Jets Focus On Offseason Issues As Super Bowl Dreams Are Dashed
The Super Bowl dream for the New York Jets ended in a boisterous Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday. While the Indianapolis Colts started celebrating their 30-17 victory moments after the final whistle blew, the Jets were just starting to comprehend that their magical playoff ride was over.
And it was less than 24 hours, which seems to be the norm in New York sports, that Jets coach Rex Ryan had to shift from waxing poetic about his team’s ride to the AFC conference championship to what might happen next season.
“What I told the players today, is that next year, when we come back, we can’t make the assumption that we are going to get back to where we were, in the AFC Championship,” Ryan said.
“We have an excellent football team. There is no question. The work ethic (and) the resiliency, that’s why we were in that situation.”
Ryan, and General Manager Mike Tannebaum has said the team is not far away from getting to the Super Bowl. But they admit that the organization needs to make changes to improve. Some familiar names will be bounced out and new players will be brought in.
“Those are great things, but we enter this season 0-0. There’s no guarantee that we are going to get back. My challenge to myself and to all our players and all our coaches is to find a way to get better. I don’t know what it is, but how ever, find a way that everybody gets a little bit better,” Ryan said.
In the NFL, progress can be stunted easily from year to year because of parity and a salary cap. No matter how well the Jets did in defeating the Bengals and the Chargers in the playoffs, all will be forgotten next September if the team gets off to a slow start.
And the offseason will prove crucial in many ways. If the owners and players can not agree on a new collective bargaining agreement by the start of the season, the NFL will have not have a salary cap for next season. The Jets won’t benefit by signing a host of a free agents because of a rule enacted that would limit spending for the last eight playoff teams who made it this season.
The Jets will have to look at trades or the draft to assess a number of areas that must be addressed in the offseason. The offense, while not explosive, needs to figure out whether to bring back WR Braylon Edwards, a restricted free agent, and draft a speedy receiver in the early rounds.
Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard were two acquisitions that helped solidify the top defense in the league. Revis stepped up to become arguably the most dominant cornerback in the league. The Jets overcame the loss of NT Kris Jenkins in the middle as Mike Devito and Sione Pouha were able to give in a solid effort.
While the defense was highly applauded, the Jets are not looking to remain in the status quo. Changes will have to be made and there are three players that will likely be jettisoned.
Vernon Gholston, a former first round pick, has not worked out as a stud pass rushing linebacker that he was expected to be. If he is not released or traded for a draft pick, his playing time could decrease further.
Kerry Rhodes never connected with Ryan in terms of his role on the field this season. While he was better at the end of the season, Tannebaum will most likely look for a replacement either through the draft, or via free agency.
Lito Sheppard proved a liability at the end of the season at the other cornerback spot and didn’t even start the game against the Colts. He is due a $10 million dollar signing bonus on March 1 and will be cut by the Jets to save salary.
The Jets will look to find a pass rusher. 33-year old Shaun Ellis was productive, but may not play as much next season due to age. With Jenkins returning from injury, there are questions he might not be the effective player he was in the past. If he does return to form, the defense will benefit.
“There (are) very few players in this league with his ability. He’s one of, if not the top, he’s one of the premiere defensive tackles in this game,” Ryan said. “He’s unusual in the fact that this is a huge man, but he can move. It’s not like he’s just a space eater. “
Tannebaum may look to DE Julian Peppers, the 29-year old All-Pro pass rusher from the Carolina Panthers who will be a restricted free agent. For the Panthers to keep him, they must place the franchise marker tag on him and pay him $20 million for next season. Peppers made $16 million in 2009.