Why? Why would the Jets choose CB Dee Milliner at #9? Were they mad? What could possibly justify this pick?
Well... first let's get one thing straight. I am not a draft expert. I am not particularly familiar with Dee Milliner's body of work. If you want to tell me he's the best CB in the draft, so be it. If you think he's not even top 5, so be it. I don't pretend to know. So let's just forget for an instant about his particular skills or lack thereof and simply call him a CB. Why then did the Jets choose a CB? Don't they already have 2 pretty good ones (assuming you don't think Kyle Wilson stinks)?
Well, yes... for now. But now, as it turns out, is a remarkably short period of time. And in 2014, we almost surely will be down to just Wilson... and our shiny new CB.
Recall for a moment who was the one player GM John Idzik chose to restructure (as opposed to simply cutting his pay ala Santonio Holmes). That one player was the Jets best cornerback (and apparently second best WR), Antonio Cromartie. Idzik chose not to extend Cromartie's contract. Instead he simply converted all but $840,000 of base salary into a signing bonus, which was then prorated over the final 2 years of the deal, 2013 and 2014. The net effect of that move was to create several million dollars in cap space for 2013, while creating a monstrous cap number for Cromartie for 2014. Cromartie's cap number for 2014 is now... are you ready for this?....$15 million! Well, technically it's $14.98 million, but I don't want to keep typing that, so we'll call it $15 million.
Of that $15 million, $9.5 million is in the form of base salary, and roster and workout bonuses, and $5.5 million is in the form of prorated bonus money. Meaning if in 2014 the Jets trade or cut Cromartie prior to him earning those roster and workout bonuses, they achieve a cool $9.5 million in cap savings for 2014.
Now, the Jets just traded Darrelle Revis, the greatest cornerback in the game, because they refused to have a cornerback take up $16 million in cap space. Revis was hurt, yes. But he was also 15 months younger, and when healthy an order of magnitude or two better than Cromartie. If the Jets had no intention of paying a 28 year old Revis that kind of money, what are the chances they would be willing to have a 30 1/2 year old Cromartie eat up $15 million in cap space in 2014? I would say somewhere between none and noner.
So what were their options? They could extend Cromartie and thereby spread out the cap hit over more years. But Idzik has shown no inclination to extend the contracts of 30+ year olds. They could try to reduce his pay ala Holmes. But Cromartie's contract does not have the same pecularities Holmes' contract did that made it so easy to force a pay cut on Holmes. And Cromartie is not likely to just be a good guy and take a hit. They could trade Cromartie. Or they could cut him. The last two options seem by far the most likely, meaning in all likelihood Cromartie will be an ex-Jet in less than a year.
Now, there is also the matter of Wilson. If the Jets are anything like their fanbase, they are somewhat lukewarm on Wilson's abilities. Wilson's rookie contract expires after the 2014 season, after which he becomes a free agent. Idzik could extend him after the 2013 season, but it may well be that the Jets just don't think all that much of his abilities. If they don't then they will likely let Wilson walk after 2014. If they really don't like his game at all they might even cut him after the 2013 season and save a million or so in cap space. If either of those things happen, and I think it is more likely than not that one of them will happen, then over the course of 2 years, from April 2013 through April 2015, the Jets will have lost their #1, #2 and #3 cornerbacks.
This, I think, is the long game. This is why the Jets went cornerback in round 1. Because if they hadn't, in less than 2 years the secondary cupboard would be very bare indeed. So in fact cornerback may just have been somewhat more a position of need than many observers thought.
This isn't to say Milliner was the best pick, or that Milliner was the best player available. It isn't to say the Jets shouldn't have looked elsewhere at #9. It is just an attempt to explain what the Jets may have been thinking in taking the cornerback at #9. Time will tell if they were shrewd or crazy in that choice.