The New York Jets are heading into an extremely important offseason for their franchise, and they are facing some tough decisions about a few of their veterans. It is safe to assume that Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez will be released, but the Jets also have to figure out what to do with Antonio Cromartie. If Cromartie stays on the roster for next season he will be a $15 million cap hit, but if the Jets release him, he will only carry a $5.5 million charge.
Those numbers are going to play a big role in John Idzik’s decision, as will Cromartie’s play this season. Cromartie had one of the worst seasons of his career this year, struggling in coverage against all types of receivers and recording three interceptions. Cromartie was Pro Bowler in 2012, but he failed to live up to that standard this year. He dealt with a hip injury all season, but there are concerns that it is a problem that will plague him for the rest of his career.
At 6’2″, Cromartie is much taller than the average corner, which has always left him less fluid in and out of breaks. However, he has always made up for it with his speed and length. Unfortunately, his hip problems have caused him to struggle even more with quick, precise route runners, and the injury has also limited his ability to open his hips and run with deep threats. Cromartie will be 30 when next season begins, so the Jets have to be concerned that this year’s level of play is going to becoming the norm.
Dee Milliner came on strong to finish the season, and the Jets are most likely going to have much more confidence in him heading into next season. There could also be a deep class of corners available in free agency this year, including players such as Alterraun Verner, Aqib Talib, Sam Shields, Walter Thurmond, Brent Grimes, and Captain Munnerlyn, among others. That means that Cromartie is going to be replaceable, and if the Jets are going to spend big money on a corner they should spend it on a younger, safer option.
Personally, I believe the Jets will decide to release Cromartie. Rex Ryan won’t like it, but Idzik is not the type of GM who overpays veterans who can’t perform. With the rapid improvement of Milliner and the strong free agent class available, the Jets should be able to get better at cornerback without Cromartie. It will be a difficult decision to make, but the Jets could be better off if they decide to go in a different direction.