NFL Free Agency: New York Jets Sign Pass Rusher Antwan Barnes, Reuniting Him with Rex Ryan

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Antwan Barnes NFL Free Agency
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It took a couple days, but the New York Jets have slowly started to make their mark in NFL free agency.

General manager John Idzik has taken a disciplined approach to pursuing veteran players on the open market, being mindful of the Jets’ short- and long-term future spending with relatively safe, low-risk signings thus far.

The Jets inked a three-year, $6.9 million deal with running back Mike Goodson last week, their largest “splurge” of the offseason to date. They’ve also added a few key veterans on low-risk signings that could pay dividends.

Idzik and the Jets have agreed to one-year deals with veterans Antonio Garay, Willie Colon and David Garrard, who will all at the very least provide solid depth, if not big-time contributions on (and off) the field.

After signing Garay, a colorful nose tackle who played the last three seasons with the San Diego Chargers, the Jets reached a deal with one of his former Charger teammates in outside linebacker Antwan Barnes.

Barnes’ deal with the Jets is for three years and about $4 million. Barnes will earn $1.65 million in 2013 and $1.2 million each in both 2014 and 2015. He has incentives that can earn him up to $2 million in 2014 and 2015.

A 28-year-old pass rusher who played alongside Garay for the last three seasons, Barnes is also already quite familiar with Jets coach Rex Ryan, having played under him with the Baltimore Ravens in 2007 and 2008.

Barnes had his best NFL success with the Chargers, including a big year in 2011, when he notched 11 sacks as a pass rushing specialist, including a four-sack game in a Week 15 win over his former team, the Ravens.

He was in a logjam at the outside linebacker with the Chargers, but Barnes has always showed flashes of being an effective pass rusher when he’s been on the field in his career, and he’s got pretty fresh legs for a 28-year-old.

Barnes has mostly been a pass rush specialist over his first six seasons, but a good showing in camp could earn him the most extensive playing time of his career, especially if he shows he can hold up against the run.

In my first seven-round Jets mock draft, I projected two outside linebackers to the Jets with their first two selections, but the signings of Barnes could end up changing that. You’ll just have to check it out and see.

Regardless of the role Antwan Barnes earns with the Jets, his presence should make things a heck of a lot easier for Rex Ryan, who may only have two or three returning starters to his defense in 2013.

Barnes has been in Ryan’s system and should adapt quickly, which could give him an early leg up in the competition for both starting outside jobs. Like many position battles this year, that competition is wide open.

Jon Presser is’s New York Jets Lead Columnist
Follow him on Twitter @metsjetsnets88 and Google Plus
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