Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comIn a little more than 24 hours, Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner has had interest from the Jets, Giants, Redskins, Vikings as well as some cursory interest from the Steelers and Lions.
In light of the news about the Jets cutting Antonio Cromartie Sunday afternoon, the circumstantial evidence on the Jets interest in Alterraun Verner might be building.
First, the team has made bolstering their cornerback depth a priority. By getting Lankster and Walls to re-sign ahead of free agency, they locked down depth spots. In addition, from what we hear, the team is working on re-signing cornerback Aaron Berry.
Berry was the cornerback who looked like he was on a fast track to win the slot cornerback spot during minicamps last year before blowing out his knee on the first day of training camp. The team then placed Berry on the IR and made a glowing statement about his future with the Jets. Now they are trying to bring him back to further bolster their depth.
Consider those signings the team’s efforts at mitigating risk at a key position.
Second, up until Sunday afternoon the Jets have not been connected in the media to a single safety in free agency. Jairus Byrd? Nope. TJ Ward? Nu uh. Instead, the team contacted Verner (a guy who might earn the most lucrative deal in this year’s free agency) on Saturday before clearing cap room by cutting Antonio Cromartie in anticipation of what looks like might be a busy and cap intensive start of free agency on Tuesday.
Then there was this tweet from Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News regarding Alterraun Verner.
Whatever happens with Verner, the one thing that seems most probable is that Verner seems set to go where the money leads him. He’s not worried about the team culture or how spotless the facilities are and inspecting it with his white glove, he is looking to get paid and go to a team he thinks suits him.
It’s hard to know exactly what to think about all this, but Florio hinted on PFT in this post that he thinks the Jets and Verner is already a done deal. In addition, Florio believes that the notion of bringing back Cromartie is the team’s extremely loose backup plan.
So what do we know? We do know that Rex Ryan has never placed a high value on the safety position from a money standpoint.
Since arriving in New York, Rex Ryan has (1) ran Kerry Rhodes out of town, (2) started Eric Smith extensively at the position and (3) went into the 2013 season with no real coverage safety. While LaRon Landry was a godsend the year Revis was injured, the only real emphasis Ryan ever placed on the spot was when the team signed Jim Leonhard to an overinflated deal in an effort to import his system from Baltimore in 2009.
It has always been about cornerbacks for Rex Ryan and his GMs and as best we can tell, might be again in 2014.
What remains to be seen is, are the Jets the kind of team that are willing to spend top dollar for a free agent cornerback? If the Jets were about to plunge into the safety pool, then I might be concerned about overspending at the cornerback spot and safety. But with no revelations of any substantial interest between the Jets and players like Jairus Byrd or TJ Ward … it seems more likely that the Jets could save the big-spending team for a guy like Verner, especially now that they have cleared with one chop what could amount to more than ninety percent Verner’s first year salary.
The ramifications of the release and apparent moving on from Cromartie haven’t really been processed yet. But one thing that we fully expect that many in the media will pick up in the coming days and weeks ahead if the Jets were to sign a youngster like Verner or a competent if not marginally rudderless veteran like Aqib Talib … what about the leadership in the secondary? It’s a trope that is picked up each and every year by the media and one which would have serious claim this time around.
That’s where Ed Reed enters the picture.
Bringing Ed Reed back for another season solves many problems. The Jets will likely be able to lure back a future Hall of Famer with strong ties to Rex Ryan. Reed was a player that many of the younger guys in the Jets organization were enraptured with during the second half of the 2013 season and sought to learn from as much as possible. Reed would represent a small investment financially for the Jets, likely on either a veteran minimum deal or for scarcely more.
For almost nothing financially, the Jets would retain a commanding veteran leader in the defensive backfield meeting room while increasing their depth and getting much younger and preferred secondary position.
The Jets might be playing it cool publicly, but I would not be the least bit surprised to see Idzik and Ryan swing for the fences with Verner.