NEW YORK (AP) — It just got a lot tougher to throw against the New York Jets.
A few hours before the NFL's free agency period began, the Jets improved their secondary in a big way by agreeing in principle with the San Diego Chargers to acquire talented but troubled cornerback Antonio Cromartie on Thursday night.
The Jets confirmed the deal, but didn't release specifics — although it is believed to be for a draft pick in 2011.
Cromartie was an All-Pro in 2007 and will team with Darrelle Revis in the Jets' secondary, making them possibly the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Cromartie replaces Lito Sheppard, who was released earlier in the day after one disappointing season.
It could be a welcome change for Cromartie, who has struggled the last two seasons. He has 15 interceptions in four seasons since being the 19th overall pick out of Florida State in 2006, but the Chargers were dissatisfied with Cromartie's performance late last season and in the playoffs. General manager A.J. Smith made it clear he would try to trade him.
One of Cromartie's low moments actually came against his new team in the playoffs in January. Cromartie froze as Jets running back Shonn Greene hit the hole at the start of a 53-yard touchdown run that gave New York a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter of a 17-14 win in the AFC divisional round. Cromartie eventually caught up to Greene and gave him a shove well after he'd crossed the goal line — but he had already drawn the ire of fans and apparently the Chargers.
The 25-year-old Cromartie also has had his share of legal troubles. He has dealt with at least five paternity suits; he has fathered seven children by several woman. Cromartie also had a bar patron claim that he hit him in the head with a champagne bottle hours after the team's victory at Denver last November. San Diego police later said there was not enough evidence to prove the claim.
He was also disciplined by coach Norv Turner for breaking team rules regarding tweeting from the team premises.
Despite the issues both on and off the field, Cromartie gives Jets coach Rex Ryan an athletic player with loads of potential.
In his second season in 2007, Cromartie set the Chargers' franchise record with an NFL-leading 10 interceptions, and added two more picks in the playoffs as San Diego made it to the AFC championship game. He also was credited earlier in the season with the longest play in NFL history when he returned a missed field goal by Minnesota 109 yards for a touchdown.
He boasted the next season that he wanted to break the NFL record for interceptions with 14, but had just two while playing throughout the year with a hip injury. Cromartie had three interceptions last season.