Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Jets keeping tabs on Michael Sam
By Rich Cimini
The Michael Sam story has died down in recent weeks, but it's sure to become hot again as the draft approaches. The former Missouri defensive end, projected as a middle-round pick, is poised to become the first openly gay player in the NFL. The speculation already is starting to swirl as to which team might draft him.
On Tuesday night, the Baltimore Sun listed the New York Jets among six teams showing the most interest in Sam. The others are the Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns.
There's a lot of smoke this time of the year, much of it created by the agents, so it's hard to quantify interest. From what I understand, the Jets have spoken to Sam at several junctures throughout the scouting process, which began with the Senior Bowl in January. They probably talked to him at the scouting combine, his pro day, a private workout, etc. -- the routine check points on the road to the draft. It's called due diligence. Whether that puts them on the "most interested" list is open to interpretation.
The Jets could use a young pass-rusher on the outside, although Sam isn't an ideal scheme fit for their base 3-4 defense. Many scouts say he's not athletic enough to play outside linebacker and not big enough to be a defensive end in a 3-4. Interestingly, four of the six most-interested teams play some form of a 3-4 defense. For the Jets' purposes, he'd probably be a situational pass-rusher. He recorded 10.5 sacks last season, winning co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Sam will be a huge story wherever he plays, but he'd be really big in a market like New York. The Jets' locker room would be under a microscope, outsiders studying how it reacts.
"I think he'd be welcome," Rex Ryan said at the scouting combine. "I don’t think he’d be any different than any other player we have. One thing I know for sure: We have 53 different players. They're all different -- different religious beliefs, what they look like, height, weight, married, single.
"Everybody is different. The main thing we talk about is respect in our locker room. Even though everybody is different, it’s a respect thing. If a young man is a good football player and a good teammate, that’s all we ask. He'd fit in just like the rest of our guys."