Leonhard had 69 regular-season tackles and returned one interception for a touchdown last season, his first with the Ravens. He signed a three-year deal with the Jets on Tuesday, joining linebacker Bart Scott as ex-Baltimore players who have followed their former defensive coordinator to New York.
"He's a smart player that can get guys lined up in the secondary and was one of the best tacklers on that Ravens defense," Ryan said. "He's always around the ball, brings everything he has on every play and will be a great addition to our group of defensive backs."
Leonhard, a hard hitter despite being just 5-foot-8, is expected to join Kerry Rhodes as the Jets' starting safeties in Mike Pettine's defense. Pettine was a defensive assistant with the Ravens the last seven seasons.
|Gregory Shamus / Getty Images|
|Safety Jim Leonhard is the second former Raven to reunite with ex-defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, now head coach of the Jets.|
"I am extremely excited to become a New York Jet," Leonhard said in a statement. "Obviously, to be reunited with coach Ryan and coach Pettine on the defensive side of the ball is a great opportunity. I am really excited to get in there this first year with coach Ryan and hopefully help do some great things."
New York's defense, which ranked 29th against the pass last season, already has taken on a new look with the signings of Leonhard and Scott and the acquisition of cornerback Lito Sheppard from the Philadelphia Eagles.
After signing with the Ravens as an unrestricted free agent last offseason, Leonhard made 13 starts for the NFL's second-ranked defense. Leonhard, who also returned punts and kickoffs for the Ravens, was particularly impressive during Baltimore's run to the AFC Championship Game. He had 16 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries during the playoffs.
An undrafted free agent out of the University of Wisconsin in 2005, Leonhard, 26, played his first three seasons for the Buffalo Bills and made seven starts.
"I've liked Jim since his days at Wisconsin and was excited when we were able to bring him to Baltimore last season," Ryan said. "He was everything I expected him to be in 2008 when he bailed us out at safety after we had some injuries."
Richardson, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, helped pave the way for Thomas Jones to lead the AFC in rushing last season in his first year with the Jets.
Richardson, 37, helped Priest Holmes to three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Kansas City from 2001 to 2003 and Larry Johnson to another in 2005. Richardson did it again the following season in Minnesota with Chester Taylor and was instrumental in Adrian Peterson becoming a star with 1,341 yards as a rookie in 2007.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press