LaRon Landry has breathed life into the Jets defense this season one teeth-rattling hit at a time, but the team's enforcer may not be a part of their future. The hard-hitting safety told the Daily News that he won't give the Jets a hometown discount when he hits the open market after the season.
"What do you mean (by) a discount?" Landry said. "Take less over what? From where?… If that (were) the case, I would have taken a hometown discount and stayed with the Redskins.… I love the game. I love this organization. I love them for giving me an opportunity. But at the end of the day, I'm going to sit down with my agent and my family and make the best business decision."
"I get along (with the coaches)," Landry added. "But at the end of the day, man, I got to think about my future and longevity too."
Translation: The Jets are going to have to pony up some serious cash in free agency after they inked Landry to a team-friendly one-year contract with built-in injury protections last offseason.
Half of Landry's 1-year, $3.5 million max value contract was tied up in weekly roster payouts to protect the team in case he suffered an injury. Landry played in only 17 games in the previous two seasons due to a heel/Achilles injury.
However, Landry now has the leverage due to his elevated play and a clause in his contract that prevents the Jets from applying the franchise or transition tag in 2013. The Jets almost certainly would have franchised Landry, who has been one of the team's most indispensable players.
It's likely that the Jets will have to pay Landry, who provided a marked upgrade at the position this season, anywhere from $7-10 million per season based on the range for the league's five highest paid safeties.
Do the Jets need the 28-year-old Landry back in 2013?
"It would be nice," Rex Ryan told the News, breaking into a laugh. "There will be plenty of time to look at that. But obviously he's a guy that has had a huge impact for us."
Landry's resurgence as a versatile defensive piece has bolstered the defense in myriad ways. He's the Jets' second-leading tackler (102) and has a team-high four forced fumbles. He's been an effective blitzer. "We use him as a missile," linebacker Bart Scott said.
Landry's coverage skills have helped the Jets remain a Top 5 pass defense.
"I went home a couple times, talking to my family and said, 'Bro, I feel like I'm in my rookie year again. Fast as sh--,'" Landry said. "It's been that way building this season."
Thanks to a manic rehab schedule that includes an additional two hours of treatments with personal trainers five days a week at home or at the team hotel on gameday mornings, Landry says his health is no longer an issue. "Healthwise," he said, "I'm back."
Landry's most invaluable intangible, of course, is intimidation. He doesn't talk trash to opponents. He talks to himself. A lot.
"I might say something to myself… and they hear me," Landry said. "When I clap, and they say I'm clapping because I hurt somebody, that's really to myself. That's just positive thinking to myself. It's nothing like, 'Okay I'm hurting this guy.' It's, 'I hit this motherf----r, man.'"
Safety Yeremiah Bell has seen Landry's penchant for mumbling to himself up close.
"I've played with trash talkers, but nobody that's that intense," Bell said. "I love playing with him because he makes it so easy. He always makes it fun. It's almost like when he gets in a zone, he's in his zone. Sometimes he's the only one in there and he's going crazy. Everybody knows. He'll talk to himself and then come back and be like, 'What's the play?'"
It didn't take long for Landry's teammates to realize that his bone-crunching hits had a tangible cause and effect. Antonio Cromartie first noticed it in the second preseason game when Landry buried his shoulder into Victor Cruz's chest on a 21-yard reception.
"Victor Cruz didn't want to come back across the middle anymore," Antonio Cromartie said with a smile. "When you get hit that damn hard, it hurts. It makes you think twice about going across the middle. That's the presence he brings."
Bell has seen countless similar examples through the first 13 games.
"If he hits somebody and that guy's got to come over the middle the next time, believe me, he's thinking about LaRon," Bell said. "He's thinking, 'Where is this guy?' He can't locate him, but in the back of his head, he's thinking, 'I know he's coming.'"
Despite some of the medical risks, Ryan admitted that he realized "almost immediately" that the Jets made the right move to bring him aboard.
"Some of his hits in that Buffalo game (in the season opener), it's like, 'Wow! Oh my goodness!'" Ryan said. "I think it was obvious then that this is really going to work out."
Landry's passion has been contagious.
"The easiest thing in this league is to get paid and just sit on the sideline," Bell said. "Guys do it a lot. It always goes back to what kind of person are you? Are you a guy who really wants to play the game? Or are you a guy who really wants to get paid? With LaRon, you can tell that he loves playing."
The Jets knew in March that Landry might be too pricey to keep beyond the 2012 season if he returned to form. It's a reality that they'll have to confront as they try to re-stock the roster with more difference makers.
Landry isn't overly concerned. His believes that his future remains bright… no matter where it is.
"I'm looking forward to the next best thing," Landry said. "When it's all said and done, I just want to drop down to my knees, thank God for protecting me this whole season and everything else will handle itself."