So whether you liked it or you didn't. Kerry Rhodes is gone, he is no more. Well he is, but just not as far as Jets fans are concerned. I may not of agreed with the value but if he was a problem in the locker room and he was not Rex's guy, then it was probably better for him to leave. Even though being a problem in the locker room, and not being a Rex guy got us to the AFC Championship game.
So now we are left with one 4th rounder, a nice selection to have, and a glaring hole at FS. SO where do we go from here? do we sign someone to an offer sheet, do we trade for someone or do we simply draft someone and hope for the best? There are several options for us, so let's take a look at some of them below.
In many ways this off-season really could define Mike T's reign in New York, he has improved the team before, but what does he do with a successful team? So far he has done his best to dismantle it, if the Jets fall flat next season, and some key areas fail to produce, Mike T will, and probably should take the fall for it. Not saying he should be fired, but his reputation could take a big hit.
So options, options, options:
Option Number 1: Start Eric Smith on a Permanent Basis
This is likely not going to be a popular choice, and if the poll voting is anything to go by so far, most Jets fans don't want to see this. When Kerry was benched towards the end of the season, Eric came in and did a good job. He is not the most athletic player on the field, not the quickest or strongest, but he is the epitome of Rex's saying "Hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard". I don't think I would trust Eric in coverage on an athletic tight end like Dallas Clark. That could be a long day for everyone involved on the Jets side of the ball. However he works hard, he puts his nose in there, and can make plays on the ball. A part of me thinks that he probably deserves a chance, and if after training camp he is the best available, then I would be willing to give him a chance. Although I wouldn't be confident that he could excel there. Like I have said before, I like Eric Smith, and any player that is willing to work hard and put his head into a tackle will become likable. I just don't think he is a permanent answer.
Option Number 2: Sign OJ Atogwe To An Offer Sheet
One year after St Louis slapped the franchise tag on Atogwe, they decided to low ball him with the lowest possible tender. 'Right to first refusal', which basically means that he can negotiate with any team he chooses, they can sign him to an offer sheet, if the Rams want to match they can, if they don't they don't get any compensation at all. They can always work out a trade, but if a team wants him, and he wants to leave St Louis, then a contract can be negotiated that would be almost impossible to match. Why OJ Atogwe? quite simply he is one of the most underrated players because he plays on a poor team. He is coming off shoulder surgery, but he does it all on the field, and he does it all pretty well. In 5 seasons in the NFL he has 19 interceptions, 3 sacks, 14 forced fumbles and 317 tackles. In 2007 he had 12 pass defenses and 8 interceptions. In just 12 games this season he had 74 tackles, 5 pass deference, 2 interceptions a sack and a forced fumble. If his shoulder checks out, then this is a very good option in my opinion.
Option Number 3: Sign Dawan Landry To An Offer Sheet
Dawan is another Rex Ryan guy, drafted in the 5th round of the 2006 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Landry a player who can play both safety positions and has the talent to do it as well has put together a nice start to his career. Limited to just 2 games in 2008, Landry bounced back in 2009 with a season that encouraged the Ravens to slap a 2nd round tender on his head. 89 tackles, 8 pass defenses, 4 interceptions, 1 TD and a forced fumble in 2009. If we did want to sign the former Yellow Jacket, we would have to surrender our 2nd round draft selection, which would mean we would be sitting out two rounds in a row, the 2nd and the 3rd. We would have to give him a contract that the Ravens wouldn't match, but this is definitely one of the options that is likely being considered right around now.
Option Number 4: Sign Nick Collins To An Offer Sheet
I wasn't even thinking about this because of the tender on his head, if we were to sign Nick Collins it would cost $$$, the Packers would need to not match the offer, and we would have to give up a 1st and 3rd round pick. We don't have a 3rd round selection so we would have to get one. Too many moving parts for this and the price is too steep, so thanks but no thanks to St Nick.
Option Number 5: Sign Usama Young To An Offer Sheet
Usama Young is low on experience, low on playing time and low on peoples radar. Drafted in round 3 of the 2007 NFL draft out of Kent State by the New Orleans Saints, Young has made just 3 starts over three years, so in my book he is not worth the 3rd round tender they placed on him. A little like Eric Smith, but quicker and more athletic. He has however amassed 83 tackles, 11 pass defenses and 3 interceptions in those three starts and his other playing time in sub packages. Not worth a third rounder, but a guy I personally like, and who I think could be one to watch for the Saints, especially if they lose Darren Sharper. He makes nice reads on the ball, he can tackle, if this draft was not so deep and we had a third, I might be willing to take a risk, however as things stand, I don't think this is a serious possibility.
Option Number 6: Sign Darren Sharper
There was quite some confusion surrounding this in the Kerry Rhodes thread yesterday. As I understand it, Sharper is a UFA. Although there were some mumblings about final 4 teams being able to sign other final 4 teams UFA's all they like, I have been unable to find anything to confirm this. So as it stands one of our UFA's, we don't have many, that doesn't include Lito or Thomas, both of whom were cut. Darren Sharper signed a one year deal with the Saints last year worth $1.7 million. Not a great deal at all, so it's possible that we could try and entice him to a low first year salary with a 2nd year more lucrative. The first year salary is the only year on the contract that has to match the player we are losing. I think he returns to the Saints personally, and why wouldn't he? I know we like to think that everyone wants to play for Rex, but he is in the twilight of his career, he will be 35 this year, and he is coming off a pro-bowl/Superbowl season. It's a nice thought, but I just don't see it happening. Would welcome him though.
Option Number 7: Use a First Round Draft Choice On A FS
I think this is where most people have a problem understanding the deal, if we do go down this way. Creating a hole on defense by trading Rhodes, picking up a 4th rounder, and then spending a first trying to fix that hole. It all seems counter-productive. Well there are several options in the first round, well three to be exact and here they are:
Trade everything and the kitchen sink to get up into the top 5 to select Erik Berry. I don't even know how this one would work, remember what we had to trade to get up to 5th last year, and that was from selection 17. Imagine trying to do the same but from #29. It would take this years first, next years first, this year's 2nd, and more. It would need players, and call me crazy but depth on our team is not exactly a strong suit. As much as I think Berry is going to be a star in the NFL. This would just be asking too much a year after we moved up to take Sanchez. Would love Berry but the price isn't right.
Earl Thomas is the second best safety in this draft and a top 20 selection, he has excellent speed, good recognition, quick to the ball, supports the run, takes good angles, has good range. A little smaller for the position, but he can add some weight to his frame. He is an option but I think it will take trading up into the top 20 to get him, and I'm not a big fan of spending our #29 selection on a safety let alone trading up for one.
Taylor Mays, now I really don't want to start the whole Taylor Mays debate again because it has been done to death on here. Is there a chance he will succeed, yes there is. Is there a bigger chance he will bust? in my mind there is. He needs work and a lot of it, and for a team in a win now mode, I just don't see how this is an advancement in trying to get us to the Superbowl. If he is going to be a good NFL safety it will take, two maybe three years for him to really blossom. Yes I like it when he lays out an opponent, but there are more weaknesses than strengths to his game, for a team looking to challenge in 2-3 years, then he is probably worth the investment. For a team in win now mode, looking to get to the Superbowl in 2010 it's a big step down. If he were to be selected we would still likely have to move up for him, and if Al Davis sticks to his usual bone headed drafting, he will be going 8th overall anyway.
Option Number 8: Spend A Lower Pick On FS
I wouldn't be confident starting any safety not named Berry in this draft, but there are a few options that have a much lower risk than the Earl Thomas or Taylor Mays option, one of them is Nate Allen in the 2nd round. One of them is Chad Jones from LSU in the 2nd round. Maybe Myron Rolle a little later than that. Maybe Rex pulls one from left field and surprises us all, A Dawan Landry all over again. Kerry Rhodes himself was a 4th round pick.
I'm not against this option all together, if it's a chance with a 4th round or lower. Not crazy about spending our first two picks on a position that we just opened up.
Option Number 9: Move Dwight Lowery to FS
This is a suggestion that keeps popping up that I find quite puzzling. I like Dwight, but as the starting FS? people really were unhappy with Kerry Rhodes because of his inability to put a hit on someone. Well Dwight is hardly renowned as a big hitter. He doesn't have much speed, he has some ball hawking skills, but the range is not there. He would also have to learn the intricacies of the position. I don't think it's an option personally, well not if we want to be back in the play-offs in 2010.
I think personally speaking, OJ Atogwe is definitely my preferred choice, a play maker at FS, a guy who can hit and cover and he won't cost us anything but $$$. If it is possible then let's do it. My least preferred choice is using our first round selection on a safety, whether it be Berry/Thomas or Mays.