The Jets hope Justin McCareins is finally that "big" WR they have been searching for. (AP)
Two words come to mind to most sports fan during this time of year…March Madness. March is a time for buzzer-beaters, small conference schools upsetting a team destined to go all the way and the crowning of the NCAA Men’s and Women’s basketball champion.
For NFL fans though, March is also known for the beginning of free agency. This is the time where NFL teams dispose of relics and reload with players who they think can bring them to the promised land.
Action this year started at a furious pace. The Niners’ Jeff Garcia signed with Cleveland, Philly’s Deuce Staley with Pittsburgh, the Redskins traded Champ Bailey to the Denver Broncos in return for Clinton Ports but the story that sticks out mostly is the Terrell Owens controversy…is he a Baltimore Raven or does he deserve to test out the free agent market? We’ll find out soon enough. Put all that aside and here we have the New York Jets…after a slow and embarrassing start, where Bills CB Antoine Winfield left them at the altar, they rebounded nicely this past weekend adding three new faces to the roster. Most notable was the young and tall wide receiver from Tennessee, Justin McCareins.
After finding out about the news, McCarein’s commented, “It was a pleasure to start my career here in Nashville.” “This is a great opportunity that has come my way and I very much look forward to shouldering more responsibility. I am excited to join the Jets and compete for a starting job.”
McCareins who played for the Titans for three seasons after being drafted in the fourth round out of Northern Illinois was acquired by the Jets in exchange of a second-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. McCareins had a breakout year this past season. After starting only one game his first two years and catching a combined 22 receptions, McCareins tallied forty-seven receptions which more than doubled his two-year total and seven catches for touchdowns. He is definitely a player that is entering the prime of his career and a great risk for only a 2nd round pick.
Jets fans got a glimpse of their future wide receiver in week 13 of a Monday Night Football game at Giants Stadium. I for once can account as being one in the sell-out crowd that did not think I was watching a future Jet. The Jets defeated the Titans by final of 24-17, but McCareins still produced for the Titans offense. He tied his season high of five receptions which he did three times in 2003 as well as a season high of 92 yards and one touchdown. Justin also brings to the table playoff experience which the Jets look forward to contending for the AFC East Titles as well as the AFC Championship.
McCareins brings his speed, agility, aggressiveness style of football and more importantly his youth at the age of 26 and we know he will be around for a while. Playing alongside Santana Moss, the Jets now have a tough to beat one-two combination in the wide receiver slot. With signing of McCareins the Jets quickly got rid of disappointing WR Curtis Conway who the Jets foolishly thought could fill Laveranues Coles’ shoes. After four years under Steve McNair the adjustment to Jets QB Chad Pennington should be an easy one for McCareins. Both QB’s scramble from the pocket and have the ability to create plays when nothing seems open.
The other two new players that will be wearing green this season are Raiders LB Eric Barton and Cardinals CB David Barrett. Barton played his five years all in Oakland where he tallied a total 309 tackles; 133 this past season. Barton has the experience of playing on a Super Bowl contending team as his Raiders fell short in 2002 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Barrett will contend for playing time at cornerback after playing four years with the Arizona Cardinals where he started thirty games out of thirty games played the last two years. Neither are premier players but both are younger and faster than their predecessors and are definitely an upgrade. The Jets also announced the re-signing of G Brent Smith and K Doug Brien. Both are starters that had solid seasons last year.
Besides releasing Curtis Conway the Jets let go of Marvin Jones, Mo Lewis, Sam Garnes, Aaron Beasley as well as Tyrone Carter. Other news this busy month was the announcement of Dave Szott who spent fourteen years in the NFL as a guard. The signings this past week make the Jets coming draft moves a mystery. There is no clear cut choice where the team will go with their # 12 pick but being that three major holes were filled by free agency there is a possibility that the trade lines will be wide open on draft day. Should be interesting.