Analysis: Landry a risk-reward signing

March, 19, 2012
3/19/12
3:36
PM ET
The Jets finally landed a much-needed safety, agreeing to terms Monday with former Redskins No. 1 pick LaRon Landry.

Clearly, this is their most significant acquisition in free agency. Quick thoughts:

1. Well, in one respect, it's the ideal marriage: You have a once-feared defensive player trying to revitalize his career on a once-feared defense.

2. This is risky, but not a huge risk because it's only a one-year contract for $4 million. (The total guarantee wasn't immediately available.) Landry, with a chronic Achilles tendon problem, is a walking lab experiment. Instead of team-recommended surgery, he opted for alternative medicine procedures after each of the last two seasons. The most recent procedure was a stem-cell treatment. The Jets are banking on 21st-century science. Landry wanted a one-year deal, according to a source, so he could improve his stock and make a big free-agent score next year.

3. The upside is intriguing. If Landry plays like he did before his Achilles' issues -- i.e. the first half of the 2010 season -- they'll have a rugged enforcer that will improve their run defense and add an attractive option in the blitz package. If the injury problems persist, so will the team's safety problem. They'd better have good depth, just in case.

4. Even when healthy, Landry isn't going to be The Answer. Pass coverage isn't his forte (only four interceptions in five seasons), so he'll be outside his comfort zone when asked to cover an athletic tight end such as Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez. Landry doesn't make plays on the ball; he's a rocked-up safety that plays like a linebacker. He's not going to excel in man-to-man coverage and he's not going to cover the deep middle in a Cover-1 zone.

5. Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine are smart enough to know Landry's limitations, so they'll probably use him near the line of scrimmage. They could use his physical presence, as last year's safety group combined for only three tackles-for-loss. This approach can work if the other safety -- i.e. the free safety -- can handle the bulk of the coverage responsibilities. Right now, Eric Smith is the other safety, and he struggled in coverage.

6. I spoke to former Redskins GM Vinny Cerrato about the Jets-Landry match. "If they keep him close to the line of scrimmage, he can be dominant," said Cerrato, who drafted Landry. "He could be great in Rex's defense. He's great against the run and a great blitzer. He'll end up with four or five sacks."

Asked about Landry's deficiencies in coverage, Cerrato said, "He's not a center fielder. He'll be able to cover the tight end, but the longer he goes down field, the tougher it'll be."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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