The New York Jets have tackled their salary cap concerns as David Bowens, Brad Kassel, and Chris Baker have all been released.
Some of you may remember Baker as the guy who demanded a new contract in training camp, only to receive his extension, produce his lowest numbers in four years, and be made completely obsolete by Dustin Keller.
Now that New York actually has some extra offseason spending money, it’s no longer a question of who the Jets will acquire from the open market, but how many can they add before the draft?
There are some wonderful names out there that make sense for the Jets.
Ray Lewis is at the top of everyone’s wish list to lead the defense, and help Rex Ryan transition to his head coaching gig. Picking up some defensive backs to complement Kerry Rhodes and Darrelle Revis has also been all the rage this winter.
But before anyone is contacted, before any contracts are negotiated, and before any guarantees leave Mike Tannenbaum’s lips, the New York Jets must take care of their own.
It’s time for the front office to prove that they can recognize and financially evaluate talent that’s already on the roster.
Leon Washington Is the New York Jets
Leon Washington is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and must be locked up with a long-term deal immediately.
The man has defined Jets football since his rookie season and should be recognized for his contributions with a contract that pays him appropriately.
His first season was the Jets’ first season without Curtis Martin. The running back situation was a disaster with Derrick Blaylock and Kevan Barlow expected to pick up where Martin left off.
And out of absolutely nowhere, Leon Washington came in and led the team in rushing as a rookie with a 4.3-yard average, and 920 total offensive yards. Where no other back found room to run, Washington saw daylight.
No sophomore slump, either. He followed up his impressive rookie year by being named the Jets’ team MVP in the abysmal 2007 season. And in 2008, he was finally recognized as the special-teams ace that he is, and earned a trip to Honolulu.
Third time’s the charm? That’s three consecutive years where he’s been the Jets most explosive playmaker from everywhere on the field.
If it’s a kick return, a screen pass, or a handoff up the middle, Washington’s elusive running style has consistently been the game-changing element the Jets have always lacked.
Show the Dedication Early
The Jets’ roster isn’t absolutely flawless at the moment. There are areas that need to be addressed, and there is talent out there that New York can afford.
But it’s what New York can’t afford that needs the most attention. And don’t doubt it for a moment, but the Jets can not afford to be without Leon Washington for the rest of his career.
There’s no need to be apprehensive. He’s not Bryan Thomas with one good year for the sake of a new contract.
There’s no need to wait and see what he does in 2009 before an investment in his future is made.
Show Leon Washington that he’s an integral piece of the New York Jets, and lock him up before contract talks ever need to heat up. Show the other young players on the team that the Jets have a commitment to the talent that’s already here.
This is how dynasties are built. This is how you keep hard-working players happy, and it’s how winning traditions are established.