed his franchise tender and is under contract for next season, but he'll be a free agent again next offseason unless the Jets broker another deal before then.

"I've got to lock up David Harris," the insider said. "He's one of the more underrated defenders in the league. I've got to get him signed long-term."

3. Re-sign cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

Another significant free agent, Cromartie helped limit opposing quarterbacks to a 50.7 completion percentage -- lowest in the league by far -- and a 77.1 passer rating. He notched 42 tackles, three interceptions and a team-high 18 passes defensed.

Besides, the Jets invested too much in him to let him stroll for nothing this summer.

"If I gave up a second-round pick for the guy, I don't want to see him walk out the door," the insider said. "That would be a high draft pick I'd wasted.

"Plus, with no offseason to monitor the young players, I don't know what I have with Kyle Wilson. The team hasn't had a chance to coach him up. He didn't do the things the team expected last year. So I need to get Antonio Cromartie back to make sure I shore up the secondary."

4. Find a pass-rusher or two.

One of the Jets' biggest perceived weaknesses heading into the offseason was their inability to generate a more formidable pass rush last season.

"This team has a defensive scheme that can be dangerous with a pass rush," the insider said. "We had a great group, but that'll make my defense even stronger."

Outside linebacker Jason Taylor's status is in question. The Jets cut him, but it's not unfathomable he could return. Last year's regular starters, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, are under contract. Thomas recorded a team-high six sacks last season, while Pace had 5.5 sacks. Taylor added five more. Those aren't fearsome numbers.

Football Outsiders charted the Jets for 117.5 hurries (seventh in the NFL), but just 38 quarterback hits (tied for 23rd).

[+] EnlargeDamien Woody
Richard A. Brightly/Icon SMIDurability concerns could steer the Jets away from bringing back Damien Woody.
5. Sign a free-agent right tackle.

The Jets released Damien Woody after the season, but published reports before the lockout indicated the club was interested in bringing him back.

Woody can't provide many guarantees in what would be his 13th NFL season. Although he has been to the Pro Bowl, is one of few players on last year's roster who owns a Super Bowl ring and started 13 games last season, there are injury concerns. He battled knee problems before an Achilles' injury landed him on injured reserve in the playoffs.

There don't appear to be any solutions on the roster. Last year's second-round draft choice, Vladimir Ducasse, was a tackle at Boston College but was unable to win a job at guard. Woody's reliable backup, Wayne Hunter, is a free agent.

6. Identify a safety to solidify the secondary, looking first at Brodney Pool.

The Jets' best safety, Jim Leonhard, is coming off a broken shin that had him limited to a scooter during rehab. Pool, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo all are free agents.

Pool started 12 games. He ranked fourth in tackles with 63. He registered a sack, an interception, nine passes defenses, a forced fumble and a recovery. Smith started six games and was fifth with 57 tackles. He also made an impact on special teams (19 tackles), as did Ihedigbo (27 tackles).

"I would try to get Brodney Pool or Eric Smith back," the Jets insider said. "Both played well down the stretch, but I think Brodney Pool was a guy who, as it got later in the season, really picked up the scheme and became a playmaker at the safety position."

I found the insider's opinions to be insightful. Nowhere among the list of issues to address were quarterback Mark Sanchez, left guard or kicker Nick Folk. The obviously aren't major concerns with this veteran player.

Once the lockout concludes, we'll see how much the anonymous player's wish list jibes with Mike Tannenbaum's.

Rex knows Jets are NFL's hot destination

March, 23, 2011
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.