In an abbreviated, lockout-shortened offseason highlighted by several high-profile free agents flocking to the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Jets managed to make some headlines of their own. They started off free agency by re-signing their own top free agent, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, to a 5-year, $50 million contract, that includes $24 million guaranteed. With 3 of their 4 top wide receivers from last season hitting free agency (Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Brad Smith), it was imperative to retain at least 1 or 2 of them, and aside from Holmes being far and away the best from that group, he is one of the top wide receivers in the entire NFL. After re-signing Holmes, the Jets turned their attention to the top free agent on the market regardless of position, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Just a day before Asomugha shocked the world and signed with the Eagles, it was speculated that he had narrowed his choices down to the Jets and Dallas Cowboys, with the Jets being the leader. With Asomugha out of the picture, the Jets re-signed Antonio Cromartie, their second most important free agent behind Holmes and the player who started opposite Darrelle Revis last season after coming over from San Diego in a trade. While Cromartie is not as talented as Nnamdi Asomugha, he quietly had a solid season for the Jets last year. With Revis manning one cornerback post, the Jets know who ever starts opposite of him will see a lot of action as most teams have abandoned testing #24, and Cromartie has great height, speed, and ball skills. The next move will likely be the most scrutinized this upcoming season, as the Jets signed former Giant WR Plaxico Burress. Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past two years, you are well aware of Burress’ stint in jail following gun charges stemming from when he shot himself in the thigh in a New York City nightclub. This is a low-risk, high-reward move as they offered him a 1-year, $3.017 million guaranteed contract to start opposite Holmes, essentially replacing Braylon Edwards. Those moves highlighted the Jets activity in free agency and they had similar success in the 2011 NFL Draft. Rex Ryan used the team’s first-round pick to select Temple DT/DE Muhammad Wilkerson, who is expected to start at DE in the Jets base 3-4 defense. With their second round pick they chose 6’5” 330 lb. DT Kenrick Ellis, who they hope will be the heir apparent at DT after they released Kris Jenkins in the offseason. The Jets used the rest of their picks to add depth at a number of positions, but at least one of them, Jeremly Kerley, has the chance to make an immediate impact. The 5’9” wide receiver out of TCU will look to step into the vacancy at slot receiver, created by Brad Smith’s signing with the Buffalo Bills. He will also try to fill Smith’s spot as a returner on kicks and punts, as well as his role as the Wildcat quarterback, something Kerley did at TCU.
Heading into last season, Mark Sanchez’s second year out of USC, it was widely assumed that he would be asked to simply manage games rather than win them. As the year progressed, it became clear that it was Sanchez’s offense as he made play after play, coming up huge in the clutch. Sanchez will return this season not only as the starting quarterback, but as the NewYork Jet’s captain. He again will have two solid options at running back in LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. Tomlinson revitalized his career last season, far exceeding any expectations fans and coaches had upon his signing with the Jets. Greene, a battering ram of a running back, will likely be asked to take on a larger role this season to lessen the wear and tear on Tomlinson, including more red zone carries. The wide receiver position will have a different look this season, as only Santonio Holmes returns. With the recent release of Jerricho Cotchery, the Jets will be replacing 4 of their 5 wideouts from a season ago. Holmes will be joined by Plaxico Burress, who will start opposite him despite having been out of football the past two years. Two rookies, Jeremy Kerley from TCU and Scotty McKnight from Colorado, will have the opportunity to seize the slot receiver position. Patrick Turner, who played minimally last season after coming over from the Miami Dolphins, is the only other returning receiver with game experience. Look for the Jets to potentially add a veteran WR like Derrick Mason as camp wears on. The tight end position is in good hands as the dynamic Dustin Keller returns. Keller developed quite a rapport with Sanchez last season, becoming his safety valve and one of his favorite targets. Keller led the team last season with 55 receptions and also had 5 touchdowns. The Jets will also return one of the best offensive lines in all of the NFL, led by Pro Bowlers LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson and C Nick Mangold. Brandon Moore, a road grader at RG, also returns. A little shuffling will be necessary as the Jets parted ways with last season’s starting RT Damien Woody. Expect last year’s second-round pick Vladimir Ducasse to challenge Wayne Hunter at RT, with the former also adding depth at LG behind Matt Slauson.
This group is the reason people purchase New York Jets tickets. The Jets run a base 3-4 defense and this season they will look a little different up front then in years past. Gone is NT Kris Jenkin, who was replaced by Sione Pouha after suffering a season-ending injury for the second consecutive year. Pouha will face competition from 2nd round pick Kenrick Ellis, who is a mammoth at 6’3” 335 lbs. The Jets are expecting 1st round pick Muhammad Wilkerson to start at defensive end from day 1. Look for Shaun Ellis, Trevor Pryce, and Mike DeVito to fill out the other DE position, as well as add depth at the position. The heart and soul of all Rex Ryan defenses are the linebackers and that is most certainly true with this New York Jets teams. The Jets have perhaps the NFL’s best ILB duo in Bart Scott and David Harris. Harris was just rewarded with a 4 year contract extension this offseason, making him the final member of the Jets’ “Core Four” to be locked up for the next few seasons. Harris and Scott are flanked on one side by Calvin Pace on one side and Bryan Thomas on the other. Look for Jamaal Westerman and Cody Brown to challenge Thomas, as well as provide situational pass rushers. The secondary is also strong as the Jets return Darelle Revis, the NFL’s premier cornerback, and Antonio Cromartie at the starting CB posts. Former first round pick Kyle Wilson will be counted on to fill the Nickel corner role, while Donald Strickland and Dwight Lowery will challenge and provide depth in multi-WR sets. Jim Leonhard will start at one safety spot, while Eric Smith will start opposite him if he can hold off Brodney Pool.
The Jets brought back kicker Nick Folk, while TJ Conley will handle the punting duties. The loss of do-it-all WR/KR Brad Smith will certainly hurt, and the team will look to several players to fill his role on return teams. Expect the competition at KR to be between Joe McKnight, Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson, and rookie Jeremy Kerley, while Jim Leonhard will return as the PR.