Analysis: Don't expect Cro to fly back

March, 9, 2014
Mar 9
4:15
PM ET
A few takeaways on the New York Jets' decision to release cornerback Antonio Cromartie:

1. Is this really goodbye? There is the possibility of re-signing Cromartie down the road, according to a source, but I don't see that happening. I think Cromartie is done in New York. Unless he's willing to return on a modest, one-year contract, what sense does it make to commit to a 30-year-old cornerback with a chronic hip condition? Cromartie was terrible last season despite making the Pro Bowl as an alternate. (What a sham that was.) I give him major props for playing through the injury, but he was a liability at times. If he were a few years younger, yeah, you would bring him back, figuring the hip would heal. But he'll be 30 next month, and the combination of age and injury makes this a no-brainer. Cromartie relies on speed, not technique. If his speed is compromised, he's not the same player.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Cromartie
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerWith Antonio Cromartie heading to Arizona, the Jets are in need of a top-flight cornerback.
2. Possible replacements: The Jets might try to sell us on Kyle Wilson as a possible replacement, but don't buy that for a second. Right now, they have only one starting-caliber cornerback on the roster -- Dee Milliner. With about $30 million in cap room, which will grow to $38 million as soon as they cut Santonio Holmes (which will happen any minute now), the Jets have plenty of flexibility to sign a top-tier free agent. On Saturday, they inquired about Alterraun Verner of the Tennessee Titans. He and the New England Patriots' Aqib Talib will be the best cornerbacks on the market, assuming they don't re-sign before Tuesday. I think the Jets should make a push for Verner, only 25, coming off his first Pro Bowl. He could cost $10 million a year, but you would rather go long term with a player entering his prime than re-up with a banged-up player at the beginning of his downside.

3. It had to be done: Cromartie told teammates at the end of the season that he expected to be a cap casualty, and he later articulated that view in a TV interview. When Cromartie restructured his contract last year, he pushed money into 2014, resulting in a bloated cap figure of $14.98 million. That included a prohibitive $5 million roster bonus, due this week. Obviously, there was no chance he'd remain on the team at those numbers. By cutting Cromartie, the Jets will have a $9.5 million cap savings. Now Cromartie can test his value on the open market, hoping to convince teams he's healthy and still explosive. A young and healthy Cromartie was always the best athlete on the field.

4. Dynamic duo ... gone: In 2010 and 2011, the Jets had one of the premier cornerback tandems in the league, Cromartie and Darrelle Revis, who missed most of the 2012 season with a knee injury. In a span of 11 months, general manager John Idzik broke up the two-man band, trading Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and cutting Cromartie. He had better hope Milliner is the real deal, or else the defense is in big trouble.

5. As the Cro flies: Favorite Cromartie memory? That's easy. It was his 47-yard kickoff return in the 2010 wild-card game against the Indianapolis Colts. Basically, he won the game, putting Mark Sanchez & Co. in great field position and setting up Nick Folk's game-winning field goal as time expired. Cromartie wanted the ball in that spot, and the coaches gave it to him, knowing he could break a long one. He was capable of greatness, but too often he aggravated the coaches with his mental lapses. There was "good Cro and bad Cro," as former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine once said.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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