Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Early look at free agency
By Rich Cimini
Free agency opens March 13, so consider this the one-month preview. The Jets have 11 unrestricted free agents and, as of now, only $464,000 in salary-cap room. Do the math.
Unlike like last offseason, when several high-profile players were free agents, the Jets' list is relatively modest. It includes only two starters (Sione Pouha and Plaxico Burress) and two former starters/injured (Jim Leonhard and Bryan Thomas).
Here's a breakdown, ranking them in order of importance:
NT Sione Pouha -- You can't run a 3-4 defense without a run-stuffing nose tackle, and the Jets have that in Pouha. They will try hard to re-sign him before he hits the open market. Pouha just turned 33, so you have to be careful, but the Jets are stuck between a rock and a hard place because Kenrick Ellis isn't ready.
S Jim Leonhard -- Ordinarily, he'd be a shoo-in to return, but he's recovering from major knee surgery and might not be a full go for the start of training camp. If the Jets do re-sign him, it probably would be for a minimum contract late in free agency. Obviously, he's not going to draw much interest.
OL Robert Turner -- He missed last season due to a broken leg, but he should be good to go. He has value to the Jets as a key reserve, but he might find a better opportunity elsewhere. Former Jets OL coach Bill Callahan is with the Cowboys, who could be looking for a left guard to replace Derrick Dockery (free agent).
PK Nick Folk -- Folk did a decent job on a one-year contract, but the Jets aren't going to break the bank for a kicker who made only 76 percent of his field goals and failed to get consistent length on his kickoffs.
S Brodney Pool -- Look for a shake-up at the safety position. Pool was an 11th-hour returnee last offseason, so it's hard to imagine them rushing out to bring him back.
CB Donald Strickland -- He was the No. 4 cornerback for most of the season, with the versatility to cover tight ends. He could return in that role, but we're talking minimum contract here.
OLB Bryan Thomas -- The former No. 1 pick deserved better, but here are the cold facts: He's a 33-year-old linebacker coming off Achilles-tendon surgery. Maybe, if his leg checks out, he could be a consideration in training camp for a backup role.
RB LaDainian Tomlinson -- It was a nice, two-year fling, but it's time to move on. The Jets know it, he knows it. That's probably why Tomlinson, 33, was so openly critical recently of the locker-room situation. Gut feeling: He retires. We'll see him in Canton in five years.
QB Kevin O'Connell -- He could return as the No. 4 quarterback, but that's about it.
WR Plaxico Burress -- He told friends he's done with the Jets and that he's not a believer in Mark Sanchez. The Jets are done with him. For $3 million, they got eight touchdowns and a couple of acrobatic catches.
QB Mark Brunell -- Happy retirement.