Commentary

Where do Jets go from here?

Nnamdi has signed with Eagles; Gang will likely set sights on Cromartie -- or Samuel?

Updated: July 30, 2011, 11:39 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

Now what?

After losing out on star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha -- who stunned the NFL by signing a five-year, $60 million contract with the party-crashing Philadelphia Eagles -- the New York Jets are left with a gaping hole in their defense.

They envisioned a dream cornerback tandem, with Asomugha and fellow All-Pro Darrelle Revis, but the setback has caused the Jets to start a scramble drill. They likely will turn to Antonio Cromartie, who started last season opposite Revis, but they might have another option.

Nnamdi Asomugha
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesNnamdi Asomugha shocked the football world by signing a five-year, $60 million deal with the Eagles on Friday.

Maybe via the Eagles, who have a surplus at the position.

The Eagles have three starting-caliber cornerbacks in Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, whom they acquired this week from the Arizona Cardinals in the Kevin Kolb trade. Samuel, who didn't report to training camp Friday because of personal reasons, could be expendable.

That could make him a target for the Jets. Samuel, 30, is a big-play corner (42 career interceptions) who has the ability to play in a man-to-man scheme.

With their attention having been focused on Asomugha over the past few days, the Jets might find it awkward to go back to Cromartie, who might not want to be their consolation prize. Cromartie is no Asomugha, but he played well for much of last season in coach Rex Ryan's cornerback-reliant defense.

Ryan needs two lockdown corners in his system because he plays so much man-to-man coverage.

"I have a philosophy that you lose games fastest at quarterback and cornerback, so you better make sure you have some corners who can cover some people," Ryan said Wednesday.

The Jets ranked sixth in pass defense last season, but they allowed a surprisingly high number of touchdown passes -- 24. They intercepted only 12. For the most part, opponents stayed away from Revis, attempting twice as many passes in Cromartie's direction.

The Jets are flirting with other free-agent corners, namely Chris Carr of the Baltimore Ravens, but he's a notch below the others. Nate Clements, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, is another possibility. On the bench, they have former first-round pick Kyle Wilson, who's coming off a shaky rookie year.

In addition to missing out on Asomugha, the Jets lost one of their own cornerbacks. Free agent Drew Coleman, projected as the fourth corner, signed a three-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The deal could be worth up to $7.4 million, according to a league source.

The Jets' fascination with Asomugha might have been costly. On Thursday, they let all-purpose star Brad Smith bolt to the Buffalo Bills without so much as an offer, because they were planning to use the money for Asomugha.

To make room for Asomugha and other free agents, the Jets reworked the contracts of running back LaDainian Tomlinson and linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott. On Friday, the Jets released backup quarterback Mark Brunell, but they intend to re-sign him at a lower salary.

After being held hostage by Asomugha for four days, the Jets received word from his camp around 5:45 p.m. ET that they were out of the running. Around the same time, Coleman, who got an offer from the Jets, was finalizing his deal with the Jaguars. Ryan, who values corners more than most coaches, lost two in a matter of minutes.

The Asomugha rejection could have some positives. The Jets can use the money earmarked for him and spend in other areas, such as wide receiver. They need a No. 2 receiver to play alongside Santonio Holmes.

The Jets are showing varying degrees of interest in James Jones (Green Bay Packers) and Randy Moss (Tennessee Titans), and they haven't ruled out the possibility of re-signing Braylon Edwards -- if he drops his asking price.

If the Jets had met Asomugha's sale price -- $12 million per year -- it might have created problems down the road with Revis, whose deal averages $11.5 million a year. Revis has three years remaining on the contract he renegotiated last September, and he could demand a new deal after the season.

The Revis situation notwithstanding, the Jets wanted Asomugha badly, hoping they'd be able to sell him on the allure of New York and the chance to play immediately for a championship. Ryan is known for sweet-talking free agents, but he couldn't close this deal.

Now he might have to use that charm on Cromartie.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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