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Jets might have to attempt to keep Moss out of New England

No one knows when the NFL will flip the sign on the free-agency market from "closed" to "open," but that doesn't prevent speculation on what could happen when the shopping finally does begin.

After potential landing spots for quarterback Kevin Kolb, another item high on the list of intriguing possibilities is Randy Moss' next employer. There's a scenario that could very well play out that puts Moss back in the AFC East.

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It starts with the fact the New York Jets might not necessarily be a lock to retain their best big-play receiver, Santonio Holmes, even though prior to the lockout they placed the highest restricted tender possible on him should he sign with another team (first- and third-round draft picks). Holmes recently told reporters that the only way he would stay with the Jets is with a long-term contract, and that he has no interest in signing a one-year tender deal that, under the rules of the previous collective bargaining agreement, would pay him $3.5 million.

Talk is cheap in April, especially when no football business is taking place. But let's say Holmes sticks to his guns and refuses to play for a one-year contract. Let's also say that the Jets decide they don't even want to do a one-year deal with Holmes, who, for all of his talent, is still a worry off the field. Remember that four-game suspension he served at the start of last season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy?

That could leave the Jets looking elsewhere for veteran receiver help. Enter Moss, a free agent who spent parts of last season with the Patriots, Vikings and Titans.

Although Moss is 34 and is entering his 14th NFL season, there is at least one coach who believes he still can make a significant impact: the Jets' Rex Ryan. And Ryan, who isn't shy about much of anything, did nothing to conceal those feelings when he spoke with reporters at last month's NFL Annual Meeting about the pressure Moss places on a secondary as a true "vertical" threat.

Ryan has considerable knowledge of what Moss can do on the field. He has a great deal of familiarity with Moss from the past two seasons, when he coached against him three times in games against the Patriots and once after Moss joined the Vikings. What Ryan twice discovered -- once against New England and once against Minnesota -- was that Moss was still capable of beating each member of the NFL's most celebrated cornerback duo, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, for a long touchdown.

The off-the-field headaches Moss can bring with his me-first attitude don't concern Ryan in the least. Ryan guides a Jets team with egos large enough to rival his own, and has shown in back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances during his first two seasons as a head coach that he doesn't allow such things to get in his way.

According to multiple league insiders, the interest the Jets have in Moss is twofold. One, it could help them weather the very real possibility of losing at least one of their three free-agent receivers: Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith. Two, it would keep Moss from returning to the Patriots, whom he is known to want to re-join.

Let's face it: there is very little that Ryan does without considering how it would help him beat the Pats. He makes no secret about his obsession with getting the upper hand over Bill Belichick. Some could argue that the Jets are, at the very least, on an equal footing with New England after their divisional round playoff victory in Foxborough last January. That gave Ryan a 3-2 head-coaching record against Belichick, whom he says he respects more than any coach in the league.

"But I still want to beat him, and the fact that he's in our division means I'm paid to beat him," Ryan said. "And I feel like at times we're the only team that can beat them, for whatever reason."

The addition of Moss could very well help Ryan continue to feel that way.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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