Adalius Thomas: Pursue or No?

In addition to our Draft and our "Stay or Go" profiles, we're also going to take a look at some players the Jets may consider from other teams. Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas is the first. Thomas was a big ticket signing for the Pats back in 2007. The two time Pro Bowler in Baltimore was considered one of the most versatile linebackers in football and a great fit for the kind of defense the Pats ran. After two moderately productive seasons, things fell apart for Thomas this year in Foxborough. He was deactivated more than once, played poorly when on the field, and questioned his coach in public after Bill Belichick sent Thomas home for being late for a meeting. Thomas was late because he got stuck in a snowstorm and was not happy over that treatment. They don't take kindly to things like that in New England. Many expect the Pats to release him. New England is going to make a ton of changes on the defensive side of the ball, and the uncapped year will allow them to dump Thomas' big contract without penalty.

You may ask why the Jets would want a 32 year old linebacker coming off a bad year who turned into a locker room problem. Things aren't so simple. For starters, the Jets can pursue him with no limitations if the Pats do cut him. The final eight rule does not apply to players under contract other teams release. Beyond that, Thomas thrived in Rex Ryan's system in Baltimore. Rex helped turn him into such a desired commodity on the free agent market. He had 167 tackles and 20 sacks in Ryan's defense in 2005 and 2006.

I think part of the problem Thomas had in New England was the approach. Belichick defenses tend to focus on the whole. Rex's defense focuses on the individual parts. Ryan exploited Thomas' athleticism by lining him up all over the field to try and create mismatches. He lined up at inside linebacker, outside linebacker, nose tackle, safety, and even cornerback depending on what the situation dictated. New England has much more specific responsibilities tailored to position for its defensive players. While Rex makes it a point to give specific players a shot to make plays, the Pats expect guys to stick to their role. That's not an endorsement of either approach over the other. They've both been very successful. I'm just looking to put Adalius' career into context. Thomas spent a lot of time at inside linebacker, which he could play adequately but also limited him to specific gap assignments in many instances.

I don't think Adalius is going to return to his 11 sack 2006 form. He's 32 years old and seems to be in some sort of decline. He's not the definitive answer for this team's pass rushing problems. I also don't think he's as washed up as he looked this year. You can't overlook personal happiness. Think back to Rex's first practice when he chided his players for not having enough fun. The Jets were stuck in the business like New England culture Eric Mangini installed. Again, both work. Some players take to one style more than the other. The comments based on being sent home from the snowstorm meeting say to me Thomas doesn't feel the Belichick approach offers him enough respect and frustrates him. In any walk of life, a happy worker is a more productive worker. Being back to a scheme designed around his strengths and with more of a players' coach could be what Thomas needs. Impact player? I'm not sure. A valuable piece of depth at linebacker? Most definitely.

I honestly expect Adalius Thomas to be a Jet next year. Belichick began cleaning house on defense. His coordinator is gone. Next will likely be a guy who hasn't played up to his contract and made a cardinal rule of the culture by questioning the authority. Thomas doesn't seem terribly happy in New England. He's likely to be receptive to a reunion with a coach who got the most out of him and is more laid back. Coming off a bad year at 32, he's not going to command crazy money. He's made his payday.

I vote pursue.

How do you vote?

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