Rumor Roundup: April 10
Something smells Fishy
File this one under “headlines you never thought you would read in a million years”. According to multiple sources, the Jets have expressed a strong interest in free agent linebacker and longtime Miami Dolphins nemesis, Jason Taylor. Taylor visited the teams’ complex in Florham Park on Wednesday and Thursday. He was also given a helicopter ride to the new Meadowlands stadium and wined and dined by Jets brass.
This is a perplexing move by Mike Tannenbaum, both PR-wise and football-wise. While Taylor was one of the league’s most feared pass rushers in his prime, he is now 35 and a shell of the player he once was. He is coming off a solid season in ‘09, in which he recorded 42 tackles and seven sacks. But is he really that much of an upgrade over Bryan Thomas, the man he would likely be replacing in the lineup?
This is the same Jason Taylor that has publicly stated his disdain for the Jets organization and its fans. I doubt many Jet fans have forgotten about the comments the veteran linebacker made on Sirius NFL Radio, back in November:
“The Giants fans are a different type of people, just put it that way. There’s a little more class on the Giants side and some Jets fans take the ‘cl’ out of class.”
“To score a touchdown in New York against the Jets in the last time I’ll be in the hellhole they call a stadium up there before they get rid of it and move to the new one, it was outstanding.
Taylor has reportedly flown back to his home and will make his decision in the coming days. As of late Friday night, there has still been no word of an official agreement between the two sides. However multiple sources believe that the unlikeliest of marriages is imminent.
The Star-Ledger’s Manish Mehta tweeted Thursday that it was “basically a done deal”. Additionally, Friday, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, reported the deal to be “close to done”, citing an associate close to Taylor.
Brunell coming too?
If Taylor ends up not signing with the Jets, that could open up the door for another free agent signing. Veteran quarterback Mark Brunell visited the team’s facility on Wednesday and is reportedly interested in signing, but cannot do so until Jason Taylor makes up his mind.
The NFL’s “Final Four” rule limits the Jets to signing one free agent, after losing Jay Feely to the Cardinals. Right now the available $1.5 million slot is reserved for Taylor. If Taylor has a change of heart, that will open up the door for Brunell to sign.
The 39-year-old Brunell would serve as a mentor for Mark Sanchez and bring some veteran stability to the quarterback core.
Following the official departure of Jay Feely late last week (signing a 2-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals), many speculated that the Jets would look to bring in the man who Feely is replacing in Arizona, veteran Neil Rackers, as Feely’s replacement (Still following?).
However, that idea went out the window quicker than you can say “Doug Brien”. Monday, Rackers agreed to a two-year deal with the Houston Texans. Rackers is expected to compete with the incumbent Kris Brown for the starting job in training camp. Judging by Brown’s less than stellar performance in 2009 (11 missed field goals, 65.6%), it probably won’t be much of a competition.
Where does this all leave the Jets? That remains to be seen. On Tuesday, the team agreed to terms with free agent kicker Clint Stitser. Who? Let me fill you in.
Stitser, who went undrafted out of Fresno State University in 2008, has zero NFL experience (probably explains why no one has ever heard of him). He did however complete 71% of his field goals in college. Not excited yet?
The Jets are fooling themselves if they truly plan on heading into the season with Nick Folk and Clint Stitser, as the only options at the kicking position. Folk is by no means a lock to regain his Pro Bowl form of 2007, making him a huge question mark.
The kicker position is one that is often overlooked in the NFL. While losing Jay Feely isn’t going to make the Jets a 4-12 team overnight, it certainly doesn’t make them a better team. Feely was rock-solid last season, completing 83.3% of his field goal attempts. Every time the Jets trotted out Feely from inside 45 yards, you knew they had a legitimate chance to score three points. It was one less thing that Rex Ryan and his staff had to worry about.
For a team that barely snuck into the playoffs, Feely’s kicking was enormous. Two or three more missed field goals and maybe there is no playoffs in Rex Ryan’s first season. Maybe without Jay Feely, there is no run to the AFC Championship Game.
A missed field goal here, a missed goal there can be the difference between a good season and a great one. Ask the 2004 Jets, who fell three points short of a trip to the AFC Championship. Or the the ‘04 and ‘09 Chargers. Good kicking matters (especially in playoff games) and good kickers are tough to find.
The Jets would be well-served to at least take a look at a serviceable, proven veteran in the free agency pool. Matt Stover, Shayne Graham, and John Carney are all still available.
On the bright side, Clint Stitser is reportedly the strongest kicker in Fresno State history, according to the school’s website. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds in college, Stitser was able to bench press 395 and squat 500.
Maybe he could help the Jets’ pass rush…