CORTLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Dee Milliner is ready to start earning his New York Jets paycheck.
Milliner, the No. 9 overall pick out of Alabama, agreed to terms on a four-year deal believed to be worth about $12.66 million late Sunday night and signed the contract Monday.
“I made that call,” coach Rex Ryan said Monday, making light of the recent flap over who will make the final decision on the starting quarterback. “Just kidding.”
Milliner did not arrive in time Monday morning to join his Jets teammates, but showed up at SUNY Cortland later in the day to officially sign his deal. He flew from his home in Alabama to Atlanta and then to Syracuse, before making the 40-minute drive to Cortland — a 5-hour overall trip that he called “a long, drowsy day.”
“It’s great to be back,” he said with a big smile.
He will need to pass his physical and conditioning test to begin practicing with the team, and he hopes to do that either Tuesday, an off day for the team, or later in the week.
“I’ve been seeing the plays, been a part of them at practice, watching, learning,” Milliner said. “I just haven’t been on the field, but it’s football so you get back out there, get back in the roll of things. I know I’ll be fine, it’s just getting back to it and actually going out there and playing.”
When he does practice, Milliner will be limited at first, as a precaution.
Milliner missed the entire offseason while recovering from shoulder surgery in March, but said he’s feeling “100 percent” healthy — and felt that way right after minicamp last month — although he knows he won’t go “full throttle” right away.
“I know I’ll be ready,” he said. “I’ll just listen to the trainers and what they tell us to do and everything will fall into place.”
Although he wasn’t able to actually practice, he did watch on the field during the offseason and was able to get in classroom work throughout.
“He picked it up real quick,” defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said. “A lot of the terminology we use, Alabama uses, so he came in on top of it and he seems to be a fairly smart guy.
“The biggest thing for him, the biggest transition for him is going to be the quickness of the game, the speed of the game, how quickly he can get himself acclimated will be is biggest challenge.
“But as far as the mental part of it, he’s very sharp.”
Antonio Cromartie will be the player the Jets use in Darrelle Revis’ old role as the No. 1 cornerback who will defend opponents’ top receivers. Cromartie thrived last year when Revis went down with a season-ending knee injury early, and they’re counting on him for a repeat performance after trading Revis to Tampa Bay shortly before the draft.
The Jets were thrilled when Milliner, considered by some to be a top-5 caliber pick, was available at No. 9. They envisioned Milliner to not replace Revis, per se, but to compete with Kyle Wilson for the other starting spot at cornerback.
“He has to make sure he doesn’t get himself caught up in trying to be compared to him,” Cromartie said of Milliner. “He’s his own man. Darrelle is his own man.
“The only thing he has to do is come in and be Dee Milliner. That’s all we’re asking him to do. We’re not asking him to come in and be a Darrelle Revis. We’re asking him to come in and be Dee Milliner.”
That means being a physical player who thrives in man coverage, the type of cornerback — “the most complete” in the draft, according to Thurman — who should fit the defense perfectly. That is, when he gets out on the field and proves he’s up to the task.
“He’s got to earn it, just like everybody else,” Thurman said. “He knows that and we know it. We don’t just give anybody anything in this league. You have to earn it. We expect him to be involved and highly competitive to be a starter. That’s our anticipation, so we’ll see.”
The 6-foot Milliner had six interceptions and 36 pass breakups in his three seasons with Alabama, helping lead the Crimson Tide to two national titles during his time there.
“I’m just ready to get to work and earn my paycheck,” he said.
He was the second-to-last first-round draft pick to sign, with the Titans and former Alabama guard Chance Warmack — No. 10 overall — agreeing to terms Monday. The Jets signed their other first-rounder, No. 13 overall pick Sheldon Richardson, last Thursday before the team reported for camp.
“Oh, man, it was hard because I wanted to get back and get things rolling and get back on the field,” Milliner said of not being able to report with the rest of the Jets.
Despite missing the first few days of camp and not being able to practice since becoming a member of the Jets, Milliner doesn’t feel he’ll have much catching up to do.
“I think he can be (great),” Cromartie said. “It just depends on what he wants out of it and what he expects from it.”
NOTES: Mark Sanchez threw the first interception of camp in 11-on-11 drills, getting picked off by LB Josh Mauga. Fans booed Sanchez as Mauga ran down the sideline. … Rookie QB Geno Smith has impressed Cromartie: “I was surprised by how he’s picking up the offense. It shows how he’s a different kid. He’s a kid coming out to compete, and that’s what he’s trying to do.” Ryan likes that Smith hasn’t yet thrown an interception through four practices, but added that he needs to work on not taking “sacks” and throw the ball away. … Ryan said Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett are competing for the starting safety spot opposite Dawan Landry. Josh Bush, once considered a possibility there, is working as Landry’s backup. … LB Antwan Barnes wears a T-shirt under his practice jersey with a picture of Chandler Williams III, a former college teammate at Florida International who died in January during a flag football tournament in Florida. The former CFL and Arena League wide receiver was a seventh-round pick of Minnesota in 2007, and also spent time with Miami, Atlanta and Kansas City.
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