Jets made all right moves to salvage franchise

The Jets' new general manager, John Idzik, talks

The Jets' new general manager, John Idzik, talks to media at his introductory news conference. (Jan. 24, 2013) (Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

We take you back to a time when there were so many pressing needs and unanswered questions about the Jets' roster that it seemed there was almost no chance they'd be able to extricate themselves from the mess left in the wake of last season's 6-10 meltdown:

No resolution to the Darrelle Revis situation.

Burdened by the $8.25-million guaranteed contract for Mark Sanchez, who seemed destined for one more year as the starter because of no viable alternative.

No suitable replacements for departed guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson. And nose tackle Sione Po'uha and fellow defensive lineman Mike DeVito. And running back Shonn Greene.

We take you back to . . . last week.

In a series of moves as stunning as they were swift, the Jets have been transformed from a team that appeared crushed beneath the weight of salary-cap issues to a team that may not be ready for the playoffs but at least is relevant again.

Eight days in April, and the dynamic is dramatically different now than it was then.

It began with the Revis trade to the Buccaneers and continued in the three-day draft in which the Jets hired a new cast of characters to replace many of the missing pieces.

Starting with the quarterback.

Geno Smith may not be a can't-miss prospect like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but the West Virginia star was worth the gamble in the second round. Especially because first-year general manager John Idzik didn't have to trade up and surrender valuable picks to get him.

Nope. The second round fell perfectly, and Smith fell right to the Jets, giving the team a viable alternative to Sanchez, who could be on his way out after a second straight dismal season that was underscored by a combined 52 turnovers.

When Smith is on his game, as he showed several times during his run at West Virginia, he's terrific. But his limitations have been well documented, too: problems with consistency and a reputation for sulking when things don't go well. But veteran quarterback David Garrard, signed as a free agent, can help tutor Smith about what it takes to make it at the next level. I'm told that Garrard already has impressed his coaches with his attitude, and that no doubt will trickle down to Smith.

Idzik took some heat for concentrating too much on defense on Day 1 of the draft, taking Alabama blue-chip cornerback Dee Milliner at ninth overall and Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson at No. 13. But he came away with a suitable replacement for Revis and another for Po'uha.

Milliner has had injury issues, although he was a consensus top 10 pick any way you look at it. So the trade-off here was worth it, at least on paper.

With all the uncertainty about Revis coming back from a knee injury and with his contract situation hanging over the Jets like the football equivalent of the sword of Damocles, getting out from under that situation and getting two high draft picks was a victory in itself. Getting another elite cornerback is about as good as you can get.

Richardson may seem like excess along the defensive line, especially given that the Jets drafted defensive linemen in the first round the previous two years with Mo Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. But as the Giants have shown during their two Super Bowl runs, you never can have too many quality linemen. You find ways to use them all.

Idzik addressed the offensive line later in the draft with guard Brian Winters of Kent State and tackle Oday Aboushi of Virginia, followed by guard William Campbell of Michigan.

The only major need the Jets didn't address was tight end, although they did re-sign Jeff Cumberland. They'd targeted Jason Kelce of Cincinnati, but he was gone by the early part of the third round to Philadelphia.

All in all, though, this is a markedly different Jets team with a completely different dynamic from just a week ago. It doesn't guarantee an immediate turnaround, but it does signal a rebuilding process that ultimately will pay off over time.

Just watch.