NEW YORK – Mike Tannenbaum is prepared for another busy offseason for the Jets.
That is, when — or, if — the NFL's uncertain labor situation is cleared up.
"As soon as we know what the rules of engagement are," Tannenbaum said Friday, "we'll be ready."
New York will have nearly 20 potential free agents to address, and among them, Tannenbaum hopes to keep wide receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith — all of whom played major roles in leading the Jets to the AFC championship game for the second straight season.
"I thought this past season was a good one," Tannenbaum said during a season-ending conference call. "It solidifies our program and I think we have a great foundation of sustainable success for the future."
One reason for the positive outlook is the maturation of quarterback Mark Sanchez, who was terrific in the postseason for the second straight year. He played the last month of the season with a sore right shoulder that could need surgery, but Tannenbaum said no decision has been made on that yet.
"He's going to get a couple of opinions," Tannenbaum said. "And then, we're going to make the best decision once we get all the information."
He added that if Sanchez needs a procedure, he'd prefer it be "sooner rather than later," but the team doesn't have a final plan yet.
Tannenbaum praised both Holmes and Edwards for helping Sanchez through the regular season and in the playoffs, and would like to maintain the chemistry the trio developed.
"We'll see what the system looks like moving forward," he said. "We hope to keep them all."
Tannenbaum said he and his staff have begun putting together several plans, but "in pencil" because of the labor situation and doubts the team will sign any players before the end of the league year.
He also declined comment on any possible interest in former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who will be released from prison in June.
"If and when a player is reinstated, we could look at that," he said. "I just don't like to deal in hypotheticals now. We have plenty of other players to look at and decisions to make."
The Jets could potentially take a similar approach to the one they took last season when they made headlines constantly. They cut or traded popular players — Thomas Jones, Alan Faneca, Leon Washington, Jay Feely and Kerry Rhodes — and traded for or signed other proven veterans — Tomlinson, Holmes, Antonio Cromartie and Jason Taylor — in a significant renovation of the roster.
Tannenbaum expects both Tomlinson and Taylor to be back next season since they're both under contract, although he left the door open for both to be one and done in New York. Tomlinson, 31, led the Jets with 914 yards rushing, but slowed as the season went on. That was "a little bit of a concern," according to the general manager.
"These things could change, but we do expect him back," Tannenbaum said, raving about Tomlinson's leadership qualities. "He did good things for us."
Tannenbaum had similar praise for the 36-year-old Taylor, who had five sacks but was emotional after the Jets' 24-19 loss at Pittsburgh last Sunday because he wasn't sure if it was his last NFL game.
"He's a pro's pro," Tannenbaum said.
He was also noncommittal on other older players such as Damien Woody, Tony Richardson and Kris Jenkins.
Linebacker David Harris will be a top priority, and Tannenbaum wouldn't rule out a long-term contract or applying the franchise tag on him. Harris, the team's top tackler, is considered one of the Jets' "Core Four" young players, along with Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson — who all received new contracts before this past season.
"We expect him to be here for years to come," Tannenbaum said.
Tannenbaum said Cromartie was solid playing opposite Revis and is a player the team would like to keep despite some recent controversy in which he called Tom Brady an expletive, as well as the leaders of the NFL and its players union. Cromartie also took offense to a comment directed at him by Matt Hasselbeck on Thursday, telling the Seattle quarterback he will "smash ur face in."
"I'm not in a position to comment on what he's said," Tannenbaum said, "especially what he's said to other players on other teams."
One young player who might not be back is former first-round pick Vernon Gholston, who has not had a sack in three NFL seasons and didn't play in the team's three postseason games.
"We'll see if there's a role that makes sense for him," Tannenbaum said. "If there is, obviously we'll keep him. If not, we'll move on."
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's name has been mentioned over the last few offseasons for head coaching vacancies, but Tannenbaum reiterated that the coach is "certainly coming back" next season. He also acknowledged that Tennessee had not yet requested permission to interview him for their head coaching job, but some teams have asked about other assistant coaches.
"I hope to have the staff back intact," Tannenbaum said. "They did a good job, obviously."