Free Agency Preview: Antonio Cromartie

With free agency (whenever that happens) being the next hurdle, here’s some brief reviews of all of the free agents on the New York Jets. We’re taking a look at corner Antonio Cromartie.

CB ANTONIO CROMARTIE

How Acquired — In 2010, Cro was acquired after he’d fallen out of favor with the Chargers, being relegated to the team’s third corner.  To get him, the Jets traded a third round pick which escalated to a second on the condition of performance

Productivity in 2010 — Cromartie was an essential part of the Jets defensive success, specifically during the time when Revis had to sit due to a bad hamstring in his performances against Randy Moss twice in a month on both the Patriots and Vikings.  Cromartie is built to neutralize another team’s deep threat.  So guys like Moss, Mike Wallace (regular season game) and Brandon Marshall (who caught a number of passes to little effect) were kept from changing outcomes in games by Cromartie.  Where Cromartie struggles is with smaller, shiftier receivers who work underneath, fight for position, use extensive double moves in the short field.

Why Keep Him? – While whoever plays across from Revis in his prime is going to benefit from the extra “help” he can get from roving safeties, Cromartie adds a great dimension to the Jets pass defense that a player like Lito Sheppard couldn’t two years ago. In that Cro complements Revis well by matching up on the “track star” type receivers.  While Revis can cover those guys due to his versatility, he’s better suited in neutralizing the more physical receivers, Revis’s positioning and handwork is the league’s best, which allows him to shut down guys like Andre Johnson.  So, let Cro cover the track stars, and then the Jets can effectively neutralize two receivers … assuming their opponent has a deep threat.  Because of that setup, it seemed to be something that the the Patriots moved to de-emphasize as evidenced with the trade (which I said would make them better from the jump) of Moss . 

The one thing about Cromartie’s skillset that bothers me?  Since he’s best on certain types of receivers, it dictates to Revis (and also the nickel) who they will be covering based on Cromartie’s weaknesses.  In some ways, it can keep Revis from just chasing around the opponents best receiver, especially if that best receiver is a deep threat like Moss was for the Patriots.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just that it might keep the Jets defensive gameplannin a little more reactionary in that regard.  Still, I’d take a guy who can neutralize a type of receiver like Cro can over a guy who’s average everywhere on the field like Sheppard was.

What the Jets Should Do: ESPN NY’s Rich Cimini made a great point the other week that with the lack of a tangible boost to the pass rush through the draft, the Jets are going to have to prioritize signing Cro … moreso as the lockout drags on and with uncertainty about how ready Kyle Wilson would be to jump into a starting spot.  I think the Jets will make their best effort to bring him back, but with a new, more aggressive agency (Dogra, Condon) the Jets might not be able to give him the cash he wants.  The good news is that there could be a glut of very highly respected corners on the market, potentially devaluing what Cromartie might get. 

Now it’s up to you — vote in the poll below!

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