The Jets spent last offseason watching from their couches or golf courses while the rival Patriots made a Super Bowl run. And everywhere you turned, the attention wasn’t just on Tom Brady or Bill Belichick.
The spotlight was on tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the dynamic duo that was such a major part of one of the NFL’s best offenses. In fact, I probably said the word “Gronkle” 800 times leading up to Super Bowl XLVI.
The Jets haven’t done a ton in free agency… but what they have done appears to be with an eye toward stopping the TEs. I don’t know if it’ll work, but it seems that’s the idea.
There was another example yesterday when the Jets reached a one-year agreement with safety Yeremiah Bell. Earlier, they’d inked LaRon Landry, the former Redskins Hulk, too. Both are physical and strong, with backgrounds covering tight ends. I wouldn’t say Bell was stellar at it last year, but it was tough to tell who was at fault with so many issues in Miami’s secondary. And Landry will need to stay healthy.
Gang Green also signed kicker Josh Brown and WR Chaz Schillens to fill some holes. But it’s Bell and Landry, two veterans, that stand out to me.
Both tight ends did work last year vs. the Jets, with Gronk’s eight catches for 113 yards and two scores in Game 2 standing out. Hernandez was solid with nine catches for 107 yards in two games, but that included a drop of an open touchdown. Rex Ryan’s defense gave up 67 points in two games, so clearly something needed to change.
Are Bell and Landry the answer? Will they also help around the league as teams begin to beef up their tight end spots in a game of copycat? We’ll see. Ryan will be the first to tell you the AFC East crown still goes through New England, so it makes sense targeting this. And after we saw how their linebackers couldn’t cover last year, don’t be surprised if Ryan uses safeties on Gronk and Hernandez this time.
Still, Bell is a bit of a question mark, even being guaranteed more than $1 million in salary. Hernandez had 11 catches for 139 yards and a TD vs. Miami last year in two games, and Gronk had 13 for 164. Bell was out there for both games, and it didn’t help them.
But still, given the dearth of free agent safeties, it was a good effort. And don’t forget the Jets drafted not one but two safeties as well — 6th rounder Josh Bush of Wake Forest and 7th rounder Antonio Allen of South Carolina. Two more options to throw into the mix.
The Jets will have a lot of choices. We just don’t know if they’ll work.