Assessing the Roster- Cornerback Tweet
Darrelle Revis- Revis suffered a season ending injury early in the year when he tore his ACL, but I donít think anyone doubts that he will be back next season and playing at a high level. Surgery has become so much better than it has in the past and the ACL is no longer the career changer that it used to be. It doesnít mean that itís a given that he will be great, but I am more confident in recovery from this type of injury now than I am an Achilles type injury. If healthy he will be the best corner in the NFL. If there is a weakness in his game at all it is that he does not create turnovers. Considering the Jets offensive woes it might be worth taking a few more chances to make a play on the ball than simply preventing the reception. Thatís nitpicking though.
Of course when you talk Revis you talk contract first and play second. The million dollar question with him every year is whether or not he will hold out and if he does hold out what it will cost to sign him. There are plenty in the media that throw out insane numbers, and this incudes extremely respected journalists like Peter King, but I think they completely fail to grasp the concept of positional pay and the salary cap. I mean for a period of time was there a more dangerous player in the secondary than Ed Reed? No. Reed doesnít even make $6.5 million a season because people donít pay crazy numbers for a Safety. The fact is teams donít pay pass rusher money for cornerbacks and to just make statements like itís a foregone conclusion Revis needs that kind of money is really unwarranted.
Itís a pretty bizarre situation that will only get more complex as the year goes on. If Revis chooses to not hold out the bargaining power begins to shift to his side because of the void structure of his current contract. If he does hold out the power completely shifts to the Jets due to the deal structure. Plus now you have a new GM calling the shots and Revis coming off injury to boot. All in all it will be likely be another season of focus on Revis for reasons that have little to do with on field play.
Antonio Cromartie- I have never understood why people made 2012 out to be some coming of age for Cromartie. The fact is Cromartie has been terrific for the last three years. Whenever I would run numbers on Cromartie he consistently grades in the top 10. I could see some people arguing that he faced more number 2s that made his stats better than they should be, but those same people forget that in 2010 Revis missed games and was ineffective in others because of injury, forcing the Jets to shift Cromartie to bottle up players like Randy Moss. Maybe it was because he had a slow start in his first game as a Jet in 2010 or because of his problems tackling, but the guy has been great and I was as happy as anyone that he got the Pro Bowl nod this season.
Cromartie is an athletic freak. I think its pretty clear that he is the best athlete on the entire team. He has size and closing speed that is rare. He doesnít have the same level of technique as Revis but he blows Revis away as an athlete. That being said I always question his long term future because those are the kind of abilities that erode with age and I donít know if he has the skill to cover for the inevitable decline in athleticism. When Revis loses his athleticism he is going to be excellent. Cromartie is probably going to just get beat. He has the skillset to move to Safety, but his tackling is so poor that he would be a liability in that role. I would imagine he has at least one more year left in him where he can play at a high level , but I think his body will dictate how long he can sustain this level of play.
Kyle Wilson- One thing you have to say about Kyle Wilson is that there is no player in the NFL better at celebrating than Kyle Wilson. Doesnít matter is he has anything to do with making the stop on a pass or not. If the ball is in his area and its not a reception he is going to go wild on the field. Heíll wave incomplete in front of the receiver, start jawing and wagging his finger, of just pump the fists. One of these days an opposing player is probably going to start a fight with him, but more likely teams will just target him and try to get revenge on the field.
This was the first season where Wilson actually looked adequate on the field. Numbers wise he still is not good, but I have to admit once the 49íer game ended I rarely noticed that he was on the field anymore than I would a normal player. I do think he gets lost on the field more than we know and too many times you see him in plays where there is discussion about what happened in coverage. When the common theme in all those discussions in Wilson it probably means Wilson is at fault a good deal of times. I think playing alongside a player like Cromartie makes him look better because the progressions become different for a QB and if Wilson has decent enough coverage or help then you get the checkdown throws. I guess what I would say is that he can be perfectly hidden with a strong cornerback to pair him with but would be exposed badly in a weak secondary.
Ellis Lankster- I thought it was a promising year for Lankster who had a bit of a yo-yo season. With the injury to Revis he got called into more action, but then the coaching staff decided to go away from Lankster and look towards others on the team. While it may have been contracted related eventually Lankster got back on the field and I thought played ok. He had his share of mistake plays and he dropped a pick in one game right in his hands, but he also had two interceptions, one absolving him of the drop, and filled in nicely when asked. He can definitely play at this level in the nickel and dime packages. Isaiah Trufant- Trufant has spent some time with the Jets over the last three years, working on the Practice Squad in 2010 and being active for a few games late in the year and in the playoffs. After a stint with the Eagles the Jets quickly brought him back into the fold in 2011 and he was here in 2012, so the organization seems to like him to be an emergency corner and special teams player. Trufant was buried early but got a surprising big role against New England and had a terrific game. Unfortunately for Trufant he suffered a season ending injury shortly thereafter and for players at his level that makes staying on the roster difficult. I would think if the Jets coaching staff remains intact that he will get a legit chance to prove he still belongs post surgery.
Darrin Walls and Aaron Berry- Berry, whose off field issues doomed him in Detroit, got a job with the Jets when Wilson looked awful replacing Revis. However with Wilson settling down and Berry seemingly slow to grasp the defense Berry never really played. I was surprised that the Jets never released him. Eventually he began battling little injuries and ended up on IR...Walls got a job on the Practice Squad due to concerns when Revis went down. He never really played much but the Jets did give him a look in the last two games. I donít think he did anything that stood out either positively or negatively.
The Jets have invested heavily in this position both via the draft and salary cap and, after seeing the success without Revis in 2012, the question is for how long can it continue? The Jets traded a 2nd round pick and a 5th round pick in exchange for the right to select Revis in the 1st round and to receive a 6th round pick in 2007. In 2010 the Jets traded what turned out to be a 2nd round pick for Antonio Cromartie and also spent their 1st round draft pick on Kyle Wilson. Thatís three very high draft selections in a 4 year period on the position.
Moreso than that it is not cheap to maintain high profile players like this on the salary cap. Revis quickly maneuvered his way off his rookie contract and right to the top of the cornerback market when the Jets seemed to blink following a hardline stance due to the pleading of Rex Ryan to get Revis back on the field. Cromartie was signed to a deal that averages $8 million a year with high backend cap charges due to the Jets desire to fit him into their 2011 cap structure that are about to come due. It is by far the highest spend in the NFL on the cornerback position and something has to give.
I would be surprised if both Revis and Cromartie are back next season. Revis is clearly going to want a new contract and the Jets need to decide if they will or will not give it to him. Moving Revis would hurt the cap more than help it, but it could bring back value. My assumption is you would get an immediate 2nd round pick that could escalate to a 1st provided Revis stays healthy. You would need to get at least that if you moved him because it is almost a guarantee the Jets would receive a 3rd as compensation if he hits free agency. Cromartie provides mega cap relief and I donít think would have the long term prospects Revis has. Cromartie will never have a better year than he had in 2012 and sometimes you want to strike when the iron is hot. Cromartie is not going to get you anywhere near the same value as Revis in a trade. Maybe a 4th at best. But the cap relief is $8.25 million, which is huge. He has a roster bonus due on the 3rd day of the new league year so a move needs to be done before that.
What makes this possible to do is the fact that Wilson has at least proven capable of playing at this level and Lankster and Trufant both provide good depth for the team. You can live with those players provided the Jets continue to invest in solid proven players at the Safety position. I think one of the reasons the Jets fell into this cornerback trap in 2010 was because Safety became a problem for them in 2009 when Kerry Rhodes stopped wanting to be here and Ryan didnít try to make it work. The Jets went with minimal investments until this year when they brought in better quality players. It helps the whole pass defense.
I would hope the Jets are done with drafting players here for at least another season or two. They have the depth and they have the star power at the position. It is the deepest position on the team and the most talented with Revis and Cromartie in the fold. Unfortunately itís not a position that wins championships and the Jets have to start to break it down a little to get better results for their spend, which is only going to happen by spending on neglected positions rather than more into this position. If Revis and Cromartie are back next year it will continue to be the best secondary in the NFL, but the rest of the team will suffer when it forces them to trot out names like Chaz Schilens, Garrett McIntyre, and Clyde Gates in key roles.