NFL DRAFT NEEDS: AFC EAST Bills | Dolphins | Patriots OVERVIEW
After an extraordinary rookie campaign that included a trip to the AFC Championship, head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets are gearing up for a Super Bowl run in 2010. Led by a charismatic young quarterback reminiscent of Broadway Joe, New York should be serious contenders for football's ultimate prize. They've already started filling holes through free agency, and by the end of the draft it should be hard to find a chink in this team's armor. Hardnosed tailback Thomas Jones was cut and replaced with surefire Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson in a Patriots-like move. Then Antonio Cromartie was acquired in a trade with the Chargers to fill the void opposite Darelle Revis. Immediately following that move, Kerry Rhodes was jettisoned and replaced with Brodney Pool. The Jets are off to a good start this offseason, but a solid draft could put them over the top. They'll have six selections to work with, as they hold picks No. 29, 61, 124, 155, 198 and 236. New York boasted the top-ranked defense in the NFL last season, but one problem still remains: getting to the quarterback. The Jets registered 32 sacks in 2009, tying them for a pedestrian 18th ranking in the league. Rex Ryan would love to get a disruptive pass rusher to play on the edge in his 3-4 defense. Vernon Gholston, the sixth overall pick two years ago, has been a titanic bust. Calvin Pace is a solid player, but can definitely be upgraded. Bryan Thomas is the starter by default because Gholston struggles to get on the field. The two starters combined for just 10 sacks last season, a number than can be greatly improved. The team's looking into signing 36-year-old Jason Taylor, but some youth and energy is needed at the position. One possibility is Clemson 'tweener Ricky Sapp, who's scheduled to visit the Jets' complex soon. Jason Worilds of Virginia Tech will reportedly also visit. New York drafted their franchise passer last season, so the next step was to get him weapons. Former Pro Bowler Braylon Edwards was acquired in a midseason trade and looked good again at times, although he still drops passes and disappears too often. Days ago, the Jets took Santonio Holmes off the Steelers' hands for the bargain price of a fifth-round pick. Holmes will miss the first four games of the season while serving a suspension, but could prove to be a steal in the end. Back on the defensive side of the ball, the Jets could also use help up front, specifically at the defensive end position. Shaun Ellis is a good player, but he'll be 32 years old in June. Marques Douglas started on the opposite side, but the unrestricted free agent was allowed to walk this offseason. New York will need to add some youth to the defensive front. Jared Odrick of Penn State and Corey Peters of Kentucky are scheduled to visit the team. Both played defensive tackle in college, but project well to defensive end in the Jets' "30 front." In the secondary, Brodney Pool was signed away from Cleveland after they traded Kerry Rhodes to Arizona, but Pool was nearly forced to retire in the offseason after missing the final six games of 2009 with his fourth concussion in five seasons. This draft is loaded at safety, and the Jets can find a quality young player to groom in the later rounds. Florida safety Major Wright is scheduled to visit the complex prior to the draft. Other prospects known to be visiting the Jets complex include Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis, Tennessee tailback Montario Hardesty, Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson, Fresno State tailback Ryan Mathews, Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty, Florida center Maurkice Pouncey, Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson and Penn State tight end Mickey Shuler. OFFSEASON REPORT FRANCHISE PLAYER: None TRANSITION PLAYER: None UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LS James Dearth (was not re-signed), DE Marques Douglas (was not re-signed), K Jay Feely (was not re-signed, signed with Arizona), LB Ryan Fowler (was not re-signed), TE Ben Hartsock (re-signed for two years at $3.2 million), LB Larry Izzo (was not re-signed), FB Tony Richardson (re-signed for one year) RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Braylon Edwards (received first and third-round tender at $6.1 million and signed offer sheet), RB Leon Washington (received second-round tender at $1.759 million), WR Brad Smith (received second-round tender at $1.759 million and signed offer sheet), QB Kellen Clemens (received original-round tender at $1.176 million), S Eric Smith (received original-round tender at $1.176 million and signed offer sheet), T Wayne Hunter (received original-round tender at $1.2 million and signed offer sheet), CB Drew Coleman (received original-round tender at $1.176 million), S James Ihedigbo (received right of first refusal tender and signed offer sheet), WR Wallace Wright (was not tendered), LB Marques Murrell (was not tendered), DT Howard Green (was not tendered) EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: WR David Clowney (received one-year tender and signed) PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: FB Tony Richardson, WR Braylon Edwards, WR Brad Smith, S Eric Smith, T Wayne Hunter, S James Ihedigbo, TE Ben Hartsock PLAYERS ACQUIRED: K Nick Folk, T Michael Turkovich, CB Antonio Cromartie (via trade with San Diego), S Brodney Pool, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, DT Rodrique Wright, LB Lance Laury, K Clint Stitser, WR Santonio Holmes (via trade with Pittsburgh) PLAYERS LOST: CB Lito Sheppard, CB Donald Strickland, RB Thomas Jones, LS James Dearth, DE Marques Douglas, K Jay Feely, LB Larry Izzo, WR Wallace Wright, LB Marques Murrell, DT Howard Green, LB Ryan Fowler, Kerry Rhodes (via trade with Arizona) DRAFT NEEDS OUTSIDE LINEBACKER -- To call Vernon Gholston a disappointment would be an understatement. The sixth-overall pick two years ago, Gholston was brought in to rush the passer from the 3-4 outside linebacker spot, but has never recorded a sack in his two-year career. Bryan Thomas gets the starting nod because Gholston can't push him for playing time. On the other side, Calvin Pace is a decent player, but can also be improved on. Even if Jason Taylor's signed, he isn't a long-term solution. DEFENSIVE END - Marques Douglas is gone, and while Shaun Ellis is still a solid player, he'll be 32 soon. New York should look to get younger at this position. FREE SAFETY -- Brodney Pool will fill in for Kerry Rhodes, but his history of concussions makes him a bit unreliable. A deep pool of talented safeties should allow the Jets to add some youthful depth at the position.