Good hands people: Jets need WR insurance

April, 3, 2011
4/03/11
8:01
AM ET
Sunday notes to digest as we wait for the Knicks to emerge from their much-needed beauty sleep:

It’s the toughest draft-related decision facing the Jets: How do they address the wide-receiver issue?

They’re in a pickle because, if there’s no free agency before the April 28-30 draft (and it’s starting look that way), the Jets will go into it with question marks attached to Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Brad Smith – all free agents.

The best thing that could happen to the Jets is that the 2010 work rules remain in place, meaning Holmes and Smith would be RFAs on one-year tenders. Edwards would be a UFA, regardless of the rules. But there’s a chance they may not have that information before the draft, so they could be flying blind.

The feeling here is that they will retain Holmes, no matter what. Edwards? He’ll be pricey, so it’s a tough call. The Jets might be tempted to draft a replacement, which would save them at least $6 million a year.

Ordinarily, a Holmes-Jerricho Cotchery starting tandem would be fine, but Cotchery is recovering from back surgery. So, yes, the Jets need receiver insurance. The question is, how much do they spend? Do they pay now or pay later in free agency?

None of the second-tier receivers are worth the 30th pick. Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Torrey Smith (Maryland) and Jon Baldwin (Pitt) are second-round talents. Problem is, the Jets don't have a second-round pick. If they wait until the third (94th overall), the possibilities could be Edmond Gates (Abilene Christian), Niles Paul (Nebraska) and Greg Little (North Carolina).

If they don’t draft a receiver and they lose Edwards, we all know which position will be No. 1 on their free-agent shopping list.

Freeman's case. On April 6, the NFL goes to court, with players suing the league on anti-trust grounds in the Brady v. NFL suit. It brings back memories for former Jets RB Freeman McNeil, the lead plaintiff in a 1992 lawsuit against the league. McNeil won his suit, abolishing the restrictive Plan B free-agency system – but he didn’t receive a penny in damages. It did, however, pave the way for a less restrictive system.

"Somebody had to do it," McNeil told USA Today this week. "I had a great relationship with (then-Jets owner) Leon Hess. But when you looked at the whole picture and you heard the complaints in the locker room from the guys who weren't making a lot of money and were restricted, I decided to step forward ... I remember my attorney telling me, ‘Here's your opportunity to put your butt where your mouth is.’”

McNeil wonders if the owners learned anything from the work stoppages of the 1980s, saying, "I look at both sides and say, 'You guys are in partnership. That's the way this game is going to be from here to eternity. You have to have reconciliation.' As owners, you have a guaranteed product that will make you money. But these players make the league. The owners have to recognize that."

Trader Mike handcuffed. We all know how much GM Mike Tannenbaum likes to trade during the draft, but that won't be easy because of work-stoppage restrictions. Without a CBA, teams can't trade players, only picks. They can trade future picks, but at the team's risk -- i.e. a 2012 pick would be worthless if there's no draft, which could be the outcome if the players win Brady v. the NFL. In other words, don't expect the Jets to jump into the top 10 from 30th overall. Based on the trade-value chart, their entire draft (six picks) would get them only as high as 20 or 21. Not having that second rounder (see the Antonio Cromartie trade) really hurts.

Houston, we have a problem. Keep seeing the Jets linked to Georgia DE/OLB Justin Houston in some mock drafts. He's a workout phenom with very good production, but a longtime scout told me he takes plays off and doesn't have linebacker instincts. Said the scout, "A scout from another team told me, 'This guy is like Vernon Gholston.' He's right." Uh, oh.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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