Now that final roster cuts have come and gone, the New York Jets clearly have one huge weakness: cornerback. The team released Dimitri Patterson following his AWOL saga, while also cutting Brandon Dixon, Johnny Patrick, and Jeremy Reeves. Those decisions and Dee Milliner’s ankle injury leaves the Jets with Darrin Walls and converted safety Antonio Allen as the starters heading into Week 1. That might work against the Oakland Raiders, but considering the Jets play six of the NFL’s top 10 passing offenses from last season in Weeks 2-7, it is clear they need help at corner.
The first name that comes to mind is obviously Champ Bailey, who was released by the New Orleans Saints yesterday. Bailey is one of the greatest corners in NFL history, and a lot of fans have been hoping the Jets will make a move for him. Don’t bet on it. Bailey has slipped noticeably over the last few seasons, and it isn’t like John Idzik to go after a player like him. Furthermore, Rob Ryan is the Saints’ defensive coordinator, and if Bailey didn’t work out for him it’s safe to assume he won’t work out for Rex Ryan and the Jets.
After Bailey, the biggest names available are Asante Samuel, Terrell Thomas, and Kelvin Hayden. Samuel is at the tail end of his career and not a good fit for the Jets’ defense, so it seems unlikely they would try to sign him. Thomas and Hayden are both coming off injuries and were just cut by the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears, respectively. Hayden is more of a zone player, but he is a solid vet who would give the Jets depth. Thomas has played well for the New York Giants in the past, but he has torn his ACL twice and didn’t impress the Seahawks during camp.
Any of these four players would be a superior option to Ellis Lankster and LeQuan Lewis in a reserve role, but the Jets need a starting caliber corner to pair with Milliner so Walls can be the top reserve. None of these players are anything close to a sure thing, and though they might be an upgrade, it probably makes more sense for the Jets to test the trade market.
Right now, it appears that the cornerback situation could be a major Achilles’ heel for the Jets and severely damage their playoff aspirations. If the Jets can acquire a starting caliber corner via trade, it would go a long way towards solidifying their defense. If not, then the Jets may have to bring in a veteran on a one year deal as an emergency stop gap. Idzik’s inaction this offseason and some bad luck have put the Jets in a difficult spot, and it is time for them to bring in outside help. If that doesn’t happen, the Jets’ pass defense will be a major liability this season.