Minutes after a heartbreaking, and presumably humbling, loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers our man Rex Ryan stepped to the podium and sounded strangely familiar.”Our goal for next year won’t change and it’ll never change,” he said. “We’re going to chase that Super Bowl and chase it until we get it. And then we’ll chase it again after that.”
Boy, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The season might be over, the Super Bowl might no longer be within reach, but the rhetoric is identical: Super Bowl or bust.
But how exactly will the Jets – who hoarded stars Jason Taylor, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, and LaDainian Tomlinson, in the uncapped season – compete with what will likely be a stricter salary cap in 2011? With so many key cogs in limbo, who stays and who goes?
Here’s a list of the Jets free agent starters: WR Braylon Edwards, WR Santonio Holmes, WR/KR Brad Smith, DE Shaun Ellis, ILB David Harris, CB Antonio Cromartie, SS Brodney Pool, FB Tony Richardson.
The Jets face many tough decisions, but the toughest of them all comes at wide receiver.
The Jets currently employ two hired guns in Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, but it’s unlikely they can afford to keep both if they want to sign David Harris, Shaun Ellis, and Brad Smith. Which, presumably, they do. Holmes, a former Super Bowl MVP, who is seemingly always open in the clutch is the popular choice over a diva wide receiver with a reputation for dropping the ball.
Our choice: the beard-wearing, pass-dropping, DUI-charge-pending, wide receiver Braylon Edwards.
Holmes, a speedy wideout with an unmatched ability to get both feet in bounds on sideline passes, is simply more easily replaceable. He will certainly demand a bigger contract, and warrants it with his play. However, a 5-foot-11 burner with good hands is a dime a dozen.
Holmes might be the best of the bunch, but there are guys like him on every roster. In fact, the Steelers haven’t had any trouble replacing their former go-to guy. The Patriots and Colts seem to find new players in Holmes’ mould ever year, and the Packers can field a team of them. The Saints and Chargers also have their own Tone impostors, and even the Bengals – employers of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco – found a Holmes-like target, Jordan Shipley, to be their most dependable receiver.
The hidden truth is that these receivers are mostly functions of their quarterbacks. That’s why Holmes’ receiving yards per game took a 16-yard dip when he went from catching Roethlisberger passes to Sanchez throws. Good quarterbacks can mould these 5-foot-11 speedsters into productive players, by developing a rapport and feasting on impeccable timing routes. As Sanchez develops, he’ll eventually find a new one of his own.
Meanwhile, the list of gamebreaking, 6-foot-3 receivers is significantly shorter. And the number of those willing to work hard at becoming better blockers, and go over the middle to make big catches despite the prospect of a big hit is minuscule. And for all the talk about Edwards’ drops he actually had fewer in 16 games than Holmes did (5) in 12. (Holmes cost the Jets a game by dropping a sure touchdown pass.)Holmes may widely be considered the better receiver, but assuming Edwards escapes his DUI charges free of suspension, he’s the better choice to keep. Not only will he be cheaper, but a big target is an irreplaceable asset for a young quarterback. That’s why, despite their difference in reputation, Edwards was targeted just one less time than Holmes in the postseason, when the games mattered most.
Need a smaller faster guy? Just poach another one from a rival roster. Or look deeper down the depth chart and find Jerricho Cotchery.
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