Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Updated: April 21, 10:18 AM ET
Taylor to join Jets' defense
ESPN.com news services
NEW YORK -- Booed and despised by New York Jets fans for years, Jason Taylor is now on their side.
The former Miami Dolphins linebacker agreed to terms with the AFC East-rival Jets on a two-year contract Tuesday, bolstering a defense that ranked No 1 in the league this past season.
"Clearly, this is one of the premier players in the game, one of the premier pass-rushers in the game," coach Rex Ryan said during a conference call. "We expect Jason to play a bunch and be a major contributor to our defense."
League sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Taylor agreed to a two-year deal that could be worth as much as $3.75 million in the first year. Because of the league's "Final Eight" restrictions, the Jets could pay Taylor only $1.75 million in base salary this season -- the amount unrestricted free-agent kicker Jay Feely signed for with the Arizona Cardinals.
The second year has a $750,000 guarantee, a source told ESPN.com's John Clayton. The first year is guaranteed, so Taylor receives a $2.5 million guarantee in his deal. The deal could be worth a total of $13 million if he meets all the incentives in the contract.
The NFL's active sacks leader received an offer from the Jets two weeks ago. Taylor said he was hoping for an offer from the Dolphins that never came, and after vacationing in Costa Rica this past weekend, he decided to join the Jets.
Long a part of one of the NFL's most intense rivalries on the field, Taylor has had a contentious relationship with fans in New York, calling them ignorant and classless and saying their "J-E-T-S!" chant was dumb.
"Do I expect them to hate me some? Sure," Taylor said. "We've had a long history of going back and forth. We lost a lot of games to those guys for a few years. That wasn't fun. I was a big boy, and I always came back and added more fuel to it. It's a rivalry. That's the way it's supposed to be."
Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins said Taylor will be embraced by the team.
"I think he will be a great addition to the team with his athleticism, experience, and wisdom," Jenkins told The Associated Press in an e-mail. "We have had time to get past the fishy smell of his past, but now he will be enveloped with the fragrant smell of Jet fuel! Go Jets!"
As for how fans in Miami will react to his deal, Taylor said: "Hopefully one day I can walk back in the stadium and not get booed."
Taylor briefly became teary-eyed during a 30-minute news conference at his foundation's offices in Weston, Fla., and said the situation left him with mixed emotions.
He said the Dolphins offered him an extension this past November but then withdrew the proposal before the season ended, made no offer since and gave him no reason for the lack of interest in a new deal. Taylor said he had a meeting scheduled last week with coach Tony Sparano, but the Dolphins canceled it.
"If I was important enough that you wanted me in November, why wouldn't you want me now?" Taylor said. "If I was good enough then, I just don't understand why I wasn't good enough now. But that's their prerogative. They're allowed to make that decision. There is a business side to football, and if they feel that it's better for their team to not have me, that's fine. I have no problem with that. That's part of the game. Just let me know."
The 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year said he's joining the Jets because he feared their offer would be the only one he would receive and he had to give them an answer before the draft begins Thursday.
"If I sit here and roll the dice, I could be left out in the cold," Taylor said. "The Jets have given me an opportunity to play. They want me there. It's pretty flattering and humbling that I'm the free agent they want to go after -- a 35-year-old defensive end/linebacker from Miami who has been a pain in their butt."
Now Taylor will try to endear himself to fans in New York, the way Brett Favre did in Minnesota and Donovan McNabb hopes to do in Washington. A few early-season sacks might do the trick for Taylor.
"I look at it this way: What was the kind of impact Roger Clemens had?" Ryan said. "He was a Red Sox and went over to the Yankees and helped out there. I kind of look at Johnny Damon with the same type of deal.
"So, if Jason could have the same impact on the Jets as those players had on the Yankees and we win a championship, I think we'll all be happy," Ryan said.
Either way, it's the latest headline-grabbing acquisition by the Jets, who have clear intentions of making a Super Bowl run this season after losing in the AFC Championship Game to the Indianapolis Colts in January.
Already loaded with storylines for its appearance on HBO's "Hard Knocks" during training camp this summer, New York has also signed running back LaDainian Tomlinson and safety Brodney Pool and traded for wide receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
Best-known by some as the runner-up to Kristi Yamaguchi on "Dancing With The Stars" in 2008, Taylor also has 127½ career sacks. He provides the Jets with a proven pass-rusher who should fit right into Ryan's aggressive 3-4 defensive scheme as a hybrid linebacker-defensive end.
Ryan also said his addition will have no effect on the Jets' approach to having the 29th overall pick in the draft.
"We're in an ideal situation," Ryan said. "We're going into the draft where we can take the best player."
Several Jets players met Taylor during his visit to the team's facility in Florham Park, N.J., on April 8 and said they'd welcome him if he signed.
While his best days are clearly behind him, the Jets believe Taylor still has plenty left -- at least for a season. He had seven sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and a fumble return for a touchdown -- against the Jets -- last season.
Taylor played with the Dolphins from 1997 to 2007 before being traded to Washington in 2008. He clashed with Miami for competing on "Dancing With the Stars" rather than working out with the team that offseason.
After one season in Washington, the Redskins released him after he refused to commit to the team's offseason conditioning program so he could focus on his family.
Ryan said he expected Taylor to participate in team workouts before mandatory minicamp in mid-June, save for a few previously scheduled prior commitments.
"These are voluntary workouts, but I've got a funny feeling that Jason's going to volunteer to be here," Ryan said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.