2. Patriots getting bigger, better: The New England Patriots did it again, signing their second physical, press-corner in a span of 24 hours. This time, it was Brandon Browner, who is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. On Thursday, it was Darrelle Revis. Maybe you've heard of him. The Jets' top divisional rival is copying the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, acquiring nice-sized, man-to-man corners that can disrupt wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. The Jets added a big receiver, Eric Decker (6-3), but the knock on him is that he struggles against physical corners. Clearly, the Jets have to keep up with the Joneses -- or, in this case, the Belichicks. They need a dynamic weapon on offense to offset the Patriots' improving pass defense.
3. A tight (end) budget: Brandon Pettigrew, on the Jets' radar, ended up re-signing with the Detroit Lions -- four years, $16 million, including $8 million guaranteed. That's crazy money for a 45-catch, 450-yard tight end. The Jets were right to bail out of that situation. Coincidentally, GM John Idzik was in Lubbock, Texas, attending the Texas Tech pro day. He was there to scout pass-catching tight end Jace Amaro, who reportedly ran a 4.68 in the 40. Amaro is projected as a late first-, early-second round pick.
Two of the four veteran quarterbacks the Oakland Raiders plan to target in free agency are not yet free agents, although that is expected to change soon.
Schaub and Sanchez are expected to be cut by their respective teams soon.
The Raiders currently have three quarterbacks on their roster in Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin and Trent Edwards. Coach Dennis Allen said he was not sure whether the team's quarterback of the future is in the locker room at this time.
The question is, did they upgrade the position? They're comparable players, according to one AFC personnel executive. Howard had supporters within the Jets' organization, but general manager John Idzik made the call on this one. He spent three seasons with Giacomini in Seattle (2010-12), so he knows the player. If Giacomini flops, it's on Idzik.
One interesting note: Howard has $7.9 million in fully guaranteed money (at the time of signing), not a whole lot more than Giacomini. Clearly, the Jets saw little or no difference between the players. You want to keep players like Howard in your program -- relatively young and ascending -- but Idzik obviously has a comfort level with Giacomini.
A breakdown of the contract:
Cap charge: $2.625 million
Signing bonus: $2.5 million
Roster bonus: $1.0 million (fifth day of league year)
Base salary: $1.0 million (full guaranteed)
Cap charge: $5.125 million
Base salary: $4.5 million ($2.5 million guaranteed)
Cap charge: $5.125 million
Base salary: $4.5 million
Cap charge: $5.125 million
Base salary: $4.5 million
The cornerback market is dwindling, so this might be the Jets' best option. Rodgers-Cromartie is coming off a good season -- his only season -- with the Denver Broncos, but some are concerned about his motivation. He talked about retirement only two months ago (he backed off), but the topic is sure to come up when he sits down with Jets officials. He reportedly turned down a six-year, $54 million contract from the Broncos, prompting them to turn their attention to Aqib Talib.
Rodgers-Cromartie was a first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2008. He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 and had two mediocre seasons before landing with the Broncos.
"It’ll defintely be fun after we win that game," he said. "I’ll tell my friends and family that are all Patriots fans to go kick some rocks after we win."
Giacomini signed a four-year, $18 million contract to replace Austin Howard, who bolted for the Oakland Raiders. Giacomini said his relationship with general manager John Idzik was one of the main reasons he signed. Giacomini came from the Seattle Seahawks, Idzik's previous team. Idzik was in charge of contracts for the Seahawks, and there was a lot of paperwork with Giacomini because he bounced up and down between the practice squad and the 53-man roster in 2010. That's how they got to know each other.
Some scouts say Giacomini is a better pass protector than Howard, but a notch below him as a run-blocker.
"I like to play pretty physical," Giacomini said. "I know that's the mentality they have there. I'm just going to try to play my role and get better every single play. I'm going to try to play with a little bit of nastiness I have in me. I'd play like an offensive lineman should play."
No doubt, Decker will score points among the locals for his "under-rated" comment; the hard part will be convincing them the state's newest millionaire isn't over-rated.
Even though he's ninth in the NFL in receiving yards over the last two seasons (2,352), Decker arrives with a stigma. Fair or not, the perception of him is that he's a product of Peyton Manning's brilliance. Any receiver can put up gaudy numbers in a Manning-orchestrated system, right? Obviously, Decker doesn't feel that way.
"Did he help? Of course he helped, he's a future Hall of Famer," Decker said. "But I also think I'm a good football player, and I think my skill set is an asset that can help the team win football games. That's why I'm here in New York."
You can look at it the other way, too: Before Manning arrived in 2012, Decker managed 44 receptions and nine touchdowns with scatter-armed Tim Tebow at quarerback. So there's that.
Decker said the Broncos didn't make an offer to keep him, claiming he took no offense because he understands the salary cap world of the league. He reportedly had two other visits lined up (he wouldn't name the teams), but he said the Jets "felt like home," mentioning he liked the "culture" around the organization. He agreed to terms Wednesday night and celebrated at dinner with Rex Ryan and other staff members. In New Jersey, of course.
So he goes from the most prolific passing offense in history to the 31st-ranked passing offense, led by a still-developing quarterback, Geno Smith.
"I think this team has a lot of potential," Decker said. "It's a young football team. I've always felt like I've played the underdog role throughout my life, throughout my football career -- now, high school, college. I'm motivated to help this team win football games. To me, that’s the most important thing, joining a culture that wants to do that. I enjoyed my time in Denver, but I'm excited about this opportunity."
Being around Manning for two years is bound to be a positive. Manning is obsessed with preparation, and Decker hopes to bring that mentality to his new team.
"My goal is to take the knowledge and preparation I've learned the last four years, with some great coaches and a great quarterback, and share that with my teammates," he said. "You win football games between Wednesday and Saturday. The preparation we did as an offense in Denver can be done in New York."
Decker isn't the only celebrity is in his family. His wife is Jessica James, a country pop singer, and they star together in an E! reality series called, "Eric and Jessie: Game On." The second series begins March 30. The Jets go from "Hard Knocks" (in 2010) to "Eric and Jessie." Decker claimed the opportunity to play in the No. 1 media market had no bearing on his decision.
"The priority was football," he said. "Obviously, being in the biggest, best city in the country offers other opportunities, but my mindset was, what’s good for me from a football standpoint?"
1. Austin Howard, right tackle: He signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Oakland Raiders after talks broke off with the Jets. They replaced him with Breno Giacomini, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks.
2. Jeff Cumberland, tight end: He re-signed with the Jets, a three-year, $5.7 million deal, including $1 million guaranteed. Solid move.
3. Calvin Pace, linebacker: There's mutual interest, but the Jets will let it play out. There doesn't appear to be a market yet for Pace, but that could change soon.
4. Nick Folk, kicker: He received the franchise tag, but that quickly turned into a four-year, $12 million contract ($2.1 million guaranteed). Good deal for the Jets.
5. Leger Douzable, defensive end: He re-upped for one year, $1 million ($150,000 guaranteed). It looks like the entire defensive line will stay intact.
6. Ellis Lankster, cornerback: Another under-rated move -- two years, $1.63 million, including $155,000 guaranteed.
7. Willie Colon, guard: There's still a hole at right guard. He's a fallback option.
8. Josh Mauga, linebacker: All quiet.
9. Aaron Berry, cornerback: Quiet. He's coming off ACL surgery.
10. Vladimir Ducasse, guard: He's drawing interest from the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals.
11. Ed Reed, safety: Crickets.
12. Josh Cribbs, wide receiver/kick returner: He's coming off a pectoral tear.
13. David Garrard, quarterback: He retired once, so it's possible he could do it again.
14. Lex Hilliard, fullback: Haven't heard anything.
15. Darius Reynaud, kick returner: Quiet.
16. Kellen Winslow, tight end: He hasn't made any free-agent news, but he did have a court appearance Thursday in New Jersey in connection with his synthetic-marijuana charge. The case was postponed.
1. Is there a plan at cornerback?: The most alarming development so far is the gaping hole at cornerback. The Jets have yet to replace Antonio Cromartie, who is on an overnight visit with the Arizona Cardinals. The Jets have watched as five top corners, including that guy Revis, signed with other teams. On Thursday, Captain Munnerlyn, who was on the Jets' radar, signed a three-year, $14.25 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Rex Ryan, whose defensive scheme is predicated on man-to-man coverage on the perimeter, has to be feeling a bit nervous. If the Jets had to play today, the starters would be Dee Milliner and Kyle Wilson. What about a Cromartie reunion? The Jets didn't try to renegotiate before cutting him -- telling. Their best bet might be Cromartie's talented, but enigmatic cousin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
2. Shrinking market: Things have settled down after two days of crazy spending around the league. Now it's a buyer's market, and there are bargains to be had. Of course, the true difference makers are all gone. The Jets continue to talk with Brandon Pettigrew, whom one AFC scout described as "an average to better-than-average starting Y tight end" -- meaning a conventional, in-line tight end. They also remain interested in wide receiver James Jones, another complementary player. The've also been linked to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Let's see if John the Deliberate (Idzik, that is) can find some good values in the second wave.
3. All hands on Decker: It's official: Eric Decker signed his five-year, $36.25 million contract, which includes a guaranteed $15 million in the first two years.
4. Scout's take on Breno: Former Seattle Seahawks right tackle Breno Giacomini, whom the Jets signed to replace Austin Howard, is a bit of a mystery man. An AFC personnel executive assessed him this way: "He's a serviceable starter. He can function, but he's not a world beater. He just does his job." Asked to compare Giacomini to Howard, the executive said, "(Giacomini) is a little different. He has a different body build and more movement skills. He's not as strong or heavy bodied. He's a better foot athlete, with less power. He's a little stiff, but competes."
5. No movement on the QB front: It's quiet, almost too quiet. One noteworthy development: Former St. Louis Rams backup Kellen Clemens, an ex-Jet, signed with the San Diego Chargers. St. Louis could be a potential landing spot for Mark Sanchez, whose first coordinator with the Jets, Brian Schottenheimer, runs the Rams' offense. The Jets have until March 25 to make a decision on Sanchez.
6. Quote of the day: Leger Douzable, a relatively anoymous backup defensive lineman, spoke to reporters to comment on re-signing with the Jets. "I feel like we are going to be the best D-line in the league this year," he said. Sounds like he's excited to be sticking around.
The deal works for the Jets because they can get out of it after two years with minimal cap damage if they decide he's not worth it. Basically, it's a two-year, $15 million contract. The cap charges balloon in the third year, which means he has two years to prove himself as a very good No. 2 receiver or a lower-tier No. 1. This is by far the largest contract general manager John Idzik has handed out to a veteran player.
The yearly breakdown:
Signing bonus: $7.5 million
Base salary: $2.5 million
Cap charge: $4.0 million
Base salary: $5.0 million (guaranteed)
Cap charge: $6.5 million
Base salary: $6.5 million
Cap charge: $8.0 million
Base salary: $7.25 million
Cap charge: $8.75 million
Base salary: $7.5 million
Cap charge: $9.0 million
The Jets have a gaping hole at cornerback. The top corners are off the market, although they showed serious interest in only one -- Vontae Davis, who ended up re-signing with the Indianapolis Colts. They expressed no interest in a reunion with Darrelle Revis, who ended up with the New England Patriots.
Maybe Cromartie's visit to the desert will prompt the Jets to step up. They had to cut him -- he was due a $5 million roster bonus and had a $15 million cap charge -- but you never say never in the NFL.
In this version, Kiper believes Clemson's Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks will be off the board by the time the Jets are picking at No. 18. With a choice between Beckham and USC's Marqise Lee, he goes with the speedster from LSU.
If this is how it plays out on draft day, it would be a fascinating choice for the Jets -- assuming they still want to pick a receiver in that spot. Beckham and Lee are almost identical in terms of size (both 5-foot-11, listed in the 190s), but Beckham is faster than Lee. In fact, Lee ran a somewhat disappointing 4.52 at the scouting combine, yet chose not to run Wednesday at the USC pro day. He told reporters he's willing to stand on the 4.52.
With a big receiver like Eric Decker (6-3) in the fold, the Jets feel that complementing him with a speed element is the way to go. In that case, Beckham over Lee would be understandable. But Lee is regarded as a more polished receiver than Beckham and, as we all know, 40 times don't always equate to success in the NFL.
Does this preclude them from drafting a receiver in the first round? Not at all. They absolutely could select a "speed" player to complement all the big bodies. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. certainly could see them going in that direction. He believes they still need a No. 1 receiver because he doesn't see Decker thriving in that role.
"I think Decker is a good No. 2 receiver," Kiper said Thursday in a media conference call. "If you’re asking more than that, maybe you’re expecting too much. He was in the perfect scenario certainly in Denver with Peyton [Manning] last year, when you think about what he was able to do numbers-wise. When he was at Minnesota, I had a second-, third-round grade on him when he came out. I liked him coming out of Minnesota as a 2, not a 1.
"If you get a guy like Marqise Lee or you get a guy like Odell Beckham Jr. (at No. 18), or if you get a guy like Brandin Cooks at that point, you’re still getting a guy who could be very viable with Decker," Kiper continued. "They still could take a wide receiver. If they didn’t, you have to look at a versatile linebacker, you certainly could look at a tight end if [Eric] Ebron slid down there. There’s going to be an attractive receiver still there. What they have to decide is, is Decker enough or do they want to get an Odell Beckham Jr. or a Brandin Cooks or Marqise Lee because all three of those players -- at least two of those -- I think still could be there when the Jets pick."
We still have two months to debate it.
With the 18th pick, the Jets could have their choice of what many experts believe are the third- to fifth-best receivers in the class -- Marqise Lee (USC), Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) and Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU). Chances are, two of the three will be available. We're assuming that Sammy Watkins (Clemson) and Mike Evans (Texas A&M), the consensus top two receivers, will be long gone.
There's also the possibility of a tight end. Yes, they re-signed incumbent Jeff Cumberland, but Eric Ebron (North Carolina) would be awfully tempting at 18 -- if he lasts that long.
Mel Kiper's latest mock draft .