New York Jets: Alan Faneca
One year after being booted by the New York Jets in a controversial move that stunned and angered teammates, guard Alan Faneca has decided to leave the NFL on his own terms.
Faneca, 34, announced his retirement Tuesday, ending a distinguished career that spanned 13 seasons and included nine Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl championship with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He will be a strong candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"Playing in the NFL has been a childhood dream come true," Faneca said in a statement. "Thirteen years later, I have decided that it is time to move on."
Faneca played last season with the Arizona Cardinals after two years with the Jets, who signed him to one of the biggest contracts in franchise history and the richest ever for a guard -- five years, $40 million.
Looking for someone to galvanize an offensive line that included young talents Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson and established veteran guard Brandon Moore, the Jets splurged at the start of the 2008 free-agent signing period, jumping on Faneca as soon as he hit the open market. The enormity of the contract stunned many league observers.
A few days later, the Jets signed right tackle Damien Woody to form what would become one of the elite lines in the league.
Faneca wasn't the dominant player he was in Pittsburgh, but he brought leadership and toughness to the Jets' line, working between Mangold and Ferguson. In critical short-yardage situations, the Jets often ran behind Faneca. He made his eighth and ninth Pro Bowls.
He was looking forward to a third season with the Jets, but he received a shocking phone call from Rex Ryan during the 2010 draft. After selecting Vladimir Ducasse in the second round, the Jets had decided to release Faneca even though they still owed him $5.25 million for 2011.
The final bill for Faneca: A staggering $21.5 million for only two seasons.
In his retirement statement, Faneca thanks the Jets, Steelers and Cardinals.
"Each and every teammate, coach and front office employee has made a lasting impact on my life," he said. "It was a pleasure playing for first class organizations who surrounded me with incredibly dedicated individuals."
Matt Slauson ended up starting every game last season at left guard, overcoming a shaky start to finish with solid grades. He often said he learned a lot by watching Faneca for a year.
Faneca, the Steelers' first-round draft pick out of LSU in 1998, played in 206 NFL games. His string of 144 consecutive starts was the longest active streak for a guard and third-longest for any offensive lineman, behind Kansas City center Casey Weigmann (158) and Detroit tackle Jeff Backus (159).
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireAlan Faneca was one of the linemen who protected Mark Sanchez during the QB's rookie season.
Jets coach Rex Ryan thinks you will learn to appreciate Dolphins OLB Jason Taylor, who the Jets agreed to terms in principle with today and will sign with the team Wednesday morning.
"Well, I look at it this way: What was the kind of impact that Roger Clemens had?"
If you don't get the reference, and I'm sure you do, his point is that Yankee fans hated Roger Clemens when he was with the Red Sox, but came around when the pitcher started getting wins for New York.
Ryan was on a conference call to discuss the schedule, but took a lot of questions on Taylor as well. Here are some of the newsier bits.
Ryan was annoyed by the rumor that LG Alan Faneca, DE Shaun Ellis and OLB Bryan Thomas were being shopped.
"I'm just shocked that David Harris, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and Damien Woody weren't on that list as well," Ryan said. "I guess you can throw enough names out there that maybe you hit on one, so, whatever. Nice report."
However, he only felt compelled to deny the rumors specifically regarding Thomas.
What Ryan said about Taylor: "I remember telling Jason, I was kidding him, I said, ‘Hey Jason you know what's great? If you come here, we think we're going to have the No. 1 defense in football. If you don't come here, we think we're going to have the No. 1 defense in football.’ That's just the way we feel. The great thing is Jason is a very talented player. (He’s) been that way for years. He's got great length and the experience I think is really going to help us. Like I say, the ability to finish teams off in the fourth quarter is going to be critical. Jason's going to be a major contributor for us this year."
Rex Ryan on the schedule: "Obviously, I'd be lying if I said that there's nothing special about playing the Ravens. I spent ten years there, getting passed over as a head coach. That one's going to be special to me and we're opening up our stadium (in the) first prime time game ever in the history of that stadium. That one's going to be a big one. Then you go on and you play the Cleveland Browns. Eric Mangini, who cares. I want to play my brother (Rob Ryan) and that one's big to me for that reason as well.