The Jets and Jim Leonhard came to an agreement on a three-year deal after engaging in a brief bidding war with the Denver Broncos. Financial terms of the deal aren’t available yet, but when they become known Leonhard’s role will be clear.
Leonhard was one of the first of the free agent Ravens to be linked to the Jets after Rex Ryan received the head coaching job. He’s coming off his best season as a professional, and that’s a large credit to Ryan’s defense.
But after serving as a backup in Buffalo, he was thrust into the starting role because of an injury to Dawan Landry. That’s definitely not a knock on Leonhard. Being a solid contributor to one of the best defenses in the NFL should make him a worthy acquisition anywhere.
It’s doubtful Ryan would have pursued him if we wasn’t an absolute player—but how good of a player should the Jets be expecting? Does the acquisition of Leonhard make him an immediate upgrade over Abram Elam?
The Jets secured Elam for one more season before the free agency period began with a $1.01 million contract. Elam is a restricted free agent, so the offer could be matched by another team.
But seeing what Elam can do in Rex Ryan’s system is an intriguing concept. He’s shown that he can make big plays when given the right opportunity. There’s a reason he became “Big Play Abe” in 2008.
One has to wonder if the Leonhard signing is going to completely take those opportunities away from him.
Regardless, Leonhard’s value also presents itself in a special-teams capacity as he’s expected to alleviate some of the punt returning pressure from Leon Washington. A capable returner, it’s great to know that there’s relief for no. 29, freeing him up to receive some more touches on the offensive side of the ball.
There’s no disappointment here, though. But with only a three-year deal, it might be too soon to anoint Leonhard as the next John Lynch.