Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Day 1 recap: Defense takes a couple of hits
By Rich Cimini
A few takeaways on Day 1 of free agency:
1. SLIM PICKINGS: To use an old Bill Parcells expression, the Jets' defense resembles a turkey carcass the day after Thanksgiving. There's not much left. (I'm pretty sure Parcells used the turkey analogy to describe a draft board after the first few rounds.) They lost DT Mike DeVito to the Chiefs (three years, $12.6 million) and they released NT Sione Po'uha ($3.8 million cap savings). There goes their two best interior linemen. Rex Ryan must be moping around the office because his defense is in the process of being gutted.
Get this: They have only five defensive players under contract that started last year -- three corners (Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson), one linebacker (David Harris) and one lineman (Muhammad Wilkerson). And Revis could be on his way out. This is a major rebuilding project for Ryan and new coordinator Dennis Thurman, who will be leaning heavily on young players such as Quinton Coples, Kenrick Ellis, Demario Davis and Ricky Sapp to step into prominent roles.
2. A HOLMES HAIRCUT: As expected, the Jets and Santonio Holmes agreed on a restructured contract that will keep him with the team in 2013. The new deal hasn't been submitted yet, but you can bet his base salary will be lower than the original $11 million. Chances are, they saved about $2 million to $3 million by getting Holmes to re-work his deal. They could've released him if he refused, but that would've been a tough one to swallow. They owe him $7.5 million guaranteed and the cap hit would've been $11.25 million.
3. TWO GOOD MEN -- GONE: The locker room lost two veteran leaders in Po'uha and DeVito, close friends who mentored the young linemen. Po'uha and DeVito are blue-collar types whose professionalism permeated the defensive-line room. I remember the 2011 lockout, when they organized informal workouts for the D-line at a local high school. The Jets don't have enough guys like that in the locker room; their intangibles will be missed. How's this for irony? They said goodbye to a couple of class acts on the same day in which they a found a way to retain Holmes, a problem child who poisoned the team chemistry in 2011.
4. RETURN ENGAGEMENT?: Some people have asked whether the Jets might re-sign Po'uha. I don't see that happening. His back issue from last season is still causing problems, and his No. 1 priority should be getting healthy so he can enjoy a rich life after football.
5. BARGAIN HUNTING: As expected, the Jets didn't fly out of the free-agent gate, throwing around wads of money. Far from it. They set up visits with at least two players, neither of whom is a household name -- Rams WR Brandon Gibson and Raiders RB Mike Goodson. If they don't sign Gibson, they could turn to Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi. This demonstrates the team's approach to free agency. They're looking for young, relatively inexpensive players with some upside, sleeper types that showed glimpses in backup roles. The Jets could chase some name vets down the road, when their asking prices drop. This is a buyer's market, and GM John Idzik will be patient.
6. FISH FRENZY: The Dolphins won the day, landing WR Mike Wallace and LB Dannell Ellerbe. They signed a $13 million-a-year receiver and here are the Jets, possibly getting ready to send Revis away in a trade. Should the Jets be worried? Yes and no. In their three most recent games against the Steelers, they used Cromartie on Wallace -- speed vs. speed. Wallace's three-game totals were ordinary: 13 catches, 182 yards and one TD. Here's the problem: The Dolphins retained WR Brian Hartline, whom Cromartie usually covers -- length vs. length. If Revis is gone, Cromartie won't be able to cover them both, obviously. One interesting note on Wallace: He's had only two 100-yard performances in his last 24 games.
7. LOOKING AT DAY 2: S LaRon Landry could be the next to fall, as he's scheduled to visit the Colts, Cards, Lions and 49ers. He could sign a deal anywhere along his tour. The Jets are out of it. It was a quiet first day for RG Brandon Moore and TE Dustin Keller, but they could start to attract more interest. Ditto, RB Shonn Greene.