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Safety Leonhard the latest former Raven to sign with Jets

NEW YORK -- The New York Jets signed safety Jim Leonhard on Tuesday, the second player new coach Rex Ryan has lured away from the Baltimore Ravens.

The 26-year-old Leonhard had 69 regular-season tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown last season, his first with the Ravens. He signed a three-year deal with the Jets, 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."

The Jets also officially announced they re-signed fullback Tony Richardson, who agreed to terms last week.

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 Baltimore the last seven seasons.

"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, has already 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. He had 16 tackles, an interception, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

An undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin in 2005, Leonhard played his first three seasons for Buffalo 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.

The 37-year-old veteran, who signed a one-year deal, helped Priest Holmes to three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Kansas City from 2001-03 and Larry Johnson to another in 2005. He 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

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