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Faneca signs record five-year deal with Jets

NEW YORK -- The New York Jets put the finishing touches on their prized offseason addition on Monday, signing unrestricted free agent guard Alan Faneca.

The five-year deal, widely reported to be valued at $40 million, makes the former Pittsburgh Steeler the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL. After making nearly $4.4 million in salary and bonuses last season, Faneca got a huge deal that his agent, Rick Smith, said includes $21 million in guarantees.

"Alan is regarded as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL and we are fortunate to add him to our roster," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said in a statement. "We made our interest in him known from the beginning of free agency. In addition to Alan's production on the field, we were just as impressed with the intangibles that he brings to the locker room as well as to the community."

Faneca chose New York over San Francisco and St. Louis, teams that had losing records last season and need help on their offensive lines.

"When he examined the situations, Alan felt this team would make the biggest impact," Smith told the Associated Press.

New York sorely needed a standout left guard after trading Pete Kendall to Washington following a bitter contract dispute before last season. The Jets plugged in the since-released Adrien Clarke, who was ineffective while starting the first 14 games and was benched the last two weeks.

Faneca will step in between left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold to give the Jets a terrific left side. Ferguson and Mangold thrived as rookies with Kendall, but struggled at times without his veteran influence last season.

"Alan has consistently played at a high level throughout his career," said Jets coach Eric Mangini. "He is a conscientious performer who is smart, physical and excels at playing in space. He enjoys playing the game and will be a source of leadership and toughness. I enjoyed spending time with him and am excited about the attributes that he brings to our team."

Faneca's presence will surely improve the Jets' rushing game, which struggled despite having Thomas Jones. New York ranked 26th in the league last season in total yards and 19th in rushing yards per game.

Faneca, a five-time All-Pro who was Pittsburgh's first-round pick in 1998, experienced a similar situation to Kendall last summer. Known as "Red" because of his long, flowing red hair, Faneca was unhappy before last season because he thought the Steelers misled him during contract talks last winter when he was looking for a new deal.

Meanwhile, guards such as Leonard Davis, Kris Dielman, Derrick Dockery and Eric Steinbach all signed big deals last offseason that were worth at least $6 million.

Faneca, who helped Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker rush for 1,000 yards during his tenure, was critical of ownership when he reported for minicamp last May and even announced then: "This will be my last year as a Pittsburgh Steeler."

As it turned out, Faneca was right, and he couldn't be happier now.

"He can finally put that black cloud that was hanging over him last season behind him," Smith said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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