Jets quiet at start of free agency

Posted March 14, 2012 @ 9:53 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

For once, the Jets are the quiet ones, having made their noise before the free-agency frenzy, but it's too soon to tell if that's a good thing.

Last July, the Jets signed WR Plaxico Burress and re-signed CB Antonio Cromartie. In 2010, the Jets brought in Cromartie, WR Santonio Holmes, RB LaDainian Tomlinson and OLB Jason Taylor in the offseason.

More than 24 hours into the 2012 free-agent signing period, the Jets have re-signed OLB Bryan Thomas and PK Nick Folk. They have been connected to players such as WR Chaz Schilens, S LaRon Landry, WR Jerricho Cotchery and QB Drew Stanton. It appears that no splash is coming to Florham Park this year, which is noteworthy for those who considered 2012 to be a "make-or-break" season for Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez.

All this while the Bills hosted Mario Williams and Robert Meachem, and the Dolphins traded Brandon Marshall while still apparently in pursuit of QBs Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn. The Patriots are also quiet, but that's not a surprise for Foxborough. The Jets aren't doing anything to get a leg up on their division rivals.

The Jets aren't expected to re-sign Burress or Tomlinson and are not connected with the big names on the free-agent market. Their top re-signings — Thomas and NT Sione Pouha — are players who are locker-room leaders but also those who lead by example. You won't hear much from either player. Pouha was the team's top free-agent priority, and his deal got done on Monday, before the official start of free agency.

The Gang Green decided not to offer tenders to CB and special-teams contributor Marquice Cole, OLB Jamaal Westerman and TE Matthew Mulligan, all of whom saw plenty of playing time last season.

Those free-agent decisions leave the Jets thin, for now, at safety and wide receiver, and they could use a rush linebacker and running back. But what we have learned from the past few days is that this is far from a team looking to go "all in" for 2012.

With the way the 2011 season ended for the Jets, it seemed that 2012 would be as close to "make or break" as Ryan had seen in his time with the Jets — Sanchez, too. But it seems that the team, as Ryan alluded to at the Combine, is focused on getting back the chemistry that it had before things unraveled last season.

When Ryan spoke in Indianapolis, I was not one of the people who thought he was suddenly a changed man. But the way the team has opened free agency does reinforce its commitment to improving the locker room while avoiding any big spending.

Here's the bad: Pairing the Sanchez extension with the relatively small attention being placed on outside players, it can be perceived that the Jets are being somewhat complacent, maybe too confident in what they have on the roster — something Ryan has been accused of, especially regarding Sanchez.

But here's the good: The Jets' roster, as it stands now, is not that much different from the team that went to back-to-back AFC championship games. There are needs to be filled, and free agents — albeit, not big names — will help address them. The Jets' top draft pick last year, Muhammad Wilkerson, had a terrific rookie season, and they could get a significant contributor this year with the 16th pick.

And maybe the "quiet" we have witnessed early into free agency translates into a different aura around the team during the 2012 season. Either way, the Jets are making a concerted effort to improve the locker-room atmosphere, though they're not making big strides in attempting to land a big fish. If you look at Sanchez's extension, the franchise is almost giving him two years to get it done, and that may go for Ryan, as well. Jets fans may have wanted to see the club go "all in" this offseason, and it appears the Jets considered it when they looked into Peyton Manning. Yet, the early signs of free agency indicate that the Jets are being calculated and avoiding any rash moves, and a tight salary cap is also a factor.

With the Bills and Dolphins expected to make a big move or two in free agency, the Jets' plan will be scrutinized, but if you need any reassurance that the Jets mean business, just ask Ryan, who would be quick to remind you that there is still plenty of talent on the Jets.

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