Jets GM Terry Bradway, acknowledging that last season's 6-10 record was "a very, very loud wakeup call," admitted yesterday there's a "definite sense of urgency" to get back in the playoffs.
No one feels the heat more than Bradway, who, unlike coach Herman Edwards, didn't receive a contract extension and faces a make-or-break offseason - one in which he already is being second-guessed for letting free-agent cornerback Antoine Winfield slip off to the Vikings and declining to enter the Terrell Owens sweepstakes.
Bradway, breaking his two-month silence, defended his decisions in a mini-state of the team address. It came on the day in which he introduced former Titans receiver Justin McCareins, who passed his physical, signed a new contract (seven years, $24 million) and received the royal treatment from the Jets. Why, they even presented his wife, Sherrone, a bouquet.
There would have been flowers for Erniece Winfield last Friday, but that's a sore subject among Jets officials, who thought they had a deal with her husband. Bradway declined to answer any questions about the Winfield affair, saying, "We had a great visit. Antoine and his wife made the best decision they could make for Antoine and their family."
The consolation prize was former Cardinals cornerback David Barrett, 26, a relative unknown. The Jets signed another second-tier free agent, former Raiders linebacker Eric Barton, 26.
Most of the gushing was reserved for McCareins, 25, acquired for a second-round pick. Bradway said McCareins is "far better than any receiver we could get in the second round." What about the first round? What about Owens? If the Jets had offered their No. 2 pick (42nd overall) to the 49ers, it would have clinched a deal. The Ravens got him for the 51st pick.
"There was no interest on this end," said Bradway, confirming the Niners had called. "McCareins was the guy we wanted right from the start. ... Owens, although he's a great player in his own right, with his age (30), it just wasn't the right fit here."
Bradway and Edwards addressed other issues: John Abraham won't be traded and will play a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position in the new scheme. Wide receiver Wayne Chrebet (post-concussion syndrome) "feels a lot better" and will participate in the offseason program. The Chad Pennington contract talks are in the early stages.
Pennington, with one year left, said he's not in any rush. And he's happy to have McCareins.
"My first reaction (to the trade) was, 'Really?'" Pennington said. "For once, we've got some things going our way. We got a player we targeted."
FLYING IN: Ravens CB Tom Knight was to arrive last night for a free-agent visit. The Jets also are interested in Bills LB DaShon Polk. ... The release of WR Curtis Conway, which became official yesterday, will save $1.8 million in cap room. The club still must absorb a $833,000 cap charge for 2004. ... Owner Woody Johnson attended the news conference, but didn't take questions.