The New York Jets have been the biggest players in the NFL's offseason so far. But given two of the moves they made around draft weekend, the criticism of their decisions is bordering on equaling the praise they have received up to this point.
Sure, the Santonio Holmes move, at least from a football standpoint, looks like a slam dunk. All of the other moves, however, have legitimate question marks. It raises the question as to whether these moves had more to do with making a splash and selling Personal Seat Licenses than they did with winning football games.
The running back decisions take the cake. The Jets jettisoned Thomas Jones after a career year in which he gained over 1,400 yards and scored 14 TDs. They replaced him with former superstar LaDainian Tomlinson, whobrings name brand recognition but little else, as his average yards per carry slipped from 4.7 in 2007 to 3.8 in 2008 to 3.3 in 2009. Anyone else seeing a trend there? Yet the Jets got rid of Jones and are essentially paying L.T. the same amount they would have had to pay Jones. Hmmmm.
They also traded Leon Washington, the unquestioned star of the 2008 season who suffered a broken leg early in 2009, for pretty much nothing. The Jets may not have thought Washington would return to form and certainly didn't seem interested in giving him a contract extension, but betting on USC running back Joe McKnight to fill that role is a gamble. McKnight never lived up to his hype coming out of high school and is considered a very poor man's Reggie Bush.
But the Jets should be still be fine because they bring back the best line in football, a group with 34 consecutive starts together, right? Wrong. They recently released Alan Faneca, even though they have to pay him $5.25 million this year guaranteed. Does that make sense? They'd rather pay him $5.25 million to not play than $7.5 million to actually suit up for all 16-plus games?
Faneca is not the player he once was but is still solid. He was a big part of the successful running attack the Jets had last season. The two guys that started on either side of him the last two seasons, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, weren't very pleased with his release. Ferguson wanted to know "why???" on his Twitter account while Mangold said he was disappointed to hear the news.
It could be that both players are just disappointed their friend is gone. Or they could realize that continuity and chemistry are vital to offensive line play and that potentially adding a rookie starter to the mix in Vladimir Ducasse is less than ideal. Either way, the Jets moves, particularly as they relate to the running game, set them up for a boatload of criticism if they are anything less than the number one ranked unit in 2010. Why mess with the best?
Let's get to some e-mails and tweets ...
I understand your trepidation with the Sam Bradford pick, Ross, but it was the only pick that made sense economically. To me, at least. You're paying somebody $50 million whether you like it or not. Do you pay it to someone who will touch the ball on every offensive snap, thus impacting every offensive play, or do you pay it to someone who will maybe get a dozen sacks from the D line, thus impacting only a handful of plays a game? You've got to put the money on production, in my opinion. It might not work out, but every player in a draft is a crapshoot. Once a pay scale is implemented the pressure won't be like it currently is.--Mike Huck, Calgary, Canada
With that type of money on the line, I would draft someone I thought was more of a sure thing, like Ndamukong Suh, and not someone who is coming off a surgery, like Bradford. I'm just not comfortable with the amount of risk associated with Bradford. And if you think a defensive lineman like Suh can only impact a handful of plays a game, you are gravely mistaken. If dominant, he can alter offensive game plans.
Great letter to the new NFL rookies. They should feel very lucky to get such good advice (probably from a lot of other people too). My question is: What happens to the generic NFL player after his average three years in the league? I'm not referring to people who go into TV or radio, but those who are lesser known and slowly slip off the radar. Maybe we need an NFL version of "Where are they now?"--Brian Bortz, Oakton, Va.
Check out the UFL this fall. Hundreds of those type of players are in that league, playing for $35,000 to keep the dream alive. The other guys just blend into the real world like you and me.
You offered to be a sounding board to any rookies in your letter to 2009 rookies last year. Did anyone take you up on your offer, and what happened? The former journalist in me would want you to name names, but I respect any confidentiality issues.--Andy Schulkind, Stratford, Conn.
No, they didn't. Some coaches told me they gave it to their players and told them to read it. But I didn't hear from any of the rookies.
Would you put Walter Jones higher on your [all-time greatest tackle] list than Jonathan Ogden and Tony Boselli?--@phildreis via Twitter
It is amazing to me how one of the best players in the NFL over the past 12 years retires and does so with such little fanfare. Both Ogden and Orlando Pace were stellar in their prime but I never thought that either came all that close to what Big Walt could do, especially in the run game. His ability to drop his hips and move people was breathtaking. Boselli was a personal favorite because of his attitude and demeanor. It is a shame his shoulders wore out.