Jets continue to revamp secondary with Leonhard

March, 3, 2009
3/03/09
1:40
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan has cherry-picked another Baltimore Ravens defender.

 Leonhard

Strong safety Jim Leonhard has signed a three-year deal with the Jets, reuniting with his old defensive coordinator Ryan and inside linebacker Bart Scott. The Jets also have hosted former Ravens cornerback Corey Ivy.

Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and secondary coach Dennis Thurman are former Ravens assistants.

Leonhard is the second defensive back the Jets have acquired in the past few days. They traded for cornerback Lito Sheppard, who will play opposite Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis. Leonhard will be on patrol with Kerry Rhodes, making for a respectable foursome.

Leonhard, listed at 5-foot-8, is a prototypical overachiever. He was a walk-on at Wisconsin, went undrafted and was waived before he made the Buffalo Bills as a special-teamer. The Bills declined to re-sign Leonhard when his contract was up last year.

He latched on with the Ravens and, after Dawan Landry suffered a season-ending neck injury in Week 2, became the starter at strong safety.

Leonhard finished fourth on the Ravens in tackles -- behind Ray Lewis, Scott and Terrell Suggs -- with 85, according to stats from the Ravens' coaching staff. He also had one sack and one interception

"Jim Leonhard is special," Ryan said over the weekend when asked about his interest in Leonhard. "No. 1, he looks like the guy delivering papers. He really is a smart player. He has a lot of poise. He's very sure of himself.

"For some reason he gets saddled because he's short, but this guy's an outstanding athlete. He won two slam-dunk contests at the University of Wisconsin. He's an outstanding punt returner. I've always said he could catch a punt in a hurricane.

"He's a smart, tough, passionate guy. You try to build your team with those kinds of players."

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