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Palladino: Reese’s Giants Just Hijacked Jets’ Offseason

Jerry Reese(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images), John Idzik (Photo by Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)

Jerry Reese(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images), John Idzik (Photo by Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)

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By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Despite everything that would happen on the field during the regular season, Jets fans always knew the offseason belonged to them. For better or worse, richer or poorer, they could always rely on seeing their team on the back page of the Daily News or Post.

Now they don’t even have that pleasure, as guilty and as generally empty as it was. Their blue-clad, MetLife Stadium co-inhabitants just finished hijacking the free-agent period from them. Stole it right away, and it was as easy as swiping an abandoned, running truck full of high-def TVs.

All the Giants had to do was max out their $19 million salary cap credit card. The Jets, meanwhile, appear to be holding tight to the major part of a $40 million cap pie they were afforded when they sent Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes into the open market sunset. For what purpose, who can know? Perhaps John Idzik has that answer, but he’s not talking.

The Giants did plenty of talking once the free agent starting gun went off. Though there remain plenty of holes to fill, particularly in that West Coast running back spot and the defensive front, Jerry Reese addressed plenty of others. In fact, he in effect rebuilt the secondary in fast order. Quintin Demps of Kansas City started the ball rolling, and was followed in quick succession by cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

The Demps signing may be debatable, but there’s no arguing about Thurmond and Rodgers-Cromartie. Thurmond, of course, comes off one of the league’s top secondaries, which only a little more than a month ago shut down Peyton Manning to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Seattle. Rodgers-Cromartie comes off a Denver defense that performed far better over the long run than it did in the Super Bowl. And the beauty of the Rodgers-Cromartie signing was that it came, oh, about 15 minutes (actually two days, if you want to split hairs about it) after he left the Jets’ executive offices without a contract.

That was Monday. But Reese wasn’t headed out the door to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Instead, he picked up another Bronco, returner Trindon Holliday, later that day, and then gave the thin wide receiver corps some new help with an old face Tuesday in Mario Manningham.

The Jets? Well, there’s always the draft.

It’s impossible to say whether Reese has masterminded a slam-dunk roster re-cast that will land his team in the playoffs. The Jets have made just these kinds of high-profile signings in the past, only to watch folks like Brett Favre, Tim Tebow have either limited success or blow up in their faces entirely. As anyone who follows football religiously knows — and the Jets are keenly aware of this — past performance doesn’t always foreshadow a positive future.

Still, the faithful could always count on the Jets to at least try. This time around, with nearly $40 million of cap space, they have failed miserably. Idzik looks like he’s been afflicted with inertia.

Darrelle Revis wouldn’t even sniff the cheese. Rodgers-Cromartie apparently couldn’t get out of there fast enough. The way Idzik’s luck is running this year, newly-signed former Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker will forget how to catch a football by the time OTAs come around.

The Giants had to cut Mathias Kiwanuka’s salary to fit Rodgers-Cromartie under the cap, at a lesser number than the cornerback came in looking for. The Jets could have closed their eyes and written him a blank check for his original request.

It didn’t happen. Nor have any of the other possible moves. At this point, with little left on the open market, Idzik looks like a hitchhiker on a lonely road; his thumb out, looking for a ride.

Understandable. The Jets’ free agent season has been hijacked. And Idzik need only look a few miles to the east to identify the guy who slipped slyly into his seat and high-tailed it out with his offseason.

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