Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lito Sheppard Trade Complete

The Lito Sheppard trade is now official. The cornerback whoe spent the last seven years playing for the Philadelphia Eagles is now a New York Jet. The tean indicated only that the trade was in exchange for "undisclosed conditional draft choices."

However, accordingto Adam Schefter of the NFL Network the specifics are a fifth-rounder in 2009 and a conditional pick in 2010. Per Rich Cimini of the New York Daily News the 2010 pick could escalate as high as the second round.

Friday, February 27, 2009

$48 Million for Scott,; Moore and Richardson Re-Sign; Royal and Leonhard On Their Way In

Awaiting a conference call to start with Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum. The password was Free Agency. Gotta love a PR Dept with a sense of humor.

A couple of updates. The Bart Scott deal is done. Six years, $48 million. A little anecdote that you probably will read only here and which I just reported on Sirius:

Jets head coach Rex Ryan, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and new secondary coach Dennis Thurman called Bart Scott last night at 12:02am. From Scott's driveway. The trio drove to his neighborhood and waited until the official start of free agency and phoned. Wouldn't you have signed with the team after that?

In other news, with a hole at tight end, I'm told that the team is bringing in Robert Royal who played the last three seasons with the Buffalo Bills and was with the Redskins for four years prior to that.

They are also going to meet with safety Jim Leonhard who has played the last year for, who else, the Baltimore Ravens and for the Bills from 2005-2007.

Another one of my sources tells me that there is also talk of a trade for Lito Sheppard. He is to meet with the team this weekend. From what I hear, Corey Ivy is on hold.

Brandon Moore, who was released yesterday and Tony Richardson are about to be re-signed.

If Tannenbaum and Ryan have anything new to add, I'll put it up at the end of the call.


Keeping up with the virutal bodies flying through the air. Chris Baker has reportedly found a new home in....New England! Belichick loves two and three tight end sets so Baker should see a lot of action. (He may be shopping right now for a wedding gift for Tom Brady...)

As I projected here a while back, linebacker Bart Scott looks to be wearing a Jets uniform in 2009.

According to the NFL Network, Ravens cornerback Corey Ivy may also be moving north and wearing green this season. No surprise that Rex Ryan would try to get as many of his guys as he can, and don't forget the Jets new defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, a well-liked and well-respected coach, also came over from the Ravens so that adds another attractive selling point in signing some of these guys.

Free Agency

Welcome to free agency. As I'm writing this, Albert Haynesworth has apparently just signed a reported $100 million deal with the Washington Redskins. Pretty good. He's receiving his very own economic stimulus package. But you didn't come here to read about the Redskins.

Yesterday the Jets released right guard Brandon Moore (a story my pal Jane McManus broke several weeks ago). Moore was scheduled to receive a $7 million roster bonus next week. This move could be problematic and you have to wonder if the Jets were being a little short-sighted again.

One of the main things Rex Ryan has touted since being hired was the strength of the offensive line. Now they've removed a key component. Do they plug the hole with Rob Turner? Turner saw action only in those funky plays last season where Mangini would put him in when they needed extra muscle by having him report as an "eligible receiver."

So, while the team has created cap room, they've also created a huge need - on top of their other huge needs at corner and linebacker. And wide receiver. And quarterback.

Speaking of wide receiver, I've buried the lede a bit by waiting to talk about Laveraues Coles. Coles and the team parted ways earlier in the week. While he has always given 110%, he has suffered numerous injuries that have rendered him not quite as effective as he might have been.
To his credit, he played through almost all of them, although you have to wonder if that was shortsighted on his part and that of the medical staff by allowing him to possibly sustain permanent physical problems.

I've known Laveranues since he was drafted and have seem him evolve as a both player and a person. While he is a solid contributor at his position, it might also be time for both parties to have a clean break.

The Jets could re-sign both Moore and Coles although if I had to guess, I would think Coles is probably gone for good.

Friday, February 20, 2009

And So It Goes

The release of cornerback David Barrett last week was the beginning of the annual releasing-of-the-veterans. Today the Jets announced that they released Chris Baker, which comes on the heels of them cutting defensive end/linebacker David Bowens, linebacker Brad Kassell yesterday.

Bowens was signed from the Miami Dolphins before the 2007 season and provided a steady veteran input and a nice light-heartedness in the locker room. While offering a good level of production - he contributed nicely in David Harris's absence this season - however at 31, his age was becoming a factor.

Brad Kassell also came to the Jets prior to the 2007 after spending four years with the Tennesse Titans. He made his biggest contributions on special teams and then suffered a knee injury that put him out for the 2008 season.

As for Chris Baker, he is basically a cap casualty as the team would have owed him a reported $9 million or so over the next three years had they not released him. Baker has been a mainstay for the Jets since they drafted him out of Michigan State in 2002. He has always been productive not just as a pass catcher but as a better-than-average blocker, which made him a valuable commodity for the team during some of their recent years when they had a weak line. He was hugely helpful in shoring up the left side of the offensive line in the early days when D'Brickashaw Ferguson was still finding his way.

On a personal note, I have always liked all three of these guys. In addition to being solid players, they are fun to to talk to, generally accessible and popular with their teammates.

The loss of Baker leaves the Jets a little thin at tight end, so there could be a possibility that they would sign him to a new contract once free agency starts. Dustin Keller showed himself to be a fantastic pass catcher who improved throughout the season, but his blocking remains a notable weakness. Given the trend toward two (and sometimes three) tight end sets, the Jets more than likely need someone else who can provide that balance. So, there's no reason for them not to consider bringing Baker back.

As for the pending free agent acquisitions, the rumblings regarding the Jets acquiring Bart Scott may become a reality. From what I'm hearing, the feeling inside the Jets organization is that while Ray Lewis is still a great player, at age 33 and with 13 years of pounding behind him, his best days are in the rear view mirror. They'd have to pay a huge amount of money to acquire someone who would be more about locker room motivation and mentoring rookies.

The next few weeks should see some interesting activity.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Now What?

Lots of talk now that Brett Favre's retirement is official. A lot of people are behind Clemens coming in as the starter, a lot of others not-so-much.

I will tell you this, since he arrived in New York (or, more accurately, New Jersey), new head coach Rex Ryan has talked frequently and openly about his plans to run the ball a lot more in '09, and he has also been making a point of talking about how good the team's current offensive line is. Therefore, regardless of who's under center, they're going to be handing off a lot (welcome back Leon Washington!) and when they throw, they'll certainly have much better protection than Clemens and Pennington did in 2007.

That said, I do think that the Jets will go after a free agent quarterback in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Favre: "It's the Real Deal"

At 6:00pm tonight I got on a conference call with the now-former quarterback Brett Favre. When questioned as to whether this really was his final retirement announcement, he replied, "Yes, it's the real deal." And this time, I believe him.

It took about 10 hours or so for Favre himself to finally weigh-in, in person, on his own retirement. Let me take you through a bit of my Favre-ian-day prior to that moment.

Around 9 or 10am - I learned that Favre had announced his retirement via ESPN.

11:35am - I received an email and a phone call from the Jets public relations office notifying me of a telephone conference call with owner Woody Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum to take place at noon.

12noon - Said telephone press conference.

2:53pm - I received an email and phone call from Jets PR notifying me of a telephone conference call with Brett Favre to take place at 6:00pm.

3:24pm - I received an email and phone call from Jets PR notifying me of a telephone conference call with Kellen Clemens to take place at 4:00pm.

3:44pm - Email and phone call from Jets PR notifying me of a telephone conference call with head coach Rex Ryan to take place at 5:15pm.

4:05pm - Conference call with Clemens. Approximately 20 minutes long.

5:15pm - Conference call with Ryan. Approximately 20 minutes long.

6:00pm - Brett Favre.

6:32pm - Received via email the official announcement from the Jets that they had placed Favre on their Reserved/Retired list.

Now, for the nitty gritty. Unlike his live press conference during last year's retirement, Favre was exceedingly calm throughout the entire call. I wouldn't say there was no emotion in his voice, but I would describe his tone as more pensive and reflective. There was no choking up, no pauses. He was very straightforward, polite and relaxed as he took calls from New York, national and Green Bay reporters.

The decision finally came down to the fact that Favre - who insisted until the last game of the season that he was fine - felt that physically he wasn't sure he could regroup.

Favre has a partially torn tendon in his right (throwing) shoulder and would need arthroscopic surgery to even entertain thoughts of playing again. He could risk not having the surgery and see if it healed on its own, but that might put the whole shoulder in permanent jeopardy and he felt that at this point, it wasn't worth it.

The comment from him that gave the most insight: "Physically, if I felt better, we might not be having this conversation." Hmmm. Why did the Jets medical staff let things get this far?

As for what he did on his first official day of retirement back home in Mississippi, "I was on the bulldozer pushing some downed trees and doing a little bit of yard work."

As for Kellen Clemens, he was appropriately deferential about Favre (whose acquisition effectively ended last year's quarterback "competition" and put Clemens on the bench) and then forthright about his own future role.

"I tried to learn as much as I could from Brett. He was very generous with the wealth of knowledge he had," Clemens said. "The good news I have for you is that as of December 29th...I took the mindset and approach that [Favre] wasn't coming back. I've been approaching this off-season with my preparation geared toward being the starter in 2009."

Rex Ryan stuck to the basic script that the team will look at all of their opportunities, but to be fair, given the fact that free agency hasn't started yet, there isn't a lot he can say without jeopardizing Draft picks.

However, he said several times that we should expect to see the Jets run the ball a lot more - good news for everyone who watched Leon Washington seemingly disappear from the offense last season. Beyond that, he was complimentary to all three quarterbacks currently on the roster (Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge) so we'll have to wait a bit and see how all of that plays out.

I thought the above photo (taken by Winslow Townson for AP) encapsulated how most of us will remember Favre on the field.

Favre is Retiring

As I (and many others) suspected, 39-year-old quarterback Brett Favre won't be coming back. He sent an email to ESPN announcing his retirement; although given Favre's history with this, who knows where we'll be in September.

Jets owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum held a telephone press conference addressing the current situation.

Favre spoke this morning with Johnson, Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan to make it official with the team. According to Tannenbaum, they expect all of the necessary paperwork to be filed within the next two weeks. This would remove $13 million from from the team's 2009 cap, which puts them in a much more comfortable position going into free agency and the Draft.

For whatever it's worth, I have a hunch this is really it for the future Hall-of-Famer. Although he was always fairly even-keeled and upbeat I always saw a look of fatigue on Favre's face throughout the year. His biceps injury and the end-of-season collapse certainly didn't help that.

During the call Tannenbaum himself brought up the topic of free agency so I asked him if that comment meant that they feel that Favre's successor is currently not on their roster. (In other words, not Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff or Erik Ainge.)

He responded: "I think we feel pretty good that with a competition between those guys we'll have a pretty good quarterback. The best player will play. We have three guys on the roster that we have a feeling for. Another quarterback will be determined as an opportunity presents itself."

So, what do we get from this? The Jets right now have no idea who their starting quarterback will be. They will review all of their free agent options and using one of their high-round Draft picks on a quarterback just became even more of a possibility.

Can Kellen Clemens fit the bill? Ratliff and Ainge seem unlikely. As I've discussed previously, from his previous playing time, it hasn't looked like Clemens is the guy. Then again, maybe giving him a chance to play behind a solid offensive line might change his effectiveness.

It's going to be an interesting few weeks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Barrett Gets Released

The Jets announced earlier today that they released David Barrett. It's not nice to say I told you so, but I did. Of course, it's not like I was the only one who thought this was going to happen - probably including David Barrett. This is clearly just the first of the moves the new coaching staff will make.

To continue on my thoughts from the other day, I doubt we'll see Eric Barton back in a Jets uniform and I'm getting the feeling that David Bowens may not return either. They are go-to-guys for media so they would be missed, at least by us.

Some other question marks that I haven't addressed previously are cornerback Drew Coleman and linebacker Cody Spencer. Both of them would have to be very much on the bubble. And while we haven't seen too much of Sione Pouha up to this point, I think he'll stick around.

I've omitted Dwight Lowery to this point, which was mostly an oversight (hey, I'm human). He came out of the gate on fire last season and then seemed to hit the wall. He's got the talent, but whether or not he turns out to be Jets answer at cornerback remains to be seen.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Some Odds and Ends

Just thought I'd check in with a few odds and ends. The Jets have brought in a Kerry Locklin as their new defensive line coach (he replaces Dan Quinn who left to go to the Seahawks) and they are keeping Mike Devlin as assistant offensive line/tight ends coach.

Now the full focus can turn to the players: who goes and who stays. I'm not going to do a full overview, just a few random thoughts for now.

As I mentioned previously, I think Brett Favre goes and his former Packer teammate, Bubba Franks, may be right behind him. I would think the team will try to keep Tony Richardson, who is an unrestricted free agent. As for wide receivers, Wallace Wright is an unrestricted free agent and it will be interesting to see what they decide about him. He's been a solid contributor on special teams and sufficient when he's had playing time on the offense.

Laveranues Coles is a question unto himself. Last year the team promised they would re-negotiate his contract this off-season. They also said Eric Mangini would be the coach in 2009. Let's see what happens.

In addition to the question at quarterback, the defense has a huge problem at cornerback. Darrelle Revis is a huge talent...but you need two corners. Kerry Rhodes at safety is also a very talented and consistent player, but the rest of the secondary featured a weird rotation throughout 2008, especially after Eric Smith got hurt. That needs to be addressed. I can't see either Ty Law or David Barrett returning.

Barrett has always been erratic and with the team positioning itself for a real run, it would seem time to move on from him. However, you clearly can't let anybody go unless you have a better replacement. As for Ty Law, well...

Smith has been more than solid and Abram Elam gave them decent depth there so my hunch is that those two both come back and you may see Smith regain his role as starter. Oh - Hank Poteat. I think he'll like Cleveland.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Schottenheimer Says He's Ready to Move Forward

The Jets beat reporters had a chance to visit with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer via a telephone conference call earlier today.

Schottenheimer was quite relaxed and candid about everything that has transpired with the team over the past few weeks. He admitted to being very disappointed that the team passed him over for the head coaching job in favor of Rex Ryan, but also indicated that he is completely at peace with everything and that he and Ryan had a good heart-to-heart and he's ready to move forward. If anybody knows what Schottenheimer is feeling it's Ryan who went through the exact same thing last year when he lost out to John Harbaugh for the Ravens head coaching position.

As I discussed previously, Schottenheimer and Ryan were both raised under similar circumstances with both having fathers who were NFL coaches. Together with the fact that Ryan is not a micro-manager in any way, this could be a really good match.

As for the question of the hour (Brett Favre for those of you just joining us), Schottenheimer hasn't spoken to him since the end of the season, but he did say,"I'd welcome the opportunity to coach Brett Favre again." So, we all sit and wait for Favre to come out of the woods in Louisiana where he has apparently still off hunting things and let us know his decision.

Schottenheimer said some positive and supportive things about the other two Jets quarterbacks, Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff, but nothing that would qualify as a ringing endorsement. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Regarding Clemens: "When Kellen got the chance to play two years ago he did a lot of good things and I think it takes a quarterback a little while to truly come into his own."

Regarding Ratliff: "I know Brett played really well in the preseason. I don't think that should be looked at in a negative way because he was playing against some good players, but he was also playing with people of the same skill set."

As far as questions with players at other positions Schottenheimer didn't have anything concrete to offer, which was not a surprise given the time of year and nobody is going to show their hand with the impending free agency period.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What to Do at Quarterback?

After watching the edge-of-your-seat ending to yesterday's Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl (how great was that?), I'm turning my attention back to the Jets.

With all of the other pieces seemingly falling into place, the Jets have one glaring issue: Quarterback. Brett Favre-watch is in full swing and stories are flying around from every direction. Personally, I would be very surprised to see Favre return, therefore the team has a lot of work to do.

The organization does not see Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff as the answer, especially given the fact that the rest of the team is in good shape and ready to go. They are not going to have the time or patience to see if either of those two guys can fully take the reins. Clemens had his shot in '08 and disappointed.

Clemens is a great guy with a great arm, but his accuracy has always been a problem and he still gets happy feet in the pocket.

Ratliff is basically untested. He showed some good things during the pre-season, but he was playing against other back-ups so it is very difficult to assess how he would be leading a team and the Jets don't have time to see how that goes.

The scary part is that there aren't a whole lot of quarterbacks available:
Kurt Warner? Doubtful as I would think the Jets want somebody who may stick around for a while and I would think the Cardinals will keep him.
Kerry Collins? Probably not. The Titans probably want to hang on to him.
Matt Cassel? No way the Patriots let that happen.
Jeff Garcia? He's 39.
Kyle Boller? Rex Ryan knows him from the Ravens but he seems more in the Kellen Clemens category than a true starter.

The rest of the potential list seems to fit the bill even less, Charlie Batch, Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman (be interesting to see which one goes and which one stays with the Bears between thsoe two), Patrick Ramsey (has already made a stop with the Jets), Luke McCown and JT O'Sullivan.

Stay tuned. If I hear anything, I'll certainly let you know.