AFC East: Corey Ivy

Jets fortify defensive backfield some more

March, 25, 2009
3/25/09
1:27
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

DANA POINT, Calif. -- The New York Jets have added yet another cornerback, signing Donald Strickland to a three-year deal, ESPN.com's John Clayton has reported.

 Strickland

Strickland started two games last year for the San Francisco 49ers, making 39 tackles. He returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Jets have renovated a secondary that finished 29th in pass defense. They welcome back Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, respected safety Kerry Rhodes and Dwight Lowery, who started the first 10 games at cornerback as a rookie.

But the Jets knew they had to overhaul the rest of their defensive backfield. They've traded for Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard and signed free-agent safety Jim Leonhard from the Baltimore Ravens.

They also have met with former Ravens cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Corey Ivy.

Jets continue to revamp secondary with Leonhard

March, 3, 2009
3/03/09
1:31
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan has cherry-picked another Baltimore Ravens defender.

 Leonhard

Strong safety Jim Leonhard has signed a three-year deal with the Jets, reuniting with his old defensive coordinator Ryan and inside linebacker Bart Scott. The Jets also have hosted former Ravens cornerback Corey Ivy.

Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and secondary coach Dennis Thurman are former Ravens assistants.

Leonhard is the second defensive back the Jets have acquired in the past few days. They traded for cornerback Lito Sheppard, who will play opposite Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis. Leonhard will be on patrol with Kerry Rhodes, making for a respectable foursome.

Leonhard, listed at 5-foot-8, is a prototypical overachiever. He was a walk-on at Wisconsin, went undrafted and was waived before he made the Buffalo Bills as a special-teamer. The Bills declined to re-sign Leonhard when his contract was up last year.

He latched on with the Ravens and, after Dawan Landry suffered a season-ending neck injury in Week 2, became the starter at strong safety.

Leonhard finished fourth on the Ravens in tackles -- behind Ray Lewis, Scott and Terrell Suggs -- with 85, according to stats from the Ravens' coaching staff. He also had one sack and one interception

"Jim Leonhard is special," Ryan said over the weekend when asked about his interest in Leonhard. "No. 1, he looks like the guy delivering papers. He really is a smart player. He has a lot of poise. He's very sure of himself.

"For some reason he gets saddled because he's short, but this guy's an outstanding athlete. He won two slam-dunk contests at the University of Wisconsin. He's an outstanding punt returner. I've always said he could catch a punt in a hurricane.

"He's a smart, tough, passionate guy. You try to build your team with those kinds of players."

Scott wants several Ravens to migrate

March, 2, 2009
3/02/09
7:38
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

One of Bart Scott's responsibilities, he figures, is recruiting as many Baltimore Ravens as he can to join him with the New York Jets.

Sounds like Scott will do so gladly.

The former Ravens linebacker conducted a Monday afternoon conference call with Jets reporters and shared his thoughts for the first time about being the cornerstone of new head coach Rex Ryan's defense.

Ryan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator, helping them establish and then maintain an elite 3-4 unit for several years.

"Trust me, when Rex left, a lot of guys wanted to come with him," Scott said. "He has that type of personality. We played last year to get Rex a head coaching job. That is what one of the goals was over on the defensive side: 'Let's play so good that they have no choice but to recognize our defense, but then recognize the man that's pulling the trigger.' "

Ryan identified Scott as a player he wanted to bring with him to the Jets. Safety Jim Leonhard and cornerback Corey Ivy also are on Ryan's wish list.

"I am actively trying to get those guys," Scott said. "Hopefully, we can get those guys here and we can really improve the depth, communication and transition for this football team to an attacking style 3-4."

Best Match: AFC East

March, 2, 2009
3/02/09
3:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills

 Coles

The Bills already had plenty of needs entering free agency and gave themselves another, cutting left guard Derrick Dockery. The Bills hosted several players but inked just two: Center Geoff Hangartner and backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Among the players they entertained at One Bills Drive were receivers Laveranues Coles and Kelley Washington, so you can see what they're after. Both of those free agents still are in play, as are almost all of their other unsigned interviewees: Guard Kendall Simmons, linebacker Jamie Winborn and cornerback Drayton Florence. Running back Fred Taylor was the only one so far who dropped by but signed elsewhere.

That's quite a variety of positions, every broad category except tight end, defensive line and kicker. So who might the Bills want from the remaining free-agent pool? Drop a name, and if the Bills can work out a bargain contract, then the answer probably is yes.

Miami Dolphins

 Bodden

The Dolphins were busy in the days leading up to free agency. They re-signed right tackle Vernon Carey, linebacker Channing Crowder and strong safety Yeremiah Bell, and welcomed free safety Gibril Wilson. In January they grabbed Canadian Football League phenom Cameron Wake. Not bad.

Once free agency began at 12:01 a.m. Friday, the Dolphins mostly sat back and watched. They entertained one visitor and signed him, reserve interior lineman Joe Berger. It looks like they're intent on spackling with draft picks.

But the Dolphins found another hole to fill Sunday. Their starting right cornerback, Andre' Goodman, jumped to the Denver Broncos. If they wanted to find Goodman's replacement through free agency, the top candidates are Leigh Bodden, Shawn Springs, Chris McAlister, Bryant McFadden and Jabari Greer.

  Springs

New England Patriots

The Patriots made some major moves since the free-agency period opened. They added Taylor and tight end Chris Baker, and re-signed safety James Sanders. Oh, and they cleared about $19 million in salary-cap space by trading quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs.

But the lingering need is cornerback, same as it has been since Asante Samuel departed around this time last year. Possibilities include the same as the Dolphins: They already have hosted Bodden and will host Springs.

New York Jets

  Leonhard

Didn't the Jets do enough over the weekend? They landed one of the top free agents on the market, inside linebacker Bart Scott. They traded for cornerback Lito Sheppard. They seem to have the inside track on safety Jim Leonhard and might have cornerback Corey Ivy in their back pocket.

The Jets do have needs, but maybe nothing left to address in free
agency. Quarterback is the obvious concern, but management has insisted the three already on their roster will compete. They also are down a receiver after Coles negotiated his way off the team a year early.

Buffalo out to slow start in free agency

February, 28, 2009
2/28/09
9:17
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills fans aren't too thrilled with their team these days.

They haven't been to the playoffs since 1999. They have gone 7-9 three seasons in a row.

Last year, they went 0-6 against the rest of the AFC East.

Two days into the free-agency period, the gulf between the Bills and the rest of the division seems to have widened.

The Bills haven't sat on their hands. They released left guard Derrick Dockery and tight end Robert Royal. They re-signed a bunch of their backups. They added backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and center Geoff Hangartner.

But what has transpired around the AFC East is making Bills fans anxious. The other three teams have made dramatic moves.

The New England Patriots on Friday signed running back Fred Taylor and tight end Chris Baker. Taylor visited only the Bills and the Patriots, but he said his decision was a no-brainer.

But those two signings shouldn't worry the Bills as much as what happened Saturday. The Patriots came up with $19 million in salary-cap space by trading quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Remember, the Patriots went 11-5 last year. Tom Brady is coming back. Now they have $19 million to spend.

The New York Jets have overhauled their defense in the span of 48 hours, signing linebacker Bart Scott and trading for cornerback Lito Sheppard. They are expected to sign cornerback Corey Ivy and safety Jim Leonhard. Jets head coach Rex Ryan loves Leonhard, who played for him last year with the Baltimore Ravens after the Bills declined to re-sign him.

Since the free-agency period opened at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday, the Dolphins have hosted one free agent -- reserve offensive lineman Joe Berger. They signed him to a three-year contract, a transaction that ranks a smidgeon above the pizzas the Jets front office ordered Saturday.

But the defending AFC East champs made several big moves in the days leading up to free agency. They re-signed three key starters in right tackle Vernon Carey, inside linebacker Channing Crowder and strong safety Yeremiah Bell, last year's leading tackler. They also added free safety Gibril Wilson.

There's still time for the Bills to do something.

Problem is, the other three AFC East teams probably aren't done yet either.

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