Jets won't re-sign Jim Leonhard

Updated: July 19, 2012, 12:35 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

Free-agent safety Jim Leonhard, a Rex Ryan favorite who galvanized the New York Jets' secondary for three seasons, won't be back with the team.

After revamping the safety position in the offseason, the Jets have decided not to re-sign Leonhard, according to league sources.

Leonhard, 29, is recovering from major knee surgery but still hopes to play this season. The injury occurred Dec. 11 -- a torn patellar tendon -- a devastating blow for a player in the final year of his contract.

As much as they admire Leonhard, the Jets signed two free agents, LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, formerly of the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins, respectively. They retained veteran Eric Smith and drafted two safeties, Josh Bush and Antonio Allen, making Leonhard expendable. Even so, there was speculation he would return.

Leonhard could return if there's an injury at safety, but the Jets' plan is to move ahead without the popular defender, who called the signals for Ryan's secondary.

"Hopefully, in the next few weeks, I get some workouts and get a contract," Leonhard recently told WEAU-TV in his native Wisconsin. "The knee is feeling great and I'm ready to go. I'm getting antsy. Football is around the corner and I don't have a team ... I know I'm going to be playing football somewhere this season. I just have to figure out where."

Leonhard finished the past two seasons on injured reserve, so there are questions about his durability. In December, 2010, he suffered a horrific broken leg in practice, requiring surgery. He made a comeback, started 13 games last season and finished fifth on the team in tackles.

With Leonhard out of the lineup, there was a noticeable drop-off in the Jets' secondary play.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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