Coach Herm Edwards reported today that Jets QB Chad Pennington is recovering nicely from his shoulder surgery. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Most of the questions about the 2005-06 New York Jets will be answered by kickoff at Kansas City on Sept. 11. General Manager Terry Bradway hopes that the roster reshuffling and addition of a new offensive coordinator this offseason can lift a team that was one upright shy of the AFC Championship game four months ago to a Super Bowl champion.
Yet his work is far from over in what has been a murky offseason. With the NFL Draft nine days away, Bradway must bolster depth for a team which is thin at some positions due to free agent losses. Bradway, along with Coach Herm Edwards and Head College Scout Jesse Kaye addressed the media today for their annual pre-draft state of the team address. Though no one would not mention specific players, Bradway indicated he is comfortable with the Jets strategy going into the draft on April 23-24.
"You try not to stray away from your [player] boards and grades,” the fourth-year GM said. “You have to have options. There will be value throughout the draft. There always is.”
Picking 26th – the lowest in Bradway’s tenure with the Jets – in the first round likely will land the Jets with a solid player depending on the route they choose, but finding a starter is dicey.
Last year the Jets found a gem with LB Jonathan Vilma. The 12th overall pick out of Miami garnered much of the spotlight on a much-improved defense under new coordinator Donnie Henderson. Vilma was second on the team in tackles in 2004, but finding another step-in starter this year will be tenuous.
“Last year we hit a home run with Jon,” Edwards said.
The Jets have eight picks this year, but if they attain any more, it likely won’t be by trading John Abraham. Bradway refuted the possibility of trading the holdout defensive end before or after the draft. When Abraham’s name came up, Bradway offered little and seemed agitated.
“I can’t answer that,” Bradway said after being asked if Abraham’s holdout will turn into a long-term problem. “We don’t take any of it personally and we expect John to play for us in 2005.”
The GM added that no teams have asked about Abraham, who is not under contract and refused to sign the one-year tender offer that goes with the franchise tag. Currently Abraham and the Jets cannot discuss a contract until July, and he is not required to attend any of the Jets off-season workouts. This bodes poorly for a player who missed the final four games of the regular season and sat out two playoff games to prevent further injuring his right knee.
Obviously, this is a prickly situation around Jets camp. Edwards curtly responded to inquiries about Abraham’s status and whether the holdout will further hinder his health.
“I know John Abraham. He’ll be ready to play,” Edwards said.
“I expect him to be here,” Bradway said.
On a positive note, Bradway noted that the deepest positions in the draft are on the offensive and defensive line and at cornerback, all need positions for the Jets. Bradway and Edwards touted this year’s cornerback class, which is arguably the deepest position in the draft. “I don’t think you can have enough good corners. We’d like to try and get some young guys,” Bradway said.
Last year’s stringent enforcement of the 5-yard no contact rule has changed the way teams evaluate corners, Edwards said. The Jets could turn to free agency to add a corner.
Have you spoken to free agent corner Ty Law, coach?
“Maybe,” Edwards said, grinning. “There’s always interest in a good player.”
Cornerback isn’t the only position the draft might solidify. Though the loss of defensive tackle Jason Ferguson (Cowboys) was addressed with the resigning of Josh Evans and free agent pick up of Lance Legree from the Giants, the Jets could use depth at the defensive line, especially with Henderson’s rotations.
T Kareem McKenzie’s departure to the Giants leaves a void at right tackle, but one that Edwards and Bradway assured can be filled by T Adrian Jones, a second-year guard who primarily practiced on the left side last season.
“Adrian is pretty athletic,” Bradway said, ruling out a potential move back to left tackle for Jason Fabini. “We have a lot of confidence in him.”
Another man who should be confident is tight end Chris Baker. After toiling for three seasons behind Anthony Becht, who signed with the Buccaneers, Baker is penciled in as the starter. Baker, who is better known for his pass catching than blocking, likely won’t be unseated in the near future.
“There are legitimate starters in the draft at tight end, but none that could beat out Baker,” Bradway said, but added he isn’t finished scouring the waiver wire in search for an established backup.
The Jets still have the draft and the post June 1 cut period to evaluate and sign players, and Edwards was quick to point out the team is far from a finished product.
“Our team’s not set yet,” he said. “It doesn’t have to bet set until opening day at Kansas City.”
By then, we should have some answers.
-ROAD TO RECOVERY? Edwards said that quarterback Chad Pennington’s surgically repaired right shoulder is “progressing well” and that Pennington should be ready to start throwing by June. Though the original timetable following his February surgery had pegged him for a return in May, Edwards said Pennington will continue conditioning and working out until he is ready to pick up a football. Edwards doesn’t know when Pennington will be full strength and wouldn’t remark on if Pennington is still in pain.
“I’m not God or a doctor,” Edwards said. “I don’t want to comment on how he feels.”
-The coach reported that besides Abraham, the only other player not participating in the off-season conditioning program is FB Jerald Sowell. He wouldn’t elaborate why, but insiders have confirmed that Sowell is unhappy with his contract and wants an extension with a significant raise.
-Although the Coach wouldn’t be specific, he mentioned that the release of CB Roderick “Gameday” Bryant had something to do with a violation of team policy. If you remember, Bryant was an undrafted rookie free agent last summer who ended up making the team and lasting all of last season, mostly as a reserve.
-Bradway said the team will likely not re-sign FA DT James “Tank” Reed. Reed, a four year veteran was originally a seventh round pick out of Iowa State. Also, with the signing of QB Jay Fiedler, the team has no interest in re-signing Quincy Carter.
INJURY REPORT: Edwards said that S John McGraw (hamstring) “will take it slow” in minicamp and CB Ray Mickens (knee) “has made good progress.” WR Laveraneus Coles (toe) is fine and not scheduled to have surgery.