Jets improve talent without mortgaging the future

Few teams have been as aggressive as the New York Jets this offseason, trading for Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes, both of whom have considerable off-field baggage, taking a shot on LaDainian Tomlinson, and waiting to see if old-but-reliable Jason Taylor accepts their free-agent offer (general manager Mike Tannenbaum said he expects an answer by the start of next week's draft).

Some of these manuevers come from the innate wheeling-and-dealing nature of coach Rex Ryan and Tannenbaum, but some of it is born of circumstance as well. As a final four team, the Jets, always active free-agent spenders, were heavily constrained in their ability to sign unrestricted free agents. That caused New York to put a premium on the trade market and released players like Tomlinson, who did not count against the team's free agent total in the new rules of the uncapped year.

Jets get bold

By adding players such as Antonio Cromartie (pictured), Santonio Holmes and LaDainain Tomlinson, New York has put a lot of pressure on Rex Ryan, says Vic Carucci. **More ...**

"Any time an opportunity comes to us, we measure it carefully," Tannenbaum said, "and if it's an opportunity to improve our team we look at it. But I do think this year the trade route we had to look at especially hard given the restraints we had to deal with. These opportunities were some of the best thing(s) for us to consider given our limitations in the unrestricted market."

Part of the willingness to take on players like Holmes -- who will miss the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy -- and Cromartie stems from Ryan's ability to reach players and establish a team-first ethos, and also from the presence of strong veterans on the roster.

"We feel like with Santonio and Antonio, the value we had to give up was not insignificant," Tannenbaum said. "But for us the price was right and the risk was reasonable in both cases. If for any reason they don't work out, we don't feel like we're mortgaging our future. We feel like they were reasonable decisions, and we look forward to them being productive with us."

With so many prominent players coming in, a new stadium, and coming off an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, expectations are skyrocketing. This is New York, after all. You can almost hear the chants of "Super Bowl or bust."

Personally, I would not be surprised if the Jets, a 9-7 regular-season team, failed to get back to the AFC title game in 2010. It's very difficult to do, especially with a young quarterback, and even with a great defense and running game (ask the Ravens). But the Jets are positioned well for the future, and have made moves that make sense in most cases for beyond the short term.

"A lot of our good players have their best years ahead of them," Tannenbaum said. "There's a lot of excitement about 2010, but years beyond that as well. Does LaDainian have five years left, maybe not. But we feel like have a good group of young players to move forward with into the future."

Around the league

Roethlisberger could still be punished

Despite the DA's decision not to hand down sexual assault charges against Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback might not escape punishment, writes Steve Wyche. **More ...**

» I can't imagine Ben Roethlisberger not getting suspended at least two games for his actions in Georgia this offseason. The personal conduct policy holds players (and other league officials) to a standard beyond that of guilt. And it can come in to play any time someone's actions tarnish a team, the league or themselves.

» With some of the sordid details coming out in the District Attorney's press conference Monday, that virtually assured officials with the Steelers that some suspension was coming, whether by the team or the league. Team officials anticipate word coming in a few weeks, likely the week following the draft.

» The deadline to sign other team's restricted free agents to offer sheets passed Thursday afternoon, but that does not preclude restricted free agents from switching teams. Three offensive tackles, in particular, could move -- Jammal Brown (New Orleans), Donald Penn (Tampa Bay) and Jared Gaither (Baltimore). I would not be stunned if a team like Dallas or Washington found a way to land one of them prior to the draft.

» Washington could be quite active in the next week, with QB Jason Campbell, DT Albert Haynesworth, DE Andre Carter and S LaRon Landry all possible trading chips. The Redskins wanted a third-round pick for Haynesworth before picking up his $21 million bonus at the start of the month, and if they could get a second-rounder and a contingent pick for him I could see that deal getting done. The Lions and Titans remain the most likely destinations.

Also, for all the change in Washington, expect more in the front office in May. Several team sources said the organization is bracing for Mike Shanahan to make more moves, these within football operations and scouting. Most teams wait until after the draft to make such changes, with most executive and scouting contracts expiring in May/June. Look for long-time Shanahan associate Jim Goodman, and his son, Jeff, to join the Redskins later in the offseason. Both worked with Shanahan in Denver.

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