New York Jets coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan addressed the media for 15 minutes apiece on Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine. What did we learn?
1. They're optimistic about re-signing Ryan Fitzpatrick (still): The Jets have been transparent with their desire to keep Fitzpatrick, always staying positive with comments regarding contract talks. That didn't change Wednesday. Asked about the current state of the negotiations, Maccagnan said, "I feel good about it, but at the end of the day, it's a process." It would be a surprise if he's not signed by the start of the league year, March 9. The Jets will meet with the quarterback's agent in Indianapolis.
2. There's an "open competition" for Antonio Cromartie's old job at cornerback: That's how Bowles described it, naming Buster Skrine, Marcus Williams and Dee Milliner as the leading candidates. Bowles said he'd have no problem using Skrine, a slot corner for most of his career, on the outside if necessary. I can't remember the last time Bowles mentioned Milliner's name in connection with a potential starting job. Come to think of it, I don't think he ever has.
3. Cromartie could return at a lower salary: Bowles said there's "a chance" they could re-sign Cromartie, but don't bet on that happening. He's almost 32 and he didn't play well last season, as Bowles indicated. He said, "We looked at the tape, and after we looked at the tape, he didn't have the greatest year. But he played with a lot of injuries, to his credit." Adios, Cro.
4. Bowles comes clean on Bobby April: Bowles, commenting for the first time on his decision to fire his special-teams coordinator after only one season, certainly didn't give a cliched answer. He said, "I thought there was a disconnect. I thought Bobby did the best he could and Bobby is a good coach. That was a tough decision to make. We have to get better there. We have to get better players as well. ... I just felt there was a disconnect and something had to be done."
Bowles said he discussed it with April, but he declined to elaborate. My read: Bowles was referring to a disconnect between April and the players, perhaps because of a generational gap. April is 62, but he was by no means an "old" 62. He always displayed energy at practice, showing enthusiasm. His replacement is Brant Boyer, 44, a former NFL player. Bowles described him as "very bright, very energetic ... he probably has a lot of fire in him," adding that Boyer can make a connection with the players. So there you go.
5. Jeremy Kerley's future remains up in the air: They were noncommittal on the slot receiver/punt returner, relying on the standard "he's-on-our-team-right-now" response -- usually the kiss of death. He could be a cap casualty. I wouldn't be surprised if they're shopping him at the combine.
6. Bowles wants to get younger: It's funny. The day after the season, I asked Bowles if the team needs to get younger. No, he said, it needs to get faster. It sounded like coach-speak. On Wednesday, he said, "We know we're an older team. We want to get younger at almost every position. We're going to try to do that." Younger ... faster ... it's all the same.