AFC East: New York Jets

Jets hope to lock up Chris Johnson

April, 15, 2014
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It comes as no surprise that free-agent running back Chris Johnson is visiting Tuesday with the New York Jets. They never lost interest in him even though his first week on the open market was eerily quiet. Despite a down season in 2013, the Jets still believe he's a quality back, capable of recapturing some of his past form with better offensive line play than he had with the Tennessee Titans.

The timing of the visit (and possible signing) makes sense. The Jets open their offseason program Monday, and Rex Ryan prefers to have his veteran players under the same roof for as much of the program as possible. Johnson probably would be limited because he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in January, but his presence would be good for team chemistry and would allow him to start learning the offense. Teams also like to tie up loose ends in free agency before shifting into total draft mode next week. A similar situation unfolded last year. After maintaining contact for a few weeks, the Jets signed free-agent safety Dawan Landry a week before the offseason program.

Don't think money has nothing to do with this. Johnson has generated little interest as a free agent, causing his value to drop. No other team has been identified as having serious interest. No doubt that factored into general manager John Idzik's thinking from the outset. The Jets should be able to lock up Johnson with a team-friendly deal, and they hope to get it done quickly.

Examining the what-if QB question

April, 14, 2014
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Only one team in the last 40 years has drafted a quarterback in the first round the year after picking one within the first two rounds -- the Carolina Panthers, who chose Cam Newton in 2011 to replace Jimmy Clausen, a second-rounder.

Could the New York Jets become the second team?

Unlikely, but it's a good talking point because of the uncertainty regarding the top three quarterbacks -- Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel. In his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column, Sports Illustrated's Peter King notes that four quarterback-needy teams in the top six are thinking hard about waiting until after their first pick to address the position. The teams: The Houston Texans (No. 1), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 3), Cleveland Browns (No. 4) and Oakland Raiders (No. 5). The Minnesota Vikings (No. 8) didn't make the list, but they're also looking for a quarterback.

If one of the top three quarterbacks gets past the Vikings, it's possible he could fall all the way to the Jets at No. 18. What, then? It certainly would add to the drama at Radio City. Would the Jets, only one year removed from choosing Geno Smith in the second round, take another quarterback?

First of all, this isn't a Carolina situation for two reasons: Unlike Clausen, Smith showed some promise as a rookie. In addition, the Panthers owned the No. 1 pick when they drafted Newton, who was deemed a legitimate franchise quarterback. Most talent evaluators agree there are no quarterbacks of that ilk in this year's draft, just a group of intriguing prospects that fall into the good-not-great category.

Some believe the most likely to fall is Bridgewater, once considered a top-five pick. (Sound familiar, Geno?) If he slips to the Jets, they'd have to ask themselves: Is he better than Smith and could he be our starting quarterback in 2015? Personally, I'd pull the trigger if it were Manziel.

The organization is hopeful that Smith can become their long-term starter, but it's not sold on him. If that were the case, Michael Vick wouldn't be here. If the Jets have a strong conviction on Bridgewater (or any others), and he's clearly the best player on their board, they should take him. This is a quarterback-driven league, and you can't have sustainable success (where have we heard that before?) without a good quarterback.

That said, it would an upset if the Jets go in that direction. They have too many other needs and they're not ready to abandon Smith after only one season. If they picked a quarterback, the Smith trade rumors would begin about 30 seconds after the selection. Could you imagine Rex Ryan's reaction if his general manager picks a player that probably wouldn't be able to help until 2015? He'd have to pull a Sir Laurence Olivier to convince the fans he's on board with that one.

A similar situation played out in 2006, when the Jets were looking to move on from Chad Pennington. With the fourth pick, they resisted the quarterback temptation, passing on Matt Leinart to take tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. They later looked into trading up for Leinart as he began to slide, but they wisely made no deal, walking out of the first round with Ferguson and center Nick Mangold.

In the end, this could all be a moot point because you know how teams react around draft time: When they're desperate for a quarterback, they panic and reach. If it turns out that Bortles, Bridgewater and Manziel are picked in the top 17, it would benefit the Jets, as it would push a "need" player or two down to them.
Say this for Muhammad Wilkerson: He's consistent when it comes to discussing his future with the New York Jets. He's sticking with the "Jet-for-life" stance, which probably sends shivers through the fan base because Darrelle Revis used to say the same thing -- and look what happened to him.

"I told (the front office) at the end of the year last year that I want to be a Jet -- a Jet for life,” Wilkerson told the New York Post on Thursday. “I’m from the area (Linden, N.J.), I’m a local guy, so I would love to be here and finish my career here.”

[+] EnlargeMuhammad Wilkerson
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/USA TODAY SportsWith the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets have one of the better defensive lines in the NFL.
Back in October, Wilkerson gave the same response, almost verbatim, in an interview with ESPNNewYork.com. Like we said, he's consistent. Some might say he's hurting his leverage by professing his devotion to the Jets, but that's not the case at all. It's actually a smart approach from a public-relations standpoint because it shifts the focus to the Jets, who, in terms of public perception, bear the onus of making him a Jet for life.

So what are the chances of them locking up their best player to a long-term extension before the start of the season? Let's examine the situation:

Wilkerson is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, due to make $1.2 million. By May 3, the Jets are expected to exercise a fifth-year option that will set his 2015 salary somewhere in the $5 million to $6 million range. (For players drafted from 11th through 32nd in 2011, the fifth-year salary is the average of the 25 highest-paid players at the position, excluding the top three.)

In essence, the Jets are under no sense of urgency to renegotiate Wilkerson's deal because they will have him under contract for two more years. Actually, you might say three years because they can slap him with the franchise tag in 2016. Do the math, and it comes out to three years for about $19.8 million, based on the current franchise-tag amount for a defensive end. For the Jets, that's a heck of a bargain for one of the top, young defensive players in the league.

The only motivation for the Jets to re-work his contract this year is if he accepts a team-friendly deal. Wilkerson's only leverage is to stage a holdout, but he reiterated in his interview with the New York Post that he has no intention of going that route. (Unlike his Jet-for-life comment, his recent no-holdout statements have weakened his bargaining power.) He'd be taking a risk by playing for $1.2 million because the fifth-year option isn't fully guaranteed until the fifth day of the 2015 league year. It's partially guaranteed (for injury only) as soon as the team picks up the option. General manager John Idzik hasn't revealed his plans, but it's a no-brainer.

Even though Wilkerson is operating under a different set of rules (the current collective bargaining agreement went into effect in 2011), his situation is similar to the Revis drama of 2010. Entering his fourth season, Revis refused to play for $1 million, staging a long and nasty holdout.

Wilkerson reiterated that he won't pull a Revis.

“I’m not holding out," he told the Post. "My agent is talking with Idzik, and that’s all I can say. I have nothing to do with that. I’m just going to let him take care of that. That’s his job. I’m just here to play ball."

The Jets should do the right thing and take care of Wilkerson before his contract becomes an issue, taking advantage of their significant cap space, but it's a bottom-line business. Teams are rarely motivated to make their players happy unless they get something out of it as well.
The New York Jets, who have a history with Broadway (see Joe Namath), almost made it to Hollywood.

A year ago, the Jets mulled a key role in "Draft Day," which opens Friday across the country. The movie, starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner, uses real NFL team names in a fictional story about the Cleveland Browns, who make a blockbuster trade to acquire the No. 1 overall pick. In the original script, their trading partner was the Jets, who pass up the opportunity to draft a blue-chip quarterback.

But in the actual movie, the Jets are nowhere to be seen. Their role is played by the Seattle Seahawks. So what happened? Conflicting versions emerged.

The director, Ivan Reitman, told the Los Angeles Times the Jets backed out several days before last year's draft in New York City -- where much of the movie is filmed -- because they were concerned about their quarterback situation and a potential backlash from their fans.

“They were having something of a quarterback dispute, and the team said that this is just going to incite our fans a little more to criticize us, even though it’s all fictional,” Reitman told the newspaper, adding that he had to scramble to secure the Seahawks at the 11th hour.

At the time, the Jets were immersed in a quarterback mess. They went into the draft with five quarterbacks, including Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, and they added a sixth by drafting Geno Smith. The Times article suggests the Jets, who have a history of draft-day blunders, didn't want to be connected to another one, albeit fictional.

But there's another side to the story.

The Jets were open to participating in the movie, but they expressed hesitancy because the original script portrayed their fans in a negative light, according to a source familiar with the team-selection process. Everybody knows Jets fans aren't wallflowers at the draft, but the producers wanted to take it to the extreme. When they got back to the producers to discuss possible changes to the script, the Jets were told they were out of the picture, said the source, adding that the team's reluctance had nothing to do with its uncertain quarterback situation.

The Seahawks apparently had no problem allowing themselves to get fleeced by the Browns' general manager, played by Costner. Obviously, it didn't ruin the Seahawks' karma, as they went on to win the Super Bowl. As for the Jets, hey, that's show biz.
John Idzik and Rex RyanAP Photo/Bill KostrounWill Jets GM John Idzik draft the starting-caliber cornerback that Rex Ryan needs?
The biggest cliché you will read or hear over the next few weeks will be from NFL experts explaining that this will be a critical draft for (insert any team name).

Hello? They're all critical because they happen only once a year.

The second-biggest cliché will be from smart-alecks like me reminding you it's a cliché.

That said, I'll probably incur a penalty flag for writing this, but there are special cases -- see the New York Jets -- where there is simply no way to minimize the importance of a particular draft.

This is one of those years for the Jets. Because of their deliberate approach in free agency -- some might say cheap -- they have raised the stakes for the upcoming draft. May 8-10 will be the three biggest days of the year for a franchise in Stage 2 of its rebuilding project.

Despite having enough salary-cap room to pay an entire small-market baseball team, general manager John Idzik chose to save most of his money, counting on a bountiful draft to fill the many holes on the Jets' roster.

You might say he's putting most of his eggs in one basket, and it happens to be a complete dozen -- 12 draft picks. He'll have yolk on the face if he blows this draft, because he passed up a lot of potential upgrades in free agency.

Many fans are restless because they are not accustomed to this way of doing business. Under Idzik's predecessor, Mike Tannenbaum, the Jets owned the New York back pages in March, titillating the fan base with sexy trades and expensive signings.

Tannenbaum knew how to feed the beast, but there was a method to his madness. His research told him they were better off spending the money on proven commodities instead of stockpiling draft choices, figuring the bust rate of draft picks -- especially in the late rounds -- didn't validate the risk-reward.

In the past six drafts under Tannenbaum, 2007 to 2012, the Jets added 31 players -- an average of roughly five per year. If Idzik keeps his full allotment of choices, which includes four compensatory selections and a pick from the Darrelle Revis trade, he'll be up to 19 picks in two drafts.

Tannenbaum's plan damn near worked, as the Jets reached back-to-back AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010, but the talent base eventually eroded and he was fired. Now they have the anti-Tannenbaum in Idzik, building at a glacial pace through the draft.

"The football offseason is like an event, a circus act, and fans in general want to see something," a longtime personnel executive said this week. "With John, he takes the air out of the balloon. It's not exciting, but he does it his way. You have to respect that."

Idzik's way is similar to those of the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, three successful organizations that rely on the draft more than free agency. In Wisconsin, you're more likely to see a March thaw than a flurry of free-agent signings. The signing of Julius Peppers last month was a stunning departure from the norm, a rare walk on the wild side by GM Ted Thompson.

Their usual philosophy: Draft. Develop. Extend. In other words, use your money to re-invest in your homegrown talent.

"He's modeling those organizations," the former personnel executive said of Idzik.

Idzik has to yet to make a long-term commitment to an ascending player, although you could make the case that the Jets haven't had anyone worthy of a contract extension. That will change when defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson gets a new deal, this year or next. For now, the objective is to find more Wilkersons.

Their list of needs is long, perhaps too long, considering they began free agency with close to $40 million in cap room. They upgraded the No. 2 wide receiver spot by signing Eric Decker, and they fortified the quarterback position by adding Michael Vick. But where are the playmakers? If the Jets are counting on Decker to be a difference-maker, they misspent their guaranteed $15 million.

Defensively, the personnel is worse than it was at the end of the season, specifically at cornerback. The mistake wasn't cutting Antonio Cromartie and making no effort to re-sign him; after all, he played poorly last season. No, the mistake was failing to come up with a better replacement than the aging and injury-prone Dimitri Patterson.

Defense will drive the Jets as long as Rex Ryan is the coach, and his defensive system is driven by cornerbacks. Idzik knows that, but he obviously held back in free agency, knowing he has an XXL draft to attack the team's weaknesses.

The second-year GM and his revamped scouting department enjoyed a solid first draft, so there is hope, but the challenge is greater this year because the expectation level is higher. If you're going to be frugal in free agency, you had better own the draft.

The Jets need to come away with a starting-caliber cornerback, a potential No. 1 receiver and a pass-catching tight end. With six choices among the top 137, they have the bargaining chips to wheel and deal. Idzik has enough ammo to take control of the draft, cherry-picking the players he covets most. A Justin Gilbert-Allen Robinson-Jace Amaro troika would be a nice start.

This is a critical draft for the Jets. Sorry about the cliché, but it's the truth.
The draft still is four weeks away, but the most compelling storyline already is starting to come into focus for the New York Jets: wide receiver or cornerback?

For weeks -- no, months -- the first-round speculation centered on the receiver position. Now, after a few weeks of free agency, it can be argued the Jets have a bigger need at cornerback. When it's their turn to pick (18th overall), there should be a handful of similarly rated corners and receivers, which should make for interesting debate in the draft room.


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The Tennessee Titans made it official Friday, releasing former Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson. The New York Jets have interest, according to a league source. In fact, they were one of the teams that inquired about trading for Johnson, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported.

[+] EnlargeChris Johnson
AP Photo/Wade PayneChris Johnson will be looking to bounce back after playing through a knee injury for much of last season.
A few thoughts on whether this is a move they should pursue now that Johnson's a free agent:

1. Proceed with caution: If I were the Jets, I'd try to sign Johnson on three conditions: There are no concerns with his surgically repaired right knee; he's willing to accept a deal for fair market value; and he agrees to be a complementary back with Chris Ivory. If everything aligns, he's worth the risk. CJ2K is gone, but any back with six straight 1,000-yard seasons has to be a consideration.

2. The upside: The Jets have a solid stable of backs, but they don't have a home run threat. While Johnson's statistics show a steady decline in his breakaway ability (he had only five rushes of 20-plus yards last season, compared to 22 in 2009), he's still fast -- and defenses would have to respect that. Right now, they don't have a runner that can threaten the perimeter on a consistent basis. Johnson is a finesse runner -- he doesn't break many tackles in the hole -- but they can create space by running him out of spread formations. He's the anti-Ivory, which is why they'd make a good tandem. Johnson would have to be OK with a reduced role. He'll be 29 in September, and he needs to understand that fewer carries would make him more effective and lengthen his career.

3. Extenuating circumstances: Johnson hasn't come close to replicating his signature season -- 2,006 yards in 2009 -- fueling a variety of theories on why his production has slipped. His per-carry average last year (3.9) was a career low, but he revealed after the season that he played with a torn meniscus from Week 3. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in late January and began running only about two weeks ago. The knee injury would certainly explain his lack of explosiveness. Since signing a four-year, $53.5 million extension in 2011, his average has dropped to 4.12 per carry (28th in the NFL). Is he a victim of circumstances or has the tread on his tires worn thin? Probably a combination of both.

4. Money matters: Johnson was due to make $8 million this season from the Titans. This is a depressed running back market, and a team would be crazy to guarantee that much money. A total of 24 running backs have signed free-agent contracts since March 11, and the numbers are sobering. The biggest guarantee was only $4.5 million (Toby Gerhart) and the largest average-per-year was $3.5 million (Gerhart, Donald Brown). The Jets have some wiggle room at running back. In fact, their backs are counting only $5.7 million on the cap, 29 percent below the league average, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Johnson has to be realistic with his demands.

5. Final thoughts: Based simply on the data, you'd want to stay away from Johnson, a player on the decline. But sometimes you have to trust your gut, gambling that a once-great player can find some of that old magic. If Johnson is willing to put ego aside, and the docs give the knee a thumb's up, he's worth checking out.

Jets begin training April 21

April, 3, 2014
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It starts April 21 for the New York Jets -- the offseason program, that is.

The NFL released the offseason dates for every team Thursday, from the first strength-and-conditioning session to the final minicamp. Based on the collective bargaining agreement, the offseason is divided into three phases. The first phase (two weeks) focuses on strength and conditioning -- no football activities. The second phase (three weeks) allows for limited on-the-field workouts. The third phase (four weeks) is organized team activities -- OTAs -- the closest thing to real football in the offseason. There's no contact, but it includes the routine drills, including offense versus defense.

The Jets' OTA dates: May 27, 29, 30; June 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12.

Mandatory minicamp: June 17-19.
Chris Johnson's days in Tennessee are numbered, according to his agent. And, yes, the New York Jets already have been linked to the former 2,000-yard rusher.

On Wednesday night, agent Joel Segal told SiriusXM Radio, "Had some communication with Titans management today. I think it’s a matter of time before Chris won’t be with the Titans, just don’t know when."

Johnson's declining production, combined with a $10 million cap charge, has made him expendable. The Titans are trying to trade him, but if they can't swing a deal, they're expected to release him before Monday. Why Monday? The Titans' off-season program starts Monday, and they don't want Johnson to show up, risking an injury that could put them on the hook for his salary.

Speculation already is building that the Jets will be a major player for Johnson. Of course, we heard that about DeSean Jackson, too, fueled by owner Woody Johnson, and nothing came of it. This situation is a bit different because Johnson doesn't have the character issues that raised red flags with Jackson. I believe the Jets will have some level of interest in Johnson, but -- and you can probably predict the next sentence -- it would have to be at the right price.

As you know, the Jets are in a cost-conscious mode, so I can't see them spending a ridiculous amount of money on a 28-year-old running back. On the other hand, they recognize there's a need at the position. Early in free agency, they flirted with Donald Brown and inquired about Maurice Jones-Drew, although that never got serious.

The Jets have a decent stable of backs, led by Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, but they're complementary backs. In Ivory's case, there are durability questions. They need a home-run hitter. Johnson, despite his shrinking numbers, offers that dimension. Mike Goodson was supposed to be that guy, but he's still facing weapons charges and the possibility of another suspension by the league for violating the personal-conduct policy.

So prepare for the CJ2K Watch, which should be commencing shortly.
A team often can fill its biggest needs in free agency, creating more flexibility when it comes time for the draft. In other words, the team can draft the best available player (in theory) without having to reach to address a need.

You can't say that about the New York Jets. They signed five free agents from other teams, including two wide receivers and a cornerback, but their top needs remain the same -- wide receiver, tight end and cornerback. This illustrates an absolute lack of depth at those positions.


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Dimitri Patterson never has been mentioned with the top cornerbacks in the NFL, but he obviously feels he's an underrated talent. His self-confidence was apparent Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

Patterson
"Obviously, I don’t have the sexiest or flashiest name or I don’t have a lot of hype behind my name," Patterson said. "The thing about it is when you turn on the tape, with the opportunity that has been given to me ... my numbers speak for themselves. ... I have been able to show that, when the opportunity is given, I can play at a high level and I can handle the top receivers."

The New York Jets gave him a one-year, $3 million contract, which consists of a $1 million signing bonus, a $1.5 million base salary and $500,000 in roster bonuses ($31,250 for every game he's on the active 46). The size of the contract suggests Patterson will be on the field a lot. He said he will have the opportunity to replace Antonio Cromartie in the starting lineup.

"They told me that there is definitely a strong opportunity there for me to come in and pick up where I left off last year," said Patterson, who started four games for the Miami Dolphins before a groin injury forced him to the sideline.

Patterson revealed that he underwent surgery last December to correct the problem, saying he feels "great." That's the knock on him, that he's injury prone. Patterson, who turns 31 next month, has missed 24 games the past two seasons. The man he's replacing, Cromartie, never missed a game due to injury.

"I just ask that [the] individual look at what I have been able to do when given the opportunity, and look at that as a football player and not someone that has a lot of hype behind his name or is hyped up," he said. "[Just look at me] as a football player who has done a lot with the little opportunity that has been given to him."

The Jets also introduced wide receiver Jacoby Ford via conference call. Ford, who spent four seasons with the Oakland Raiders, said he will compete for the kickoff-return job and, possibly, the punt-returning job. They could use a boost in those areas. Like Patterson, Ford is trying to shake the label that he's injury prone. He missed the 2012 season, recovering from foot surgery. He claimed he's still as fast as he was when he came out of Clemson in 2010, which means he's pretty fast. He ran a 4.28 in the 40.

"The exact same or faster [than when I came out of school]," said Ford, who signed a one-year deal for probably about $1 million. "I feel that confident in my running."
A few takeaways on former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jacoby Ford signing with the New York Jets:

Ford
1. Typical: This is an Idzik-ian move all the way. One of the NFL's top receivers is on the open market -- DeSean Jackson -- but general manager John Idzik avoids the big splash and takes a short-term flier on the fast, but injury-prone Ford. This won't increase Idzik's popularity among frustrated fans, but it's the kind of low-risk move that he likes. Jackson is too costly and has too much baggage.

2. Depth chart: Ford (57 career catches) won't start -- heck, he's not even a lock to make the team -- but he has one thing going for him: Speed. He ran a 4.28 in the 40 coming out of Clemson in 2010, and the current receiving corps lacked a true burner. The big question with Ford is his durability. He's made out of glass, having missed 26 games over the past three years. Considering the Jets' injuries at receiver in recent years, Ford doesn't exactly fit the profile of what they need at the position.

3. Special-teams impact: Ford, who has scored four times on kickoff returns in his career, becomes one of the leading candidates to replace Josh Cribbs. The Jets' return game lacked sizzle, and Ford can change that -- if healthy. It should be noted, though, that the value of kickoff returners has decreased because of the rule changes.

Re-setting the depth chart

April, 1, 2014
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CB Patterson visits with Jets

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In a radio interview last week, general manager John Idzik acknowledged the obvious, saying the New York Jets have a need at cornerback. With no attractive options left in free agency, he's down to the second- and third-tier players. One of those free agents, Dimitri Patterson, is visiting Monday with the Jets, a league source confirmed.

Patterson
Patterson, cut recently by the Miami Dolphins, is strictly a backup type. He has started only 20 games in eight years for six different teams. He also has durability questions, as he has played in only eight games over the past two seasons. He missed time last season with a groin injury and was placed on injured reserve late in the season. The Dolphins saved $5.4 million on the cap by releasing him.

He was limited to only six games (four starts) last season, but he actually played well. Patterson recorded four interceptions in 240 defensive snaps, one more than anybody in the Jets' secondary. He graded out well in the ProFootball Focus rankings, but he's not a plug-and-play corner who can replace Antonio Cromartie.

The Jets cut Cromartie, flirted with free agents Vontae Davis and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, showed no interest in a reunion with Darrelle Revis ... and, well, now they have a gaping hole in the starting lineup. It's becoming increasingly obvious they will have to invest a high draft choice in a corner, one year after picking Dee Milliner ninth overall.

Patterson's visit was first reported by Pro Football Talk.

The latest on DeSean Jackson, CJ2K

March, 31, 2014
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Took a rare, two-day respite over the weekend, so let's bring you up to speed on what's going on with the New York Jets:

As of now, they don't appear to be pursuing DeSean Jackson. If they are, they're doing a nice job of keeping it quiet. There was no contact between the Jets and Jackson's agent during his first 24 hours of his free agency, according to multiple reports. Am I surprised? Yes and no.

Jackson
Johnson
Despite some definite interest within the organization (we know owner Woody Johnson likes him and he's not alone), Jackson doesn't seem to be a fit in John Idzik's rebuilding plan, mostly because of character concerns, potential cost and the fact that they already have a big-money wide receiver on the books, Eric Decker. It's also a receiver-rich draft. That said, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who coached Jackson with the Philadelphia Eagles, has endorsed the talented receiver -- and his opinion carries some weight. (See Michael Vick.) For that reason, I thought the Jets would at least make a due-diligence call.

Could they be lurking in the weeds, waiting for Jackson's asking price to drop? In the world of free agency, it's never over until the player signs on someone else's dotted line, so I wouldn't say the Jets are completely out of it. That the owner is interested (you know, the guy who signs the checks) leads me to believe there's still a chance. Of course, if they really wanted him, I think they would've tried to get him in the building ASAP. Jackson will visit the Washington Redskins on Monday; he reportedly is drawing some interest from the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills. You already know how I feel about Jackson: Despite his talent, he's not a fit for the Jets.

There's also some Chris Johnson chatter on this snowy Monday morning. The Tennessee Titans are expected to trade or release the former 2,000-yard running back before the start of off-season workouts next week. I heard some rumblings a couple of weeks ago about the Jets' potential interest in Johnson, mentioning it Saturday in my Twitter mailbag. The NFL Network took it a step further Monday morning, saying the Jets do have some interest.

This might surprise some people because running back is thought to be one of the Jets' strongest positions, but take a closer look. There are deficiencies in the backfield, mainly no home-run threat and durability questions. Chris Ivory was a beast late in the year, but he's never played a full season. Mike Goodson has the kind of speed they need, but he's coming off ACL surgery and still facing charges from last year's arrest. Bilal Powell is a solid No. 2, entering the final year of his contract.

There was some buzz about the Jets' interest in running backs at the scouting combine, and I was told they were high on Donald Brown and Ben Tate in free agency. The chatter faded away, but there apparently was a stealth pursuit of Brown. The Jets made a bid, the New York Daily News noted Monday, but they lost him to the San Diego Chargers.

Johnson would be a nice addition because he's still fast, only 28 and would command respect from opposing defenses. But don't get your hopes up just yet. The conservative Idzik likes to flirt with the big names, but more than not, it doesn't progress to the serious stage. You also have to wonder why Johnson would be interested in the Jets, where he'd probably be part of a two- or three-man committee.

One last note: Linebacker Nick Bellore, one of the Jets' top special teamers, signed his one year, $1.4 million tender.

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