When the New York Jets traded Darrelle Revis this offseason, they were placing all of their faith in Antonio Cromartie. Rex Ryan’s defense requires cornerbacks who can play man to man coverage with little to no help, and Cromartie was coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he thrived in that system. This year however, Cromartie has been plagued by injuries and has seen a huge dip in his performance.
Cromartie has struggled to defend the deep ball all season, and his recovery speed does not appear to be what it was last season. Cromartie’s ongoing hip injury has also affected his ability to cut, and he has had numerous problems with receivers who are quick in and out of their breaks. Cromartie’s decline is one of the biggest reasons the Jets rank just 23rd in the NFL in pass defense.
With Cromartie set to have a $15 million cap figure next season, the Jets face a very difficult decision. They can cut Cromartie after the season, which would leave them with a $5 million dead money charge against the cap. For a team that needs cap space to improve its offense, that may not be a very appealing situation. Furthermore, the Jets are not likely to feel comfortable with Dee Milliner as their No. 1 corner, and they aren’t going to cut Cromartie just to pay someone else big money.
They could try to trade Cromartie, thereby clearing his salary and opening up the space to pursue a free agent such as Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Sam Shields, Brent Grimes, Aqib Talib or Alterraun Verner, all of whom will be free agents. However, it is unlikely that they will find too many suitors for Cromartie’s contract, and there is no chance they would get anything of significant value in return.
That leaves the Jets with simply trying again next season with Cromartie as their No. 1 corner and allowing his deal to expire after the season. It may not be the ideal option, but it is probably the most reasonable one. This is arguably the worst season of Cromartie’s career, and with a full offseason to rehab his hip he could return to close to his 2012 form. If he does that, the Jets’ defense will be much better, and he will be worth his contract.
Releasing Cromartie would not be a wise move, and Jets fans should expect to see him back in New York next season. The Jets just have to hope that Cromartie can rebound from his disappointing season, or they will be left with another big contract for a player who can’t live up to it.