New York Jets: Alterraun Verner

Free-agent shopping begins in 3, 2, 1 ...

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
Good morning, folks. Prepare for a wild couple of days.

After three days of "legal tampering," the free-agent signing period kicks off at 4 p.m. ET. I know you have questions with regard to the New York Jets, so here goes:

Q: How much cap space do the Jets really have?

A: After cutting Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie in a 24-hour span, a $17.75 million savings, the Jets have $39.6 million in cap room, according to ESPN data. Only four teams have more cap space than the Jets, which means the Idziks can be big spenders, if they so choose.

Q: Could the Jets make a big splash on Day 1?

A: Yes. Those who sign players on the first day usually overpay. That doesn't appear to be John Idzik's style, but he has needs and money to burn. Prediction: They will land a cornerback in the first 24 hours. Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, in whom the Jets have expressed interest, is expected to make a quick decision. Considering the hole at corner, he'd be a good get for the Jets -- as long as they don't pay a ridiculous price. They're also showing interest in Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis, who also may sign quickly. Davis is Cromartie-esque -- talented, but flighty.

Q: How will they address the need at wide receiver?

A: The Jets have been fairly quiet in recent days on the receiver front, although most of the speculation is centered on Golden Tate and Emmanuel Sanders. I wouldn't be shocked if Julian Edelman draws some interest from the Jets. Idzik might be hesitant to pay No. 1 money for a No. 2 receiver, understandably so. Some people around the league believe Idzik will add a cheaper, second-tier receiver in free agency, leaning on the receiver-rich draft for an infusion of talent.

Q: Is Michael Vick really a possibility?

A: Yes, he is. The Jets can offer the chance to compete for a starting job and scheme familiarity (see Marty Mornhinweg, his old coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles). Vick will have other suitors, with the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers among those mentioned. I think he'd be a nice, short-term complement to Geno Smith. If they can't land Vick, the Jets could chase Josh McCown.

Q: Why is Mark Sanchez still on the roster?

A: This seems to be a popular question. His $2 million roster bonus isn't due until March 25, so they have some time. Idzik wants to have a replacement before he cuts the most experienced quarterback on his roster, so he probably will make Sanchez twist in the wind while he shops around. If he can't find a veteran quarterback, he'll have to convince Sanchez to take a hefty pay cut or release him, leaving himself vulnerable at the position.

Q: What's going on with Austin Howard?

A: Exactly what you'd expect to be going on: He's negotiating with the Jets while gauging interest from other teams. It's all a big poker game. The Jets want to re-sign their right tackle, but they've yet to find a landing spot in terms of price. If Howard hits the open market at 4 p.m., it could be the last we see of him in New York.

Q: Besides wide receiver and quarterback, what areas are they targeting?

A: They're showing interest in a few tight ends, including Brandon Pettigrew. They're also looking for secondary help -- corners and safeties. They've contacted a number of safeties, including T.J. Ward and Donte Whitner. The Jets had two big problems last season -- throwing the ball and stopping people from throwing it against them. Keep that in mind as we wade through free agency.
The New York Jets made an interesting phone call Saturday, inquiring about Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, according to a league source.

Verner, 25, coming off his first Pro Bowl season, will be one of the top cornerbacks on the free-agent market. Before you get too excited, let's add some perspective here: This smacks of a due-diligence call by the Jets, who are involved in a negotiation with their own top cornerback, Antonio Cromartie. If Cromartie doesn't take a pay cut to lower his $15 million cap charge, he'll be released. So, yeah, this could be posturing as well. My sense is that Verner is a contingency if things fall apart with Cromartie.

Verner will be expensive. Very expensive. Brent Grimes re-upped with the Miami Dolphins for four years, $32 million, and Sam Shields re-signed Saturday with the Green Bay Packers for a reported four years, $39 million. I don't think the Jets are eager to spend $9 million to $10 million-a-year on a new corner, one year after using a high first-round pick on Dee Milliner.

True, Cromartie is about four years older than Verner, but he's still a good player, assuming that troublesome hip has healed. If he agrees to reduce the $9.5 million he's due to make in salary and bonuses, Cromartie would be a solid, short-term answer. Then again ...

If the Jets cut Cromartie, they'd save $9.5 million on this year's cap, creating a nice, not-so-little slot for a premier free agent. Interesting. By rule, teams can only talk with agents that represent players from other team. (Yeah, like we believe they're only talking.) The real action starts Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Halftime thoughts: Back to reality

September, 29, 2013
NASHVILLE -- A few thoughts on the New York Jets, down 24-6 at halftime to the Tennessee Titans:

1. The mirage: Everyone was giddy after last week's win over the Buffalo Bills. When are people going to learn? The Jets always look good against the Bills, creating a false sense of superiority. The Titans knocked them back to reality from the outset. The first half was reminiscent of last years' December debacle in Nashville.

2. Geno Sanchez: Rookie quarterback Geno Smith committed three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble in the open field), resulting in short-field touchdowns for the Titans. They converted the mistakes into 21 points. One interception was an underthrow on a deep route to Stephen Hill, and the other was a poor decision, a throw into blanket coverage. Cornerback Alterraun Verner made both interceptions. This is what happens when you have a rookie at quarterback: severe growing pains. Smith gets little help from coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who continues to let him throw.

3. Bad defense: The Jets went into the game more concerned about Jake Locker's legs than his arm. Big mistake. Locker picked apart Rex Ryan's defense, throwing a career-high three touchdowns in the first half. It was a terrific game plan by the Titans, who surprised the Jets with their short-passing attack. It neutralized the Jets' pass rush and found soft spots in the secondary.

4. More push-ups: Looks like Ryan's penalty-prevention program did not do the trick. One week after setting a franchise record with 20 penalties, the Jets committed eight (one declined). The lack of discipline has to be alarming, considering how much emphasis was placed on the issue.