By Kristian Dyer
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On Thursday, everything changed for the New York Jets, a team that was supposed to be in the wasteland of the NFL but is now pointed toward the postseason. The signing of Ed Reed in no uncertain terms shows a club that has now moved from being an also-ran to squarely in the seat of a playoff contender.
The Jets spent much of this past offseason under new general manager John Idzik revamping and rebuilding. Gone were long-term stalwarts of the team, the recognizable names that drew loud cheers around MetLife Stadium during player introductions. Jettisoned were the likes of Bart Scott, Sione Pouha and Dustin Keller. In came young talent, unproven and raw. Joining them were unheralded veterans, many with something to proven, some just downright unknowns.
What was supposed to be a rebuilding year has instead made a complete and total turn. The Jets are now pointed up and the signing of Reed shows that.
This isn’t an expansion team. They are not in the running to draft Jadeveon Clowney No. 1 overall. Instead, they’re talking postseason football and have every right to do so.
A veteran like Reed had his shot with other playoff-bound teams. And while the presence of head coach Rex Ryan, who formerly was the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens and the man under whom Reed had his best professional years, was surely a boost it wasn’t the full part of the sales pitch from the Jets. Equally as important was the fact that the Jets are 5-4 with a manageable back end of their schedule making the postseason more than wishful thinking.
Reed looked at this team and saw a return trip to the playoffs as very much of a reality.
It wasn’t supposed to play out this way in New York.
The Jets were picked to prop up much of the league this year, with no major media outlet giving them a chance at a winning record let alone the playoffs. But somehow this team of castoffs, revamped and without major playmakers on offense, has churned out five wins. Now they seem like a good bet for the postseason.
Now, they seem like a team that Reed would want to play for. Now, they seem to have finally moved beyond the “circus” label and are now being talked about as a team that is capable of winning a few football games. They are no longer dragged down by distractions and dissension. Here they are, on the cusp of being a playoff contending team with the kind of savvy veteran signing that proves they are serious about making it.
The signing also shows that the rest of the league has noticed the quick turnaround job down by Idzik and Ryan.
In coming to New York, Reed signaled that the Jets are not only playoff contenders, but they can and will be a destination once again for free agents. In 2010 and again in 2011, the Jets were the hot spot for veteran free agents who wanted to come and be with a player’s coach and be part of a contending side. In Ryan, the Jets have a salesman and someone who can lure top players to come be a part of this team. Now that the Jets are winning again, Ryan will have even more allure. Reed might be the first player of this caliber brought in because of the Jets recent success.
He won’t be the last.
The job isn’t done in New York with the Jets and a playoff appearance – while nice – won’t necessarily mean that the team has arrived. Work still needs to be done on the defense, in particular at linebacker, and the Jets could use a playmaker at wide receiver and perhaps a true long-term solution at tight end. But they are heading there when no one thought it was possible.
The rebuilding officially ended on Thursday with the signing of Reed. The push for the playoffs has officially begun.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the New York Jets as a beat reporter for Metro New York and also is a contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer
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