Do the Jets Pay Their Homegrown Players?
Do the Jets take care of their own players? That has been an accusation thrown around at the Jets club the last few seasons by a number of individuals. It's easy to see why the accusation is made.
The Jets spent a mini fortune on some questionable acquisitions in 2008 and 2009. The team likely
overpaid for LB's Calvin Pace and Bart Scott as well as G Alan Faneca. They gave RT Damien
Woody an exceptional contract for someone who had been benched for a period of time on the Detroit Lions.
Oft-injured Kris Jenkins was given a hefty contract extension and of course there was the acquisition Brett Favre for $12 million dollars
and WR Braylon Edwards for close to $5 million dollars.
An anonymous player had indicated back during the Jets 2008 spending spree that they need to start paying the homegrown talent. That player, likely TE Chris Baker looking for an extension at the time, indicated that there was a growing concern that the Jets were not interested in keeping their own talent who had suffered through some bad years and did their best to help the team, but instead only interested in bringing in outside names that did not deserve the money they received. Last year RB Leon Washington insinuated a similar thought and now star CB Darrelle Revis has come out and said the same thing. Its become a point for columnists, writers, and commentators to now hammer home as a problem with how the Jets run their organization. The issue has become so large that Woody Johnson had to address the issue as reported by Manish Mehta in the NY Daily News. Johnson of course refutes the claim, but is it true? Do the Jets not pay their own players?
First lets take a look at who the Jets have in fact re-signed since Mike Tannenbaum took over operations for the team. Chris Baker was actually the first “name” extension of the Tannenbaum era, a fact that most people probably forget. Baker received a pretty generous 4 year 7 million dollar contract with $1.7 million of the deal guaranteed in March of 2006. At the time Baker had only started 8 career games and had never caught more than 18 passes in a single season. Baker felt, in 2008, that he deserved a raise because the market changed, but the fact was he did get taken care of by the Jets just two years before.
Next up was OLB Bryan Thomas. Thomas had been a disappointment in his tenure with the Jets prior to the 2006 position change. Thomas was a 2002 first round draft pick that was expected to push for a starting job as a pass rusher. He never materialized as that type of player, but seemed to find his niche playing LB under coach Eric Mangini in 2006. Thomas recorded a career high 8.5 sacks that season a number he was never close to before and will likely never approach again. Thomas received a $21 million dollar contract in December, 2006 that contained $9 million guaranteed. While not nearly as significant a deal as the one the Jets gave Pace in 2008, a player with more physical skills but as limited a track record as Thomas, it did fit with the market at the time.
WR Jerricho Cotchery, a former fourth round selection, came out of nowhere to have a near 1,000 season in 2006. Cotchery signed an extension with the team in March of 2007 for $21 million dollars with about $10 million in guarantees. To put the deal somewhat in perspective Hines Ward had received a $30 million dollar deal in 2005 and Derrick Mason a $20 million dollar 5 year deal with about half of it guaranteed in 2005. While both players were older than Cotchery both were much more accomplished and Cotchery did end up with a contract that was reasonable at the time. They certainly did not overpay for Jerricho, but they did give him a far bigger deal than he was playing on at the time.
The big deal came on April 10, 2008 when the Jets re-signed S Kerry Rhodes to a 5 year $33.5 million dollar contract with $20 million guaranteed. It was the second largest contract in the league at that time for a safety and right at the top in guaranteed money. Rhodes never really lived up to the contract and is now out of New York, but the Jets took a player who never made a Pro Bowl and only once played on a winning team in his three seasons in the NFL into one of the highest paid players at his position. Unless Rhodes turns his career around in Arizona his contract is likely going to be the negotiating point for a lot of players with slightly above average talent.
G Brandon Moore was an interesting case for the team. He had a hefty bonus due in 2009 that was never designed for him to receive as it was negotiated to either facilitate his release or an extension with a team. The Jets chose to give Moore his freedom and released him on February 26th. At the time Moore had about 4 years for $13 million dollars left on his deal of which $7.5 million would have been guaranteed had he not been released. The Jets re-signed him just two days later to a new contract that gave him $10 million in guaranteed money and worth $16 million for those same 4 years. However, the deal was a more cap friendly deal for the Jets and left both sides as a winner.
The team also very quietly extended the contracts of NT Sione Pouha and DE Mike DeVito. Neither was a big deal, but at the time of signing neither player had proven much to the team. Pouha received $2 million guaranteed in 2008 after contributing 49 tackles in 3 years of play. DeVito received $1 million guaranteed after producing 29 tackles and 0.5 sacks in two years of play prior to his extension with the team.
Now lets rattle off the list of names of “homegrown” talent the Jets have allowed to leave the team since 2006. First the name players:
DE John Abraham was traded to the Atlanta Falcons for a first round pick that turned into Nick Mangold. Abraham, who had battled injuries most of his career, was a big ticket player due to his ability to rush the QB. The Jets change to a 34 defense made Abraham an expendable part as he had already been tried in the past as a linebacker and the experiments all failed miserably. Would the Jets have signed him to a big deal had they remained in a 43 defense? That is probably a question open to debate, but the fact is he was let go because they had no place to play him, not because they had no money to pay him with.
DT DeWayne Robertson, who will go down as one of the worst draft signings of all time for the Jets, was traded after the 2007 season to the Denver Broncos. Robertson did not fit with the defense and had chronic knee problems. Rather than renegotiate a contract with Robertson they moved him to the Broncos and replaced him with Kris Jenkins, who had the size to better fit the scheme. Robertson was out of the NFL after his one year stint with Denver.
LB Jonathan Vilma, another casualty of not fitting in with a defensive scheme, was traded to the New Orleans Saints prior to the 2008 season. Vilma meshed much better with the Saints and is one of the better MLB's in the NFL. His replacement was David Harris, who is a far better fit for the Jets defense than Vilma and arguably the better player. Probably a win-win situation for both sides.
RB Leon Washington was traded to Seattle after a very public contract dispute that ran from 2008 all the way into the 2009 offseason. Washington was supposedly seeking an outlandish amount of money from the Jets based on his skill level and also suffered a horrible injury during the 2008 season. The Jets had no intention of paying him such a salary and moved him for a draft choice. Washington was replaced by free agent LaDainian Tomlinson.
TE Chris Baker was released from his contract in 2009 rather than see the Jets pick up a large option payment. This was a salary dump. Baker believed he was worth his contract while the Jets felt he was not worth the money. Considering Baker only lasted one year with New England and will be fighting for a roster spot in Seattle, the Jets were probably right in their estimation.
S Erik Coleman never seemed to live up to the expectations he created for himself with a solid rookie campaign in 2004 and was not brought back after the 2007 season. Coleman could have been a small salary dump as he received $2.5 million guaranteed, but the Jets made no attempt to bring him back because he seemed to clash with the head coach, who had replaced him as a starter with Abram Elam.
G Jonathan Goodwin, drafted in 2002, had been a part time starter for the Jets with his primary work coming in the disaster 2005 season. Goodwin has become a capable player for the New Orleans Saints, who he signed with in 2006 for only $600,000 guaranteed. He finally became a starter in 2008 as a center for the team.
LB Victor Hobson, a former 2nd round pick, was replaced by Calvin Pace in 2008. Hobson signed with New England and was released before the season began. Hobson also had a cup of coffee with the Bengals and Cardinals that same season before leaving the NFL.
QB Brooks Bollinger was traded to the Minnesota after a dismal 2005 season where injuries forced him into a starting role. Bollinger was last seen in the UFL....FB BJ Askew was allowed to walk in 2007 and join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for only $300,000 guaranteed. Askew was recently released...K Mike Nugent was not brought back after 4 years of missed kicks and extra points. He currently is not in the NFL....QB Brett Ratliff, an undrafted free agent who made a huge preseason impact in 2008, was traded to the Browns in 2009 as part of the Mark Sanchez deal. Ratliff had actually signed an extension with New York prior to the trade. Last season Ratliff was a 3rd string QB...RB Cedric Houston was released by the Jets in 2007 when he decided he no longer wanted to play football.
Here are some of the other names that made it to the Tannenbaum era and didn't survive it: CB Rashad Washington, DT Trevor Johnson, G Adrian Jones, S Andre Maddox, WR Harry Williams, TE Joel Dreesen, CB Justin Miller, TE Jason Pociask, LB Anthony Schlegel, T Jacob Bender, and T Nate Garner.
This is not exactly a murders row of names. Most are out of the NFL. Abraham, Coleman, Vilma, and Goodwin are the only three starting quality names on the list and clearly Goodwin had nothing to do with salary. It's pretty hard to make a case that the other three were based on salary as well. Really that just leaves Leon Washington and Chris Baker as the only “homegrown” guys where salary was probably a major concern, though its pretty hard to fault the Jets for not giving in to those contract demands. Neither player was worth it.
The facts really do prove Johnson's response to the question. The Jets have locked up young talent in the past. They likely will continue to do so in the future. What they don't do is extend veteran players who they brought in as free agents or via trade, something entirely different than not giving money to a young player that shows promise. The real fact of the matter is that the Jets drafted poorly from 2002 thru 2005. There was no reason for the Jets to keep these homegrown players. There is no reason to complain about not paying guys money who do not even belong in the league. There is nothing to say that the Jets wont take care of their own. They have done it in the past and will continue to do it in the future as long as its within reason.
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