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Palladino: Patriots And Giants Show Jets How Free Agency Is Done

Jets coach Rex Ryan, owner Woody Johnson (credit: Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

Jets coach Rex Ryan, owner Woody Johnson (credit: Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

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By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Wes Welker leaves the Patriots and right away they pick up Rams slot receiver Danny Amendola.

The Jets lose Mike DeVito, Yeremiah Bell, LaRon Landry, Shonn Greene, and probably Dustin Keller, and appear ready to trade Darrelle Revis, and they can’t even land a second-level receiver in Brandon Gibson during his visit.

So far, their big foray into free agency has been a 35-year-old quarterback named David Garrard, and the only reason he’s here is because the Jets offer him the best chance in the entire league to reclaim his days as a starter.

This is the situation in which the Jets find themselves despite cuts and restructuring that has created some nice wiggle room under the salary cap. This is with a coach who many identified as a talent magnet, a player’s guy the whole league could give their right arms to play for.

The lesson here is that losing and chaos and drama scares off free-agent talent faster than any irascible personality will. Rex Ryan and Tom Coughlin are convenient examples of it.

Remember in 2006, when everyone in the world, it seemed, wanted to run Coughlin out of town? Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey had major blowups with him during the season, and the columnists had whipped themselves into a frenzy. Among the attacks on Coughlin came the theory that his hard-boiled personality could never attract quality free agents.

Coughlin did soften an attitude even his supporters politely termed abrasive, but he never relinquished his demand for unquestioned adherence to his rules and methods. Yet, along came Chris Canty. Along came Antrel Rolle. Along came David Baas.

These people were not mere castoffs from Dallas, Arizona and San Francisco. They were starters with plenty of gas left in the tank. Just like Cullen Jenkins, who joined up when Canty was set free. And they signed with the Giants knowing full well about Coughlin’s nature. Why? Because the Giants were a winning, well-ordered organization.

You see, as much as players say they want their voices to be heard, as much as they might see a good situation in an anything-goes coach, what football players really want is discipline. They want to know that the head men in charge have a real plan — for both sides of the ball — and that the team they’re signing with has a direction other than a circular, never-ending rebuild.

Bill Belichick doesn’t put his arm around a lot of players, either. He has set the media relations game back to the stone ages. But look at his free agent dealings. He turns them over as frequently as supermarket produce. Sign a good one, keep him for a year or two or three, and get him out when the arrow starts downward. Then replace him with another quality guy.

Amendola? He’s one of the best slot guys in the NFL, with 85 catches for 689 yards and three touchdowns in his highlight season of 2010. He’s had trouble staying healthy, but if he does Belichick will have found Tom Brady a brand new plaything in the slot to replace the great Welker.

Amendola probably could have signed with most any team, but he ran to Belichick and the Patriots. Why? Sure, money had something to do with it. Always does. But the Patriots win every year, even if Belichick skirts the occasional rule or two to do it. People want to play for them.

The Jets are a circus, run by a clueless owner, a rookie general manager who is about to trade only one of a handful of consistent quality players on the roster, and a blustery coach who hasn’t won a thing worth talking about in four years.

They’re a circus. Players don’t like circuses.

If they did, they’d all know how to juggle by now.

Be honest — would you want to play for the Jets? Be heard in the comments…