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The Cromartie-Rhodes Debate

By Ken Swarthout

There’s been a few on the board questioning our moves over the last couple of days regarding Antonio Cromartie and Kerry Rhodes. On the surface, bringing in Cromartie and trading away Rhodes seemed pointless because of how similarly frustrating these two players are. They bring to the table almost the same set of attributes, such as the following:

1) Both had one standout season that got them to a Pro Bowl, Rhodes in 2006 and Cromartie in 2007. Neither have done much since.

2) Both have off the field issues. Rhodes can’t keep his mouth shut on his twitter page and has an acting/modeling career he seems to care about more than his career, whereas Cromartie has had 5 paternity suits over the last 2 seasons.

3) Neither are renowned for their ability to tackle.

Meanwhile, while it seemed we were playing “wife swap” with the Chargers and Cardinals, we let go of 32-year old class act Thomas Jones, which brought up its own set of questions. Personally, I supported the move to release Jones, not only because of his age but his refusal to sign for less.

I also support BOTH the moves with Cromartie and Rhodes. Here’s the 2 primary reasons why:

1) The Rex Factor. Far and away the biggest reason to support these moves. Rex once said about Gholston, “if he can’t play for me, he can’t play for anyone”. This will eventually be the kiss of death for Vernon, as he will be gone as soon as its financially viable, and it was the kiss of death for Rhodes, who seemed to be a mis-match for Rex from day 1.

Rex requires one thing and one thing only out of his corners: be able to cover your man in one-on-one coverage, allowing enough time for the pass-rush to get to the QB before he can hit on one of his alternative targets. Antonio Cromartie fits this role, and Rex would NOT have agreed to him joining the Jet roster if he he felt he couldn’t help our defense succeed.

When it comes to free safeties, Rex requires something different, which Jim Leonhard, Eric Smith and even James Ihedigbo provide significantly better than Rhodes ever did: Punish receivers coming over the middle and help with the run. Being able to cover is not nearly as important for the FS than the CB for Rex.

Now that Rhodes (clearly not a Rex guy) is gone, we should give Rex the benefit of the doubt that he can get Cromartie to come in and perform in lock-step with his system. After all, San Diego is known for two things regarding its defense:

a) The general lack of accountability both on and off the field (see: Merriman’s 4-game suspension and Tila Tequila troubles, all the stupid penalties in the AFC Divisional game, etc.), and

b) Its soft zone-defense. In New York, Rex will both hold Cromartie to a higher standard AND ask him to play the man-to-man defense Cromartie prefers to play. If he doesn’t work out, its not that big of a deal, which I’ll explain with my next point.

2) Draft Pick Management. Tannenbaum did a SUPERB job in shipping out Rhodes and acquiring Cromartie by giving up a future draft choice while earning a current pick and losing none of the other 2010 picks.

With little to no ability to sign quality UFA’s, few draft picks to work with for 2010, already being labeled one of the deepest ever, and an uncertain NFL future, 2010 picks are MUCH more valuable than 2011 picks, even moreso than would usually be the case. They are like liquid gold, especially when you can use them to bring in RFA’s, something I’m SURE Tannenbaum is looking into aggressively.

By securing a 4th rounder in THIS draft for Rhodes, which is where we got Rhodes in the first place in 2005 and has been a successful round for us in the past, we got very good value for our 27-year old locker-room cancer. Sure, a 3rd would have been great, but who are we kidding to believe that were in the best place to be picky? As I said, draft picks in 2010 are more valuable than most other drafts, and we just wanted to get rid of Kerry, PERIOD.

As for what we gave up for Cromartie, you have to love that we could not only avoid giving up any 2010 picks, but that we could get San Diego to take a CONDITIONAL 2011 draft choice. If 2009 was any indication, we’re going to be a damn good team again next season or “die trying”, so the worst we’re looking at giving up is, say, an overall pick # in the late 40’s. This is a far cry from the # 19 overall pick San Diego had to use to draft Cromartie originally, and we have a year before we have to cough it up, when there may not even BE an NFL season to use it.

Sure, San Diego fans are happy to be rid of Cromartie about as much as we are glad to be rid of Rhodes. But for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, we should be happy with the means by which these deals happened, and how they’ll benefit us. Tannenbaum is further proving to be as savvy an NFL GM as they come, and already we’re looking better off for 2010 than we did 72 hours ago.

I am EXTREMELY excited to see what we do with the picks we have, whether we burn some in the RFA route or use them all in the deep 2010 draft class.

Tell us what you think in our New York Jets message board.

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