They call themselves the "Flight Boys," and the title fits Jets WRs Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith well. As the big-play targets in the team's aerial attack, the four players have been major reasons why the Jets are playing for the AFC championship for the second consecutive season. Holmes, Edwards and Cotchery each caught more than 40 passes during the regular season and have produced big plays in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Smith is the special-teams ace who has changed games with long returns and in his role as "Wildcat" quarterback over the course of the season.
"We've got a guy that's been around this team for seven years in Jerricho, Braylon, who is a six-year vet and a Pro Bowler, and myself who is a Super Bowl winner," Holmes said about the group. "We wanted to build something among ourselves so that neither one of us felt like we're being left out."
One or more of the "Flight Boys" might be left out when the team starts the 2011 season. Holmes, Edwards and Smith are all set to be free agents this offseason, and though the team would love to bring all three back, it is unrealistic to expect that to happen, especially with some other top players (such as ILB David Harris and CB Antonio Cromartie) also hitting free agency. GM Mike Tannenbaum will have a difficult choice to make in the coming months.
Smith, who has a unique skill set, will likely have the lowest cost. As the only one of the three to be drafted by the Jets, he might be the first priority for the team, which has shown a commitment to keeping homegrown talent. When it comes down to Holmes or Edwards, however, the team likely will settle on the one who is most affordable.
Holmes will be 27 when next season begins, and the way we hear it, is the preferred choice of the two. He has built a good rapport with QB Mark Sanchez and made game-winning catches in three consecutive games in the middle of the season. Edwards, who will be 28, has been inconsistent, though he has stepped up with important catches in the playoffs the past two seasons. Both players have had off-field issues during their careers, leading to suspensions.
WR Patrick Turner, who has spent most of the season on the practice squad, is expected to fill in for whichever "Flight Boy" departs.