By Kristian Dyer
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It wouldn’t be an NFL offseason and the start of free agency if the New York Jets were somehow linked to nearly every big name free agent on the market. But outside of the Peyton Manning rumors, which had no basis in reality, the Jets have been quiet and seem to be eyeing value over headlines.
The low key approach, which for a team that likes the big splash and to steal the backpage of the city’s tabloids, is surprisingly the right move. It is also reminiscent of how their crosstown rivals spent last offseason, targeting players who fit their team and not ones who would sell jerseys or PSL’s.
And that’s the right outlook for the Jets this offseason.
Last year, the Giants lost several high profile players such as Kevin Boss, Barry Cofield and Steve Smith, leading to a panic from fans that the team was a free agency loser. Instead of alarm, general manager calmly replaced these players with lesser names and placing more responsibility on his younger players. The names brought in by Reese didn’t register with fans until they were cheered loudly down the Canyon of Heroes for the Giants Super Bowl parade.
The Jets, like the Giants of last summer, have their stars in place and just need to fine-tune their two-deeps. There are four Pro Bowl players, after all, on the Jets roster. Adding another superstar (or two, or three) isn’t the answer. Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles.
Instead, the path pursued by the Giants must be the Jets recipe for success. Last year, the Giants entrusted the younger players on their roster to step-up and begin getting extra snaps and start making plays. Now the Jets must do the same with Marquice Cole, Jeff Cumberland, Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua and Jamaal Westerman. There is young talent on this team ready to step up and play.
The Jets just need to fight the urge to bring in only veterans and big names and let the youngsters play.
Supplement these players with substance free agents and the Jets would be headed on the right track. There’s reason to hope that the team will be shrewder this year than last year’s pursuit of big names who came with big price tags and even bigger headaches.
The fact that the Jets bombed with last summer’s free agent moves was a major factor in the team missing out on the playoffs after consecutive years in the AFC Championship Game.
The first positive was Friday night’s surprise announcement that the Jets had signed the much maligned Mark Sanchez to a five-year extension, essentially placing the future of the franchise on the shoulders of their fourth year quarterback. Then on Monday came the expected deal for nose tackle Sione Pouha, who was given a three-year contract for his solid play and effective leadership. Neither move will whip the fan base into a frenzy (although there was plenty of angst from fans about the Sanchez deal) or stay on the top of the news cycle for too long.
But for the Jets, both moves were important. Tying up Sanchez not only took away the sting of their inability to land Manning, but it cements a veteran team with a young quarterback to build around. Even with all the criticism he faced for last year’s 8-8 record and an underachieving offense, there is far more good about Sanchez then not. Keeping Pouha in house is another important piece for the Jets to build around as he is the ideal fit at the center of their 3-4 and the space eating, run-stopping nose tackle they need.
Neither name was Manning or prized free agent Mario Williams, but both deals can return the Jets to the postseason.
In the grand scheme of things neither move was as big or high profiled as some of last year’s move, such as the deals to re-sign Antonio Cromartie or Santonio Holmes or the blockbuster move for Plaxico Burress. But for a team in need of stability, it is a good start.
But can the Jets resist their penchant for big spending? There is a track record of this team consistently rolling the dice on veterans with more sizzle and showmanship than performance. And yet the Jets need merely to look across town and see a fourth Lombardi Trophy in the Giants show room, a glimmering reminder of what should be their blueprint for a quiet offseason.
Kristian R. Dyer contributes to WFAN.com and covers the Jets beat for Metro New York. He also writes for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him at twitter.com/KristianRDyer
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