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Jets GM Tannenbaum has plenty of decisions to make

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Mike Tannenbaum has already moved on to next season.

A few days after the New York Jets' surprising playoff run ended in Indianapolis, the general manager was focused on getting his team back to the AFC championship game — and beyond.

"We are going to be invigorated by what happened," Tannenbaum said Thursday, "but also realize that come six, seven weeks from now, we've got to be humming and we need to have the best offseason of anybody in our division."

That means making some key personnel decisions during an uncertain offseason in which the NFL faces a year without a salary cap. There's also the fact that, as one of the final eight postseason teams, the Jets can't sign any unrestricted free agents unless they lose one of their own.

"There are challenges and we embrace the challenges," Tannenbaum said.

The Jets will tender offers to wide receiver Braylon Edwards, running back Leon Washington and backup quarterback Kellen Clemens — all restricted free agents under the current collective bargaining agreement.

Safety Kerry Rhodes, running back Thomas Jones and cornerback Lito Sheppard all face uncertain futures with the team, in large part because they're due hefty roster bonuses in March.

Edwards, who was traded from Cleveland in October, is expected to be tendered an offer that would command first- and third-round picks if another team wants to sign him. He was inconsistent, but gave the Jets a deep threat and finished with 35 catches for 541 yards and four TDs after the trade.

"I think some of Braylon's contributions were not just stat-driven," Tannenbaum said. "He was a great blocker and I think some of the defenses, the way they look at us, were quite different after we acquired him."

Washington could also warrant as much as a first- and third-round pick despite missing all but seven games with a broken leg. He was a Pro Bowl selection a year ago as a kick returner and causes matchup problems with his speed and shiftiness — as long as he's healthy.

"Our plan right now is we will tender Leon, and we expect him to be back," Tannenbaum said. "Then in terms of a longer-term deal, we'll just see how that goes over the offseason."

Clemens, once considered the team's future quarterback, lost the starting competition to rookie Mark Sanchez and ended up being a mentor to the No. 5 overall draft pick. Clemens has said he still believes he can start in the NFL, and Tannenbaum said the Jets would evaluate things if another team was interested in him.

Rhodes was demoted earlier in the season after not seeing eye-to-eye with coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, but responded with solid play during the team's playoff run. Rhodes has four years left on his contract and is due a $2 million roster bonus, so the team might want him to restructure his deal.

"We expect him to be back, unless something changes," Tannenbaum said.

Jones ran for a career-high 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns during the regular season, but faded in the postseason as rookie Shonn Greene got more carried. Jones, 31, is one of the team's leaders in the locker room, but is due a $3 million roster bonus and $2 million in salary.

"There are some economic issues that obviously have to be looked at over the next month," Tannenbaum said, "but we hope he's back."

Sheppard is almost certainly going to be an ex-Jet since he's due a $10 million roster bonus. It didn't bode well for Sheppard when Ryan chose to start second-year cornerback Dwight Lowery over him in the AFC championship.

Tannenbaum said the Jets had not yet made a decision on Sheppard, but acknowledged that the team will definitely look at adding depth to its secondary.

There was speculation that the Jets could look to cut former first-round draft pick Vernon Gholston because they wouldn't take a hit to the salary cap in an uncapped offseason. Instead, Tannenbaum said he fully expects Gholston to be back.

Gholston, the No. 6 pick out of Ohio State in 2008, was expected to help the Jets' pass rush but has no sacks in two seasons. There were also thoughts that Gholston lacks the desire to play at this level.

"I have no objective information to say that this guy doesn't like football," Tannenbaum said. "He may be quiet, but that doesn't mean he's not passionate. So, from where I sit in the world, it hasn't been lack of effort. ... What will his career turn out? We're not sure yet."