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Jim Leonhard: Stay or Go?

The status of Jim Leonhard is sure to be divisive. The safety play the Jets got last year was much maligned. Leonhard for his part saw his tackle numbers go way down. He had only 48 in 13 games opposed to 61 in 11 games in 2010. That has to do with his partner. Eric Smith was the other safety this year so they put him closer to the line to play the run more frequently.

A year ago, I thought people overrated Leonhard. Now I think people have soured on him to the point he is underrated. He is a really smart player who finds a way to get himself into the middle of the action. He also does perhaps the most important job of a safety, covering for somebody who blows an assignment, really well because of how well he knows the defense. The whole "quarterback of the defense tag" people put on him gets overblown. How many presnap breakdowns did the Jets have, particularly in the critical game against New England at the Meadownlands? Leonhard is a good player, though. I think looking at the struggles of the run defense this year, part of the problem was that Smith wasn't as good of a run defender as Leonhard is.

Leonhard is the kind of guy who does not look very good next to Smith because his weaknesses get exposed. Next to a guy like Kerry Rhodes, though, who can cover and has range and can hide Jim's athletic weaknesses, Leonhard can do what he does well.

There is probably going to be concern about Jim returning from a second serious leg injury, but I really don't think the Jets have any choice but to bring him back. They need to replace Eric Smith, and the safety market is thin. Low supply equals paying a lot for somebody who isn't that great. I don't see how they can get two safeties in free agency, and they cannot go into the Draft in a desperate position to get somebody.

I vote stay. How do you vote?