DE John Abraham's future with the Jets is still cloudy as ever. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Amid the myriad of issues the Jets must deal with this off-season, one should stand out atop the to-do list.
Sign John Abraham.
Forget USC’s supposed cure-all running back Reggie Bush or the boy wonder quarterback, Matt Leinart. Before the Jets begin looking outward, they need to look in-house and attend to Abraham, who has not minced words when talking about a long-term commitment.
"I said it when I first came here: I'm looking for that stability," Abraham said earlier this month. "I'm 27 now; it's not like I'm 21 or 22....I'm looking for a long-term deal. That's basically it. Whether it's here or somewhere else, I'm just looking for a long-term deal."
And the Jets should give it to him. The biggest chink in Abraham’s armor up to this point was his health, something which has plagued the majority of his six-year career. When Abraham takes the field Sunday against Buffalo, it will be the first time since 2002 he will have started all 16 games of a season. His health should no longer be an issue.
“We want to keep all our good players and John is obviously one of our good players,” coach Herm Edwards said. “That is something that is going to be discussed when the season is over with. Hopefully, it’s something that will work out for both parties.”
In addition to staying on the field, Abraham has made his pitch for a long-term deal by producing on it. His 9.5 sacks lead the Jets and are 14th most in the NFL this season. His five forced fumbles rank him fifth among defensive linemen.
“He’s one of our best playmakers,” said defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, who added he will be “jumping on tables” in the offseason to keep Abraham.
And who could argue? Against the Raiders he had back-to-back sacks which forced fumbles, one which he recovered. The Jets got 10 points from those two turnovers. It was Abraham’s sack and forced fumble which set up the Jets final series in a spirited comeback attempt (which fell short) against the Chargers.
Abraham sacked the speedy Mike Vick twice in Atlanta and recorded a career-high 10 tackles against the Jaguars. His forced fumble on Jaguars QB Byron Leftwich was returned for a touchdown by DT James Reed. Clearly, he walks the walk.
“The only thing that has hurt me my whole career is being hurt,” Abraham said.
Abraham was knocked for sitting out the final four regular season games last season and missing both playoff games with a sprained knee. He was tabbed greedy and unwilling to play and risk further damaging his knee before contract negotiations.
The Jets balked at a multiyear contract and franchised Abraham, whose demands last offseason were reportedly near $18 million guaranteed. When the Jets failed to acquiesce, Abraham followed through on his threat and sat out all of training camp.
General manager Terry Bradway has consistently been vague when asked about Abraham and clams up when the subject is broached. Bradway might float Abraham as trade bait, which was rumored last season. But if Bradway elects to again franchise Abraham – a move which would cost the Jets around $8 million against next year’s cap – there is potential for a sequel to last summer’s melodrama.
“I’m not saying I’d be upset but it would make me happy,” Abraham said. “I wouldn’t want it to happen.”
Reading between those lines isn't hard. Henderson said Abraham’s holdout setback what could’ve been a more successful season for the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end.
“When he comes back, he has lost some technique,” Henderson said. “You never know how long it will take to get that back.”
Abraham said he is in the best shape of his career, hinting the holdout may have helped his conditioning. Abraham spent the summer working a personal trainer at his home in South Carolina.
In the past Abraham had trouble holding weight throughout the course of a season, but this year has held steady at 265 pounds. His bulk has dispelled another negative notion: that he can’t play the run.
“He came in with a conscious effort this year of learning how to play the run,” Henderson said. “Let’s be honest, you know that’s not his forte.”
Still, Abraham improved his ability as a run-stopper and has maintained the ferocious pass-rushing skills he has possessed his entire career. Barring any fiscal issues, the Jets should appease one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
“I’m not worried about that,” said Abraham when asked about returning next year. “When the season is over I can sit here and ponder and look over my numbers and reevaluate things.”
Abraham continued: “I honestly I can’t control it. I think I’ve done what I can do on the field and I’ve done enough on the field to show that I’m worth it.”
Let the speculating begin. Chad Pennington’s return from a second rotator cuff surgery in less than a year is ahead of schedule from a year ago, but no one at Weeb Ewbank Hall is willing to confirm anything more.
“I don’t think the surgery was as worse as it was the first time,” coach Herm Edwards said. “So with that being said, he’s a little ahead of schedule.”
Edwards would not open a Pandora’s Box by further elaborating. He was evasive when asked about a timetable on when Pennington would be able to throw.
“I can’t tell you today. I won’t be able to tell you when the season is over, either,” Edwards said. “We won’t be able to give you all that information because we don’t have it ourselves.”
Edwards took heat for rushing Pennington back for the start of this season, which could be a tangible explanation as to why he reinjured the shoulder in the third game of the season.
“I want to get your information but you’re asking me a question I can’t answer,” Edwards said when asked if Pennington would take part in the offseason programs. “If I say yeah, the he come back, [I] rushed him too fast. If I say no, [he is] done for the year, his career is over.
“I can’t win on this question.”
Race for Reggie In order for the Jets to get the first pick in the NFL Draft, here’s what must happen:
-The Jets must finish 3-13 by losing to the Bills on Sunday.
-The Houston Texans, who visit the 3-12 49ers, must win and close the season 3-13.
-The Saints (3-12) must upend the Buccaneers, who are contending for the NFC South title.
Even if that happens, the Jets need the teams they’ve played this season to lose to lighten their strength of schedule. The worse your oppositions’ records are, the worse you are. The Saints victory against the Jets does not factor in as a tiebreaker. If the Jets, 49ers, Texans, Packers and Saints all finish 3-13, the combined record of Jets opponents must be worse than the other four teams. If any of the teams are tied, then a coin flip may be the deciding factor.
ROSTER MOVE The Jets released RB Terry Butler from the active roster and signed him to the practice squad. Butler, a rookie from Villanova who had been on the Jets practice twice before and was signed to the active roster on December 15th.
-DE Shaun Ellis (hamstring)
-DT Dewayne Robertson (thigh)
-CB Ty Law (foot)
The Jets return to practice tomorrow to continue preparation for the Bills. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for all the latest NY Jets news.