Jets Twitter Mailbag

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
It's the weekly Jets Mailbag and since Rich Cimini is out of the office this weekend, I'll be tackling your questions.


It isn't exactly going to be an open competition in New York.

The New York Jets have a plan for their quarterbacks. They like their room. They feel that either Geno Smith or Michael Vick can win games for them this season, and do so from the jump.

There will be competition between the two, but to say there will be an open competition to determine who will be the starter in 2014 isn't totally accurate.

The Jets want Smith to be the starter. He is the future. He has more upside. He is the one whom they are invested in for the long haul. Vick is merely a rental on a one-year deal.

The Jets, however, are realistic.

Because here's the thing about Vick: He wins training camp. He wins the preseason. The strength of Vick's arm and the effortlessness with which he flings the ball downfield is intoxicating, even if his stats in recent seasons paint the picture of a turnover-prone quarterback on the backside of his career.

Vick will turn 34 in June and isn't nearly as fleet of foot as he was a little more than a decade ago, when the Atlanta Falcons drafted him No. 1 overall out of Virginia Tech. But Vick is still fast. He still has as strong an arm as anyone in the league. He has experience, and he understands the West Coast system that Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg runs.

During his time in Philadelphia, Vick proved he was willing to commit himself to the process of being the best quarterback possible. He learned the value in watching film. He worked hard. He was at the Eagles practice facility early and he stayed late.

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Wilkerson gets option and a raise

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
If Muhammad Wilkerson ever felt underappreciated, his accountant can now set him straight. Jets general manager John Idzik doesn't look like such a thrifty after laying out $6,969,000 for a fifth-year option on the defensive end for 2015. Wilkerson, who has played three full seasons, is now under contract for two more years, decreasing the urgency to give him an expensive, long-term extension.

It's quite a raise for Wilkerson, who will make $1,212,500 this season according to the NFLPA. Wilkerson was drafted by the Jets with the 30th overall pick in 2011 and has been impressing his coaches ever since.

As negotiations took place this month, Wilkerson was upfront about his desire to stay in New York.

"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 said to the New York Post. “I’m from [Linden, N.J.], I’m a local guy, so I would love to be here and finish my career here.”

It doesn’t always work in a player’s financial favor to say he wants to stay with his team, but in this case it appears to have worked. Wilkerson started with a base salary of $375,000 his rookie year, and went to $687,500 before landing at $1 million last season. His option is for nearly seven times that amount, a significant raise.

Last season, Wilkerson had 10.5 sacks. With recent rookie Sheldon Richardson also on the defensive line, the Jets could have a bright future with the group.
Rex Ryan took the Jets to the AFC Championship Game his first two seasons as their head coach, winning two playoff games each of those years. One of those playoff wins was a 28-21 victory over the Patriots in Foxborough in 2010. It seemed unlikely at the time, but the Jets would not build on that success, but instead go on to finish 8-8 in 2011 and 6-10 in 2012.

There was speculation that they would let Ryan go and make it a clean sweep when they fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum following that disappointing 2012 season. Instead, they retained Ryan, but the speculation picked up again during last year's 8-8 season.

Following a 23-3 loss to the Dolphins in December of last year, ESPN New York Jets reporter Rich Cimini felt Ryan needed to win two of the last four games to keep his job, and Cimini didn't seem optimistic about it happening coming off that performance.

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With draft day (May 8 ) rapidly approaching, we'll whet your appetite with a daily factoid, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information. We'll keep it New York Jets-centric, sticking to team needs, possible selections, trends, etc.

In the Rex Ryan era, the Jets have yet to invest a high draft pick on a safety. Could they break the trend in 2014? They're showing interest in projected first-rounder Calvin Pryor, scheduled for a pre-draft visit, but you have to wonder if the former Louisville star fits the profile of what they need. In college, he was a sledgehammer, not a ballhawk -- and the Jets need a ballhawk.

The 5-foot-11, 207-pound Pryor played like a linebacker, producing 175 tackles (second on the team) and seven forced fumbles over the past two seasons. He also was an effective blitzer, accumulating more quarterbacks pressures (27) than all but seven linebackers from BCS schools. He plays a lot like former Jets safety LaRon Landry.

Johnson: Vick, Smith to battle for top spot

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
In his first full day as a member of the Jets, running back Chris Johnson gave some insight into the competition for quarterback. Apparently, it's a fair fight.

Johnson told Michael Kay and Don La Greca on ESPN New York 98.7 that the Jets plan to have Geno Smith and Michael Vick compete for the starting job during the team's training camp in Cortland, N.Y. Any idea who has the inside track?

"They didn't give me no indication," Johnson said. "They said those two will battle it out in camp and may the best man win."

Rex Ryan said earlier in the year that Vick, signed as a free agent this offseason from the Eagles, would be able to compete with incumbent Smith for the starting job. Smith had the job as a rookie last season after Mark Sanchez sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in a preseason game.

Smith threw 12 touchdowns and had 21 interceptions last season, showing signs of potential but not enough to be the next assumed franchise quarterback. Having two almost-good-enough quarterbacks on the roster apparently wasn't in the long-term plan, so Vick was brought in and Sanchez was cut.

Vick's arrival has already sparked protest from animal rights group, who worked up a petition to try to bar Vick from training camp. Vick served less than two years in prison on charges stemming from dog-fighting.

That aside, Vick holds more experience as a starter and made it clear in March that he was there to compete for the starting role.

"Well, anywhere I go, or any team, I'm always going to compete for the No. 1 spot," Vick said. "And I will encourage any other quarterback behind me or in front of me to always compete for their job, for the No. 1 spot. That's how champions are made."

J.J. Watt has option exercised

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17

The Houston Texans have officially exercised the fifth-year option on defensive end J.J. Watt's contract for the 2015 season, a league source said.

The 2012 Defensive Player of the Year has 36.5 sacks over his first three seasons.

Teams have until May 3 to make a decision on whether to exercise the fifth-year option, which is guaranteed for injury only until the final day of the 2014 league year. It becomes guaranteed at the start of the next league year.

For players drafted in the top 10, the value of the fifth-year option is equal to the transition tag for their position during this offseason.

For players drafted with picks 11-32, the value of the fifth-year option is equal to the average of the 25 highest-paid players at their positions, excluding the top three highest players.

The San Diego Chargers have exercised the fifth-year option on defensive lineman Corey Liuget, and offensive tackle Tyron Smith's option will be picked up by the Dallas Cowboys, according to sources

The Baltimore Ravens announced they exercised the option on cornerback Jimmy Smith

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Rex Ryan's pitch to Chris Johnson

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
If you need any more evidence of the draw coach Rex Ryan has over NFL free agents, look no further than Chris Johnson's initial conference call on Thursday afternoon. He was asked why he chose the New York Jets, and he noted the team had a chance to win it all.

"They know how to win over there," Johnson said. "The type of team that they had last year, they got a great defense. Any time you have a great defense you give yourself a great chance at winning. Looking at the team, me going there to get more playmakers on offense, we know as an organization if we're able to put up points, then that will give us a good chance at winning. So I felt I would be able to fit that mold and come there and help [the] offense."

Not only have Ryan's Jets not delivered in the past three years, costing numerous coaches and a general manager their jobs, but a running back actually mentioned the defense as a reason to come to New York.

The Jets are 22-26 since 2011, but listen to the facts that Johnson has at the ready after spending a few days at the Jets' training facility in Florham Park.

"They haven't been to the playoffs in three years," Johnson said, "but last year they were one game out from the playoffs and the year before those three years they were a playoff team that was close to the Super Bowl and all those types of things."

It's the closest fans may get to hearing Ryan's actual sales pitch to a free agent.

Later Thursday, 98.7 ESPN New York's Michael Kay asked Johnson about Ryan, and you could almost hear him smile through the radio.

"I can see me and him being real, real cool," Johnson said.

Can you imagine a player saying something like that after meeting, say, Patriots coach Bill Belichick? Ryan seems to have an effortless way of relating to players, and it may be part of the reason Johnson was drawn to New York over another team.

If Johnson has another 2,000-yard season, Ryan and his skills of persuasion will look pretty valuable. But that's one of the big ifs for the Jets as the team prepares to begin its offseason training program on Monday.

John Clayton reveals that while the Jets' Eric Decker is the highest-paid free-agent wide receiver, the Lions' Golden Tate may be in a better statistical position.

John Clayton throws deep on Chris Johnson joining the Jets and what it will mean to Geno Smith's passing game.

Everybody thought LaDainian Tomlinson was ready for a rocking chair at the age of 30. He was a diminished player for the San Diego Chargers in 2009, finishing the season with a hard-to-watch game against the New York Jets in the playoffs -- 12 carries, 24 yards.

The future Hall of Famer was fired by his forever team, and the Jets, of all teams, gave him a job, gambling the once great runner could reinvent himself. They looked past his pedestrian '09 numbers, determining that heart was a better barometer than his 3.3 yards per carry. They were right; he was terrific in 2010.

"This," Tomlinson said at the time, "has refreshed me, being here."

Four years later, the Jets are once again trying to catch an old lightning-back in a bottle. This time his name is Chris Johnson, and there's every reason to believe he can give them a season like Tomlinson did.

The Jets get Johnson at 28, a little younger than Tomlinson upon his arrival, but the narrative is the same: a fading star coming off his worst season.

Johnson staggered to the finish last season, looking more like CJ1K than the old CJ2K. He barely cracked he 1,000-yard plateau, managing a pedestrian 3.9 yards per rush. The Tennessee Titans decided -- and rightly so -- it made no sense to pay him an $8 million wage for 2014.

[+] EnlargeChris Johnson
AP Photo/Mark ZaleskiChris Johnson cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark in 2013 despite playing the majority of the season with a knee injury.
Clearly, the Jets aren't getting the Johnson of 2009, when he blew away the league by rushing for 2,006 yards with his sub-4.3 speed, but they should have a highly motivated back who will get an opportunity to duplicate what Tomlinson did in 2010.

That year, Tomlinson rushed for a team-high 914 yards on just 219 carries and caught 52 passes, three shy of the team leader. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Nothing jars a world-class athlete more than being told he's not good enough, that it's time to pack up and leave. Tomlinson used that as his fuel until his body finally broke down in 2011. The Jets are hoping for a similarly inspired Johnson, who's already talking about redemption.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday on a conference call with the media.

You'll be disappointed if you expect a 1,500-yard season out of Johnson, but he's better than what he showed last year. He played 13 games on a torn meniscus, running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season -- hardly ideal conditions for a running back.

"Chris Johnson isn't a bell cow anymore," a longtime NFL personnel executive said. "I don't know where his heart is -- there are some things underneath his hood that I don't like -- but for the right price, yeah, I think it's a good move."

The Jets paid a top-of-the-market price -- two years, $8 million -- but the cost is reasonable. Chances are, they will take a less-is-more approach with Johnson, hoping a time-share with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell will preserve the remaining tread on Johnson's tires and improve his efficiency. That, of course, is based on the presumption that one of those tires isn't on the verge of a blowout.

Johnson disputed an ESPN report that said there's arthritis in his surgically repaired right knee, insisting he'll be fine. This bears watching, because the fire in his belly will burn out quickly if there's pain in his knee. If he's healthy, he'll be a plus for the offense.

"If a bad year is 1,100 yards, I'll take that all day," said ESPN analyst and former Jets tackle Damien Woody, alluding to Johnson's 1,077 last year.

Woody played for the Jets when Tomlinson arrived in 2010. At first, he wondered if Tomlinson was out of gas, but those concerns were allayed as soon as he saw the old running back on the field, doing his thing. Woody believes Johnson will respond the same way.

"The situations are really similar," Woody said. "You have two really good backs that were jettisoned from teams they had a lot of success with, dealing with the perception they're washed up. That, obviously, puts a chip on your shoulder."

The Jets have become a second-chance/last-chance stop for running backs. Before Tomlinson, there was Thomas Jones, who was outstanding before the salary-cap police decided it was time to go. A year ago, they traded for Ivory, who teased the New Orleans Saints for years.

As Woody noted, Jets coach Rex Ryan has way of reaching older players, coaxing them to give whatever they have left. Now he has Johnson, who still can be a productive runner -- as long as his wheels are as strong as his will.

Chris Johnson out to silence critics

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17

After sitting on the market for 12 days and hearing a year's worth of whispers about his declining value as a running back, Chris Johnson comes to the New York Jets resolved to prove the doubters wrong.

"I know there's a lot of people out there who believe in me, including the Jets, that's why they wanted to bring me in," Johnson said Thursday on a conference call. "But there are still a lot of people out there who say how they're going to feel, but I don't see how you can say some of the type things they say about a guy who runs for almost 1,100 yards on a torn meniscus.

"But [for] a player like myself that has accomplished so much in his career, it's always great to have things to put a chip on your shoulder, have things to motivate you. I can turn a bad thing that people say into a good thing for me, to get me motivated, keep me hungry and keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong."

Johnson was signed Wednesday to a two-year deal worth a potential $9 million, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. There have been questions about how productive Johnson can be given his declining production and his surgery in January to a repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

His knee is healing, and Johnson said he would soon be cleared to resume football activities. The Jets begin their offseason training program next week.

Johnson said he had "no concern" when asked whether he would be ready to participate in training camp.

Johnson also denied a report that he has arthritis in his knee.

"No, that's not accurate," he said, before laughing.

"If they had major concern in my knee, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have passed the physical."

Johnson spent his first six seasons with the Tennessee Titans

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Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Jets 

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
Their greatest needs are wide receiver and cornerback. They also could use a tight end, if the right one is available. In other words, the New York Jets could go in a few different directions with their first-round pick.

The question is, what happens if the premium players at those positions are gone? The Jets have to prepare for that scenario because it could very well happen. It does in ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's latest mock draft Insider.

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Daily draft dish: Adams posts crazy stats

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
With draft day (May 8) rapidly approaching, we'll whet your appetite with a daily factoid, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information. We'll keep it New York Jets-centric, sticking to team needs, possible selections, trends, etc.

One of the toughest positions for scouts to evaluate is wide receiver. Nowadays, they rack up video-game stats in college, leading to inflated evaluations by NFL types. That's why Fresno State's Davante Adams bears close scrutiny. Facing less-than-elite competition, he led the FBS in receptions (131), touchdown catches (24) and ranked second with 888 yards after the catch.

Utilizing his 39.5-inch vertical jump, the 6-1 Adams also led the FBS with 27 receptions and 12 touchdown catches in the red zone. Get this: When targeting Adams in the red zone, quarterback Derek Carr completed 71.1 percent of his passes, but only 57.4 percent when targeting others.

As everybody knows, the Jets are looking for a receiver. Adams is projected as a second-round pick.