In this segment I will be taking a glass is half full and glass is half empty look at the topic at hand. I will be looking over recent and relevant Jets news and giving the best and worst case scenarios. I will finish by wrapping up a realistic view of the situation. As a Jets fan, we all love to look forward to the possibility of better things. We hope every season it will be our year, and we have the reasons why lined up. A large part of the fan base, while hopeful, is pessimistic. No matter what great move we will find as many reasons for why it will fail as we do why it will work. Here you can feed your need for both. You can get hopeful and rally behind your favorite team, and hedge your bets so you don't get burned when it all crashes down.
In this segment I will be looking at CB Antonio Cromartie. He has made news recently by reporting he expects to be cut, but hopes to return. This is not a keep him or kick him article. We will be looking at Cromartie as a player, teammate, and cap number.
Cromartie came to the Jets in 2010 and has played every season since. As he stands he is the only proven player on the roster at CB. Coming off a down year, many believe he might be finished. He will turn 30 in April and may require hip surgery. Those are not the kind of things that make your roster spot secure. There is still worth in that roster spot, however. Sans Cromartie our top 2 CB tandem would be Kyle Wilson and Dee Milliner. Those names don't exactly compare to the Revis Cromartie tandem of years past. Wilson has hit his ceiling. Even under the tutelage of top CB Darrelle Revis, Wilson hasn't lived up to his first round draft pick status. There is little hope of seeing any more than what we already have seen from him. Milliner showed dramatic growth in the last month of the season, but is far from a finished product. He is not far removed from benchings to save his psyche. The rest of the DB's, while capable, aren't people I will be writing to my mother about.
That leaves Cromartie, the man who was torched all season and gimped into the off season with a bum hip. How could he better the situation? Maturity. That is a word seldom thought of when the name Antonio Cromartie is uttered. I remember a time not long gone when he was considered immature and a bad seed in the locker room. Now he brings other members of the secondary under his wings. Those reports always felt real, unlike the same reports of Santonio Holmes. Milliner may be the next big thing, but he needs someone to learn from and that man is Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie will have the entire off season to get healthy. Rex Ryan, for all his flaws, seems to know how to keep intelligent but injury prone veterans healthy. Look at Laron Landry and Kellen Winslow.
Another point I would like to focus on is the message it would send to players. Contenders will always be able to acquire free agents. Most players want to play for a title. The Jets aren't exactly contenders. What comes next on the list? Money? What if there are two matching offers on the table, what makes a player choose team A over team B? Some franchises are known for treating their players well, others not so much. The Steelers are run like a family. The Patriots are ran like mercenaries for hire. The Jets haven't always treated their players well, but there's always time to change. We started out our relationship with Cromartie the right way. If you recall we fronted him money from his contract to pay his child support to his many children. This act of kindness seems to have stuck with him. He has bled green ever since then. There is rarely an I or me to his boasts. Its always we and us.
How many times have I seen a man lay his heart and body out for this team and say he wants to retire a Jet only to see him leave for a minimal contract? The answer is too many. Cromartie deserves to retire a Jet. He plays, teaches, and acts like a Jet. All season long he played in visible pain. There is nothing to say a healthy Cro can't rebound to be a solid, though likely not, spectacular CB.
This is a roster in transition. Our rebuild was masked by our 8-8 record, a tribute to the coaching job of Rex Ryan. In a rebuild, any aging veteran has to feel his seat begin to warm. Aging veterans are good for win now, post season runs. In these situations their savy will often afford them time as their bodies wear down. The game of football is as much mental as it is physical. On a rebuilding team, the needed commodity is youth and potential. We had a fire sale on veteran talent last season, leaving a young roster with more potential than proven worth. If not for salary cap concerns, many of our other veterans might have been released to. Good, winning, teams have premium talent playing for minimum contracts. They are not loaded with old players with large contracts. Cromartie got old fast this season. He went from the reason we could get rid of Revis to the reason we missed him in one year's time.
We have seen Cromartie at his very best last season when Revis went down. He played like a real number 1 corner. It would be ludicrous to expect a better performance than that from him at his age. Once peaked, a player begins to decline, some faster than others.If we have seen his best, logic would say we begin to go back in time to see his decline. If his other seasons as a Jet are a measuring stick, he will be inconsistent at best. A game changer either for our team or theirs. During his other seasons as a Jet, he was often burned for touchdowns or penalized trying to prevent one. Chances are, once healthy, he will be back to being inconsistent. Even if the opportunity to bring him back on the cheap arises, he would likely be taking snaps away from his future replacement. There is no teacher like a hands on teacher. Players learn best on the field. In rebuild mode, its acceptable to allow young players to struggle for the greater good of swift improvement. Allowing veterans to maintain their spots simply because they are better now is counter productive if they will likely be gone in under 2 years time.
His body isn't the only problem on Cromartie. His mouth has also gotten him into trouble. The Jets are looking to get past their circus atmosphere past, and Cromartie's bulletin board sound bites would be a step in the right direction. For a young team who only won back to back games once this season, keeping distracting headlines to a minimum is a must. Look no further than the Panthers game this season and Santonio Holmes' mouth bringing out the best of a mediocre secondary. Injuries are also nearly impossible to gauge. Adrian Peterson had a miracle return to health. Sione Pouha went from dominating NT to a bench warmer with a tweaked back. There is no way to know how Cromartie will respond to surgery or rehab. He is not at the age where it can be expected he returns to the same form he was before the injury. It is a complete toss up, and that's not a safe bet for the Jets to make. If Cromartie is brought back, even on the cheap, you can bet Rex Ryan will put his full trust back in him. Last season Calvin Pace found the fountain of youth. Many are hoping that the same can be said of Cromartie. I struggle to find another situation that played out like Calvin Pace's. Can you name another aging veteran who had played below his perceived potential for years, only to come back and post a career season? If it takes you longer than a minute to think of one, it's likely a fluke. I have a bad feeling Rex will now feel that every player can be a Calvin Pace, and that's not even close to a reality.
The Jets have a bottom of the barrel roster, and any and all chances to improve must be sought out. Rebuilding is a game of taking chances. Taking a chance on a player who might turn into something big. Is an injured veteran, who only lived up to his reputation in 1 season worth that chance?
There is almost no chance that Cromartie plays the final year on his current contract. Bringing back a core player like Cromartie on the cheap is a risk worth taking. That is, so long as every other option is explored. The team can't afford to simply go through the motions by cutting and re-signing him without further exploration. Cromartie will likely be worth more as a player/coach than he will be as a player. If he returns to a form where he can contribute more as a player than a coach, perfect. If the opportunity to bring in cheap, young, talent arises and is passed, we have made a mistake.
I have enjoyed watching Cromartie's career as a Jet. His gaffes in coverage somehow were smoothed over by his electric INT and kick returns. Watching him do a backflip after we beat the Patriots in the playoffs is a vision I won't soon forget. I would have been doing the same if I wasn't 5'8 and Irish. I would like to see Cromartie retire a Jet, at the right price, and not at the cost of team development. I can't see teams beating down his door when he hits the market. I think we can get him at a reasonable price, and use his brain as much as his legs to further the team.