While the rest of the NFL world was busy going crazy over Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow yesterday Jets fans where basking in the glory of their teams’ first big free agent signing, strong safety LaRon Landry. Landry was picked sixth overall by the Redskins in the 2007 draft and has had some injury concerns as well as issues with consistency, thus the reason the Redskins made no effort to re-sign him. Landry is an excellent fit in Rex Ryan’s defense as he is a really good in the box defender and hard hitting safety who isn’t afraid to get physical, but what the Jets really lack in the safety position is a coverage safety that can play centerfield and defend some of these new age physical freaks of tight ends that are popping up throughout the league.
According to multiple reports the Jets felt Landry was a better fit for their system than FS Reggie Nelson from the Bengals who they were also trying to sign. Better fit in the system maybe, a better fit for their current needs at safety? Nope, not buying it.
Nelson was the best coverage safety available on the free agent market and would’ve filled the need for the FS position just fine, but ultimately the Bengals, with their wealth of cap space, signed Nelson to a four-year deal worth $18 million with $6.5 million of that coming in year one. Proving to rich for the Jets to match, so they had to turn their attention elsewhere. Problem being there’s not much out there on the market and the safety class in this year’s draft is one of the weakest in recent memories. Nelson became overvalued because of the lack of available safety talent so in that sense it’s wise for the Jets not to overpay him, problem is they might now be forced to reach for a safety in the draft.
After missing out on Nelson the Jets were right to pounce on Landry with their offer for a low-risk/high-reward one-year deal worth $4 million, but they can’t stop there as Eric Smith and Tracy Wilson are the only other safeties currently on the roster and Landry is essentially just a more all-around talented version of Smith. A healthy Landry will be solid in the run game and excel in the short passing game, covering tight ends and slot receivers going short over the middle, but if he gets matched up in space the Jets will fall victim to the same problems they had last season. Then there’s the worry that, between his twice injured achilles and all that muscle he put on in his offseason bodybuilding program (I’m not even going to bother to link the pic, because I’m sure you’ve seen it already), he might have lost some speed.
One option that has been thrown out there is the idea of moving Antonio Cromartie to FS and bumping Kyle Wilson up into the number two corner role and naturally this idea came from none other than Cromartie himself on Twitter. When he first tweeted it most people thought he was joking (a subsequent tweet proved he wasn’t), but as everyone else began to ponder the idea the intrigue grew. In many ways Cromartie would make a great FS and this is hardly the first time this subject has been brought up with him as the Chargers often flirted with the idea. In coverage Cromartie, with his long arms and ball hawk skills, would make an excellent center fielder, but there would be a problem with that whole tackling thing safeties have to be able to do. The idea of Cromartie as the last line of defense against a quick elusive running back or receiver is enough to scare anyone away from thinking this would be a smart full-time move. Not to mention Cromartie is too valuable as the team’s number two corner to move him to safety, even if the move helped at safety it would just create another problem as Wilson isn’t ready to fill in full time for Cromartie as the number two corner.
Still it’s an interesting thought and now fans can understand why Ryan and his staff are always raving about Cromartie’s willingness to play wherever they want and while his tackling issues should be enough to stop this from being his full time role, Ryan might want to think about trying a move like this in a few disguise packages every now and then to catch the opposing quarterbacks off guard.
Considering the lack of talent the Jets had at the safety position the Jets had to sign Landry after missing out on Nelson, but they have to keep upgrading the safety position. The Jets have been in contact with Landry’s teammate in Washington, O.J. Atogwe, who while having his play slip a bit due to injury issues was benched for rookie DeJon Gomes late last season, is still a better coverage safety than anyone else on the Jets roster or the free agent market. Another option is to bring Jim Leonhard back, but the likely solution will come from the draft where they will face the same problems they had in free agency, a lack of options especially at the FS position.
Alabama’s Mark Barron is the highest rated safety in the draft, but is also more of a SS and would be a reach for the Jets to take at number 16, but he is unlikely to fall to them in the second round. With the Jets having more draft picks than they are used to, you could see ‘Trader Mike,’ make an appearance at this year’s draft as Tannenbaum could look to package a few picks to move up in the draft a couple of times and with a few glaring holes that still need to be filled (OLB,FS,RT,RB,WR) that would be the smart move. If the Jets can’t get Barron there are other options (George Iloka of Boise State, Harrison Smith from Notre Dame, both SS and Brandon Taylor from LSU at FS), but somehow, someway the Jets need to find themselves a coverage safety.
The signing of Landry was a good move for the cash-strapped Jets, as they needed to start upgrading their talent before the draft. Fans were getting impatient with the lack of signings, but the Jets have been smart to lay low and seek value. They don’t have the cap room to sign a quality impact RT or OLB/DE, so they have to be smart about how they spend their money and turn their attention to the draft to fix these issues. This was a good deal for all (Landry gets the chance to prove himself and the Jets get another dynamic talent to join the already star-studded defense), as long as the Jets realize this move doesn’t fix all their coverage problems.
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