Watt set the top of the market, agreeing late Monday night to a six-year, $100 million extension that includes a $30.87 million guarantee at signing. By 2016, the guarantee will reach $51.876 million, making him the highest-paid defensive player in history.
The Jets have the leverage because they have Wilkerson for two years at $8.2 million, obviously well below his market value. They also have the franchise tag at their disposal, so they could have him through 2016.
The Texans were in the same boat with Watt. He and Wilkerson were part of the first draft under the new collective bargaining agreement, which dramatically lowered rookie salaries. All first-rounders are required to signing four-year contracts, with a fifth-year team option. The Texans opted to be proactive, taking care of the face of their franchise.
If Watt is the standard for the defensive-line market, averaging about $16 million per year, Wilkerson should come in somewhere around $13 million or $14 million a year. The Jets are sitting on $21 million in cap space, and it makes sense to utilize it. Wilkerson isn't a flash-in-the-pan kind of player; he's arguably the best player on the team. To paraphrase the old marketing slogan for Fram oil filters, they can pay him now or pay him later. Later probably will cost more money.
The ever-confident Sheldon Richardson was asked Tuesday what Carr can expect Sunday from the Jets' front seven.
Actually, it was 150, the most allowed by the Jets, but that's ancient history. If the Jets want to make it to Halloween still in contention, their defensive line and linebackers must rise up, protect the depleted secondary and carry the team through a potentially lethal run of top quarterbacks.
Everybody knows the story at cornerback. Right now, it looks like Darrin Walls and converted safety Antonio Allen will start the opener. They have a grand total of four career starts, all by Walls. This week shouldn't be a difficult test, at least not compared to next week (Aaron Rodgers), the week after (Jay Cutler) and the few weeks after that. Carr is a warm-up act, as long as the Jets take care of business at the line of scrimmage.
Naturally, they were delighted by the news that Carr, not Matt Schaub, will start for the Raiders. Every defense loves to face a rookie, especially in their own building -- especially in the opener. Under Rex Ryan, the Jets are 7-3 against rookie starters. Ryan's defense is predicated on causing confusion for the opposition. His clever schemes have baffled the best of the best over the years, so they should be able to feast on Carr.
"We lick our chops against every quarterback, not just rookies," linebacker Demario Davis said. "We kick our chops against anybody who is trying to move the ball on us."
The Jets' front seven should be better than a year ago because their top young players -- Davis, Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and Quinton Coples -- are on the ascent. They added a proven pass rusher in Jason Babin, who should be able to provide sacks off the bench.
The Jets did a lot of chirping in training camp, especially on defense. Now is the time for the big fellas to back it up, because there's no way these corners can hold up in coverage if the quarterback -- any quarterback -- can stand comfortably in the pocket.
"Do I think we have the potential to be (the best)? Yes, I think we have the potential to be the best," Richardson said, referring to the front seven. "Do we have the potential to stay the best? That's the way we're trying to keep it."
They can start by roughing up Carr. Rookie safety Calvin Pryor said the plan is to bring early pressure, trying to rattle the second-round pick. In his final year at Fresno State, he completed only 29 percent of his passes while under duress, the worst among the top quarterback prospects, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Carr put up crazy stats in college, but it should be noted that a good amount of his throws were screen passes.
The game has changed in recent years, turning the NFL into a pitch-and-catch league. Spread offenses can negate a strong pass rush, which is why we probably will never see another defense like the '85 Chicago Bears. But a formidable front seven is better than a weak front seven, and the Jets will have to ride their horses for as long as their secondary needs protection.
On Sunday, they can test drive a green Carr.
"This is his first official game, he's the starter and it's the NFL," Richardson said. "That's a big plate to handle."
During a preseason game a week ago, Adams, then a member of the Seattle Seahawks, was beaten badly on Oakland Raiders wideout Denarius Moore’s 36-yard touchdown reception.
“It was all on me,” said Adams, who signed with the Jets after being released by the Seahawks. “As a player, I pride myself on being disciplined, and I got caught up in the backfield a little bit too much. But that’s in the past, and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead of me right now.”
What’s ahead of Adams now is Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Oakland Raiders, the team he played for the previous two years of his career. If he does get some defensive snaps -- which might be tough given that he only has a week to learn the Jets’ scheme -- Adams would have an opportunity to exact some revenge on his former team.
“[Carr] came at me last week and I’m looking forward to the matchup,” said Adams, who plans to share his knowledge of the Raiders’ system with the rest of his teammates. “I know pretty much what they’re doing and our coaches have been doing a good job game-planning, so I’m looking forward to Sunday.”
The Jets decided to take a flyer on Adams by signing him to a one-year, $730,000 contract with no guaranteed money, according to ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. Carr ranked 107th out of 110 cornerbacks, according to ProFootballFocus, but the Jets, with their secondary decimated by injury, figured they might as well take a shot.
Perhaps Adams can provide some depth in the slot. If not, it appears easy for them to cut the cord.
Adams was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The Jets are his fifth team. He has three career interceptions -- two of them coming in 2012.
“I felt like it was a good opportunity for me,” he said. “I learned a lot in Seattle and I’m confident that I can carry that over [here]. ... I feel like a person can be overlooked a lot, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
The New York Jets, who took Hill in the 2012 draft, cut the former wide receiver out of Georgia Tech on Saturday. Because of new practice squad rules introduced by the NFL and NFLPA on Aug. 19, Hill was eligible for the squad despite playing in 23 games the past two seasons.
According to one of Hill's agents, Jared Fox, at least two other teams expressed a strong interest in signing the 6-foot-4, 215-pound player to their practice squad.
Having the opportunity to work with Carolina wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl, who played 17 years in the league, factored into the decision.
"Ricky is a tremendous coach and a tremendous technician and has a lot of convictions about what he does,'' Fox told ESPN.com. "If he takes an interest in working with Stephen, that would be a really great benefit.''
Although he started 19 games for the Jets, Hill never materialized as a top receiving threat. In two years, he had 45 catches for 594 yards and four touchdowns.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Antonio Allen said Tuesday he has been told that he will start at cornerback for the New York Jets in Sunday's regular-season opener against the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium.
Allen had been out since suffering a concussion in the team's third preseason game against the New York Giants, but was medically cleared to return to practice on Tuesday. He wasn't required to wear a red (non-contract) jersey at practice, as he did last Friday.
Allen, a converted safety who is entering his third season in the NFL, will be making his first career start at cornerback. The 25-year-old had to switch positions because the Jets are extremely depleted in the secondary.
Their most experienced cornerback, Dee Milliner, didn't practice on Tuesday and is not expected to play against the Raiders due to a high-ankle sprain, which has kept him out since Aug. 10.
Third-year pro Darrin Walls, 26, is expected to make just his fifth career start opposite Allen.
Allen, who suffered a concussion in the team’s third preseason game against the New York Giants, was wearing a red (non-contact) jersey when the Jets last practiced Friday, so it’s certainly a positive development as he looks to return from injury.
The Jets begin the 2014 regular season against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The only reason Allen, who has played safety his entire career, was moved to corner is because New York’s secondary is extremely depleted.
CB Dee Milliner (ankle) did some light jogging and agility work in the rehab area and is unlikely to play on Sunday.
Darrin Walls is the projected starter opposite Allen, with Kyle Wilson handling slot duties. Walls (leg) was in the rehab area, but his injury is not as significant as others.
Also in the rehab area Tuesday: S Josh Bush (quad), LB Nick Bellore (calf) and DE IK Enemkpali (foot).
TE Jeff Cumberland (Achilles) took a while to warm up, but was participating in position drills during the open portion.
Here are the numbers for the team’s newly acquired players: CB Leon McFadden (22), CB Phillip Adams (24), WR Walter Powell (18).
ESPN.com New York Jets reporter Rich Cimini makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: Oakland Raiders
The schedule-makers did the Jets a solid by matching them with the Raiders for the opener -- at home, no less. There's no way the Jets can lose to rookie Derek Carr and a rebuilding Oakland team. Prediction: Win
Week 2: at Green Bay Packers
This is a tough, tough spot for the Jets' depleted secondary. Their young DBs will have a hard time communicating at loud Lambeau Field, and Aaron Rodgers will tear them to shreds. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: Chicago Bears
The Brandon Marshall-Alshon Jeffery receiving tandem is scary for the Jets, but they can get pressure on Jay Cutler and control the game with their "Ground & Pound" rushing attack. It'll be old-school football for the Jets on the Monday night stage. Prediction: Win
Week 4: Detroit Lions
This could turn into a prolific pitch and catch between Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, but this is where Rex Ryan's defensive acumen will come into play. He'll cook up an exotic scheme that will confuse the interception-prone Stafford. Prediction: Win
Week 5: at San Diego Chargers
Ryan likes San Diego -- he won a playoff game there in January 2010 -- but this trip to the West Coast won't go as well. It'll be too much travel and too much Philip Rivers, who will cool off the hot Jets. Prediction: Loss
Week 6: Denver Broncos
Oh, brother. In this case, the Manning brother at MetLife Stadium will be Peyton. Unless he's freaked out by Super Bowl nightmares from last February, Manning will have a field day with the Jets' secondary. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: at New England Patriots
The Jets get only three days of rest before facing Tom Brady & Co. on the road. There are easier things in the NFL than having to prepare for the Patriots on a short week. It's almost not fair. Prediction: Loss
Week 8: Buffalo Bills
This is a must-win game, and the Jets will respond to the challenge. With fans and media clamoring for Michael Vick, Geno Smith will play his best game to even the Jets' record at 4-4. Prediction: Win
Week 9: at Kansas City Chiefs
Call this the Buddy Bowl. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg worked under Chiefs coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia and Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton served under Ryan with the Jets. In the end, the Chiefs' home-field advantage will be the difference. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Jets have dropped three straight to the Steelers, including the 2010 AFC Championship Game. It's not the Jets' favorite matchup, but this isn't your typical Pittsburgh team. It's time for some redemption. Prediction: Win
Week 12: at Buffalo Bills
Here's a guarantee: The Jets won't visit the local Dave & Buster's on the eve of the game, as they did last season on the trip to Buffalo. The Jets lost and Ryan was ripped for trying something outside the box. No matter, they'll lose again. Prediction: Loss
Week 13: Miami Dolphins
Expect the unexpected in this old rivalry. The Jets have dropped two straight at home to the Dolphins, failing to score a touchdown. Some things are hard to explain. Playing on Monday night, the Jets drop to 5-7, prompting Ryan to bench Smith in favor of Vick. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: at Minnesota Vikings
By now, Teddy Bridgewater will be starting for the Vikings. Ryan's defense is tough on rookies, so the Vick-led Jets will save their season with a rousing victory in the cold of Minnesota. Prediction: Win
Week 15: at Tennessee Titans
Chris Johnson circled this game on his calendar as soon as the schedule was released, making no attempt to hide his bitterness toward his former team. He'll run wild against an overmatched Tennessee defense. Prediction: Win
Week 16: New England Patriots
Ex-Jets star Darrelle Revis returns to MetLife Stadium, this time as a member of the Jets' top rival. He'll intercept Vick, but the Jets will get the last laugh, improving to 8-7. Prediction: Win
Week 17: at Miami Dolphins
In a repeat of last season, the Jets will close the season on an upbeat note, ending the Joe Philbin era in Miami. Unfortunately for them, a 9-7 record won't be good enough for the playoffs, marking the fourth straight year out of the postseason. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 9-7
Harrison always wants more for himself, and we're not talking Big Macs. One year after establishing himself as one of the premier run-stopping defensive linemen in the NFL, the New York Jets' nose tackle enters the 2014 season with a craving to become a better pass-rusher.
Snacks wants sacks.
And he expects to get some.
At home in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Harrison dabbled in boxing, unleashing punches into mitts held by his instructor. At 6-foot-4, 350 pounds, he'd be in the super-heavyweight division. The idea, of course, was to improve his hand quickness. Despite a successful 2013, his first year as a starter, he learned that trying to beat a guard or center with slow hands is like taking a knife to a gun fight.
"Last year, I was out there on the fly, just pretty much trying to bully people," he said. "In the NFL, you can't do that."
Harrison moves exceptionally well for a man of his size -- in college, he was able to do 360-degree dunks -- but his athleticism didn't translate into pressure on the quarterback. In 226 pass-rushing opportunities, he generated only nine hurries, according to the stats-based website Pro Football Focus.
It's rare to find a nose tackle that can pressure the quarterback on a consistent basis. Harrison gets that, but he also has a desire to become a well-rounded player. It showed up in the preseason, as he demonstrated improvement as a pass-rusher. You saw better technique disengaging from blocks and you saw a better closing burst.
His teammates would like to see Harrison get more pass-rushing chances in sub packages.
"He proved that he's one of our most valuable players," linebacker Demario Davis said. "When somebody is one of your most valuable players, you can't take him off the field.
"The more we keep him out there on pass plays, it's going to help us even more because he gets good penetration," Davis continued. "It's going to open up lanes for our ends and it's going to push the quarterback out of the pocket."
Rex Ryan acknowledged that Harrison "isn't just a big slug. He's a big, athletic guy, and he can push the pocket." The problem is, how does he fit into the nickel package?
The addition of Jason Babin gives the Jets five legitimate pass-rushers, along with Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace.
"Who are you taking off the field?" Ryan asked. "Sheldon Richardson? Mo Wilkerson? That's what you're balancing."
Nevertheless, Harrison can help as a first- and second-down pass-rusher. His true value, though, is clogging the A and B gaps, stifling the running game -- and that will be huge in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders, who will attack on the ground with Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcel Reese.
Harrison was the highest-rated defensive tackle against the run last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Asked how he ranked in the Rex Ryan ratings, the coach smiled and said, "Pretty darn good."
Snacks was one of the feel-good stories in 2013, claiming the starting job after Kenrick Ellis went down with a preseason back injury. Harrison is a modern-day "Rudy," except a lot bigger.
He was cut twice by his middle-school team and became a water boy. He wasn't recruited out of high school. He was a junior-college reject. He stocked shelves at a Wal-Mart, making $14 an hour. He got a shot at William Penn University, a NAIA school in Iowa. He dominated, but he still was undrafted in 2012. He signed with the Jets, receiving a $7,000 bonus.
Now he's one of their best players, in the final year of his contract, destined for a large pay day.
"It's an honor that someone would take the time and acknowledge what a nose tackle does, because a lot of people don't know," said Harrison, alluding to the PFF rankings. "Yeah, I think I'm pretty good stopping the run. Do I consider myself the best? I mean, I don't know. I don't watch too many guys."
The Jets led the league in fewest yards per rush last season, and that doesn't happen without Harrison in the middle, doing the dirty work.
"Everybody talks about Mo and Sheldon -- they're phenomenal players -- but a big part of our run-stopping defense comes from Snacks and Calvin Pace," Davis said.
Pace, the strong-side linebacker, sets the edge and forces runners to cut back to the inside. That's where Harrison is lurking, ready to gobble them up.
Nose tackle is a no-glory position, but Harrison has developed a following. With a nickname like Big Snacks, how can you not be admired? He said he's almost always recognized when he goes to a gas station or a grocery store. Imagine when he starts sacking the quarterback.
Remember when ...: Four years ago on this day, the Jets welcomed back Darrelle Revis after his long and acrimonious holdout. The happiest guy in the building was Rex Ryan, who knew he needed a lockdown corner like Revis to have a championship-caliber defense. On Monday, Ryan's reinforcement was a journeyman named Phillip Adams, who will be playing for his fifth team in five years. Adams arrived one day after Leon McFadden, a waiver-wire pickup. The Jets, once known for their formidable cornerback play, have been reduced to sifting through the garbage dumpster. You have to feel for Ryan, who, regardless of what he says publicly, has to be freaking out. You can't control injuries, but injuries aren't the only reason for the current mess. They did a poor job in the offseason of addressing the needs at cornerback.
No mea culpa: I think we can all agree that signing Dimitri Patterson was a mistake, right? The Jets paid a $1 million signing bonus for a guy who practiced a couple of weeks, got hurt, went AWOL and ripped the organization publicly, saying it lied about his no-show. GM John Idzik, however, refuses to own it. No, sir. Asked if he regrets not signing a "legitimate" cornerback in free agency (a loaded question, to be sure), he replied, "I would call Dimitri Patterson a legitimate cornerback. That’s why we signed him. We liked the player. We interviewed the player. We don’t look back. There are no regrets. We’re in a people business and you can’t anticipate some of the things that might happen."
He said the same thing after firing Mike Goodson, another free-agent signing who had personal issues and went AWOL.Idzik is right, it's a people business. But if the people picking the people keep making mistakes, the owner eventually brings in new people to make those decisions. Got that, people?
Patterson explanation: Oh, by the way, is anybody buying Idzik's reasoning that Patterson's inflammatory statement had nothing to do with his release? Didn't think so.
Roster tinkering: Let's give credit where it's due. Idzik did some clever tinkering with the roster over the last 48 hours, waiting until Monday to release rookies Quincy Enunwa and Jeremiah George because he knows they're less likely to be claimed on waivers now that rosters are pretty much set. On Saturday, the Jets waived linebacker A.J. Edds, confident he'd clear waivers -- which he did. That enabled them to make the Edds-for-George swap, providing much-needed depth at inside linebacker. Look for George and Enunwa to be added to the practice squad, assuming they clear waivers.
Dwindling draft class: It looks like the Jets will go into the season with six of their 12 draft picks on the active roster -- Calvin Pryor, Jace Amaro, Jalen Saunders, Dakota Dozier, IK Enemkpali and Trevor Reilly. Two (Dexter McDougle and Shaq Evans) are on injured reserve and two (George and Enunwa) will be on the practice squad. They wanted to add Brandon Dixon to the practice squad, but he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That leaves Tajh Boyd, out in the cold.
Lucky seven? After claiming Walter Powell from the Arizona Cardinals, the Jets are back to seven wide receivers -- a head scratcher.
This came as a surprise because of Lankster's special teams value; he was the Jets' second-leading tackler last season. Due to injuries, he actually started the second preseason game at cornerback. He did a decent job, although he never was viewed as a solution at corner. Obviously, the front office deemed him expendable with the additions of Phillip Adams and Leon McFadden.
They cut Lankster to re-sign linebacker A.J. Edds, whom the released Saturday. After waiving rookie Jeremiah George earlier in the day, the Jets were left with only one backup at inside linebacker, Nick Bellore, who is nursing a calf injury. Edds played a lot on special teams in the preseason.
If you're trying to keep track at home, here's the current crop of corners:
Dee Milliner (injured)
Antonio Allen (injured)
There wasn't much to say about Hill -- we all saw the dropped passes -- but Ryan chose to focus on the special-teams angle.
The Jets didn't see Hill as one of their top three receivers. If you're a No. 4 or lower, you'd better be a contributor on special teams. Rookie Jalen Saunders and Saalim Hakim made the team because of punt- and kickoff-return ability, respectively. Greg Salas isn't a core special teams player, but he can play on some units.
On Monday, the Jets picked up rookie wide receiver Walter Powell on waivers from the Arizona Cardinals. At Murray State, he was a prolific kick returner and a gunner on coverage units. The Jets, under new special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey, have placed an added emphasis on the kicking game.
Ryan shrugged off the criticism aimed at him by Hill's agent, Alan Herman, who accused the coach of not supporting his client as he does with defensive players that struggle. Ryan held his tongue, saying it was a "tough situation for everybody." He said the agent is entitled to his opinion.
"Hey, I have skin like an armadillo," Ryan said. "I'll take whatever they throw at me."
Idzik said he was a bit surprised that Hill, a former second-round pick, wasn't claimed on waivers.
As for Patterson, the Jets provided no clarity whatsover. Idzik wants you to believe that Patterson's inflammatory statement, basically accusing the Jets of lying about the reason for his absence, had nothing to do with the decision to release him. If that were the case, why didn't they cut him immediately instead of handing down a one-week suspension? Truth is, they were willing to give him a second chance, but Patterson blew it by making a public stink.
But Idzik wouldn't acknowledge that.
"I don’t put too much weight on statements," Idzik said. "I’d rather hear the statement directly from the player. ... Suffice it to say, he had an open forum here to spill everything out, and we told him our views as well. In the end, it just felt appropriate that we move on from Dimitri. That was the best thing for the Jets."
Idzik, in a conference call with reporters, got flustered by the repeated questions about Patterson. After one follow-up, he paused for several seconds.
"We felt like it was good for our team to go forward, pure and simple," he said, explaining why they cut their most experienced cornerback.
Adams was released Saturday by the Seattle Seahawks. He was originally a seventh-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, but he has bounced around the league. He has played for the New England Patriots, Seahawks (2011) and Oakland Raiders.
In 66 career games, Adams has three interceptions.
Clearly, the Jets are reaching, hoping something works out. On Sunday, they acquired Leon McFadden, formerly of the Cleveland Browns, on waivers.
To make room for Adams, the Jets waived wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, a sixth-round pick. He likely will return on the practice squad.
Playing for the Cleveland Browns, McFadden was called four times for defensive holding, three times for illegal contact and once for pass interference. Two penalties were declined. All told, it amounted to 60 yards.
The former third-round pick apparently didn't get the memo on the league's increased emphasis on contact penalties.
A few other statistical nuggets on McFadden, whom the Jets picked up Sunday on waivers:
- He played a lot in the preseason -- a total of 188 snaps, including two starts. Conditioning shouldn't be an issue.
- He was targeted 20 times (that's a lot) and allowed seven completions for 145 yards, according to the stats-based website Pro Football Focus. His catch percentage (35.0) is good, but he obviously surrendered big plays.
- As a rookie in 2013, he ranked 181st out of 199 cornerbacks, according to PFF.
That Hill cleared waivers is somewhat surprising. The NFL is all about size and speed, and Hill is a size-speed player, sans the production. Evidently, the other 31 teams saw what the Jets saw.
Four wide receivers were claimed: T.J. Graham (Tennessee Titans), a former third-round pick of the Buffalo Bills; Kris Durham (Titans), a former third-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks; Damaris Johnson (Houston Texans), a former undrafted free agent; and LaRon Byrd (Cleveland Browns), a former undrafted free agent.
Browns coach Mike Pettine knows Hill from his days with the Jets, and his Buffalo defense was torched last season by Hill -- and he still took a pass.
Hill is a free agent, eligible to sign with any team. On Saturday, his agent, Alan Herman, indicated Hill would prefer a team with an established quarterback situation.