FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets kept things simple during the first two days of the NFL draft, sticking with their two picks and shoring up strengths.
Washington, who's recovering from a broken right leg, was made expendable when the Jets moved up and acquired the Carolina Panthers' fourth-round pick (No. 112). New York took McKnight, quarterback Mark Sanchez's former college teammate, with the pick, and sent its fourth-rounder (No. 124) and sixth-rounder (No. 198) to Carolina.
"We've added core players that we think can help us short-term and long-term," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said.
McKnight is regarded as an excellent multipurpose player with a similar skill set to that of Washington. New York also has Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson and Chauncey Washington, another former Trojan, on the roster.
"Whatever Coach Ryan wants me to play, I'll play whatever," McKnight said by telephone from his home in River Ridge, La. "Whatever role he has for me in the package or whatever he wants me to do on the field, I'm going to do whatever."
Tannenbaum said it's "a fair assumption" that Washington would have stayed in New York had the Jets not been able to get McKnight. Washington recently signed his tender offer with the Jets and might have been in line for a big payday next season if he showed he was completely healed from a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula.
The move to cut Faneca was somewhat surprising because he was one of the leaders of a unit that paved the way for the NFL's top-rushing offense. Faneca, who played 10 years in Pittsburgh before signing with New York in 2008, will be replaced by Ducasse or Matt Slauson, last year's sixth-round selection.
"He gave us two incredible years, but along with Woody (Johnson), Rex and I, our job is to make the hard decision, not necessarily the easy one," Tannenbaum said. "With Alan, we just felt it was time to move on."
"We never would've let Alan go if we didn't think that one or both of those guys could do the job," Ryan said.
The 5-foot-11, 198-pound McKnight was often compared to former USC star Reggie Bush because of his versatility.
"I've got some toughness to my game, and I think I showed people this past year that I can work between the tackles somewhat," McKnight said.
McKnight had a few injuries at USC that limited his production at times, and he sat out the Trojans' Emerald Bowl victory over Boston College while the school investigated whether he violated NCAA rules.
McKnight reportedly was seen driving a 2006 Land Rover that state records indicated was registered to businessman Scott Schenter. The Los Angeles Times reported in December that McKnight said he has never driven the SUV and it belonged to his girlfriend's boss.
Conner, regarded as a top blocker, likely will be the backup to veteran Tony Richardson. He's nicknamed "The Terminator" for his bone-crunching blocks and because he shares the name of one of the main characters in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.
"He's a tremendous fullback," Tannenbaum said. "One of Rex's favorite players in the draft."
"I think this team is going to be special," Ryan said, "and we're out to prove it."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press