John Idzik, Jets get off to a strong start in the NFL draft
The week began with plenty of hand-wringing after the Jets parted ways with franchise cornerback Darrelle Revis. He was dealt to the Bucs in exchange for a first-round pick, thanked his new organization for a six-year, $96-million deal and promptly ripped the Jets for lying to him about their intentions.
Fans were split on the move, with some saying it was time to move on from the drama surrounding a player who already had been through two contract holdouts and was carping for another new deal, while others chided new general manager John Idzik for failing to keep his best player.
But four days after the Revis departure, things are starting to look decidedly more upbeat. Not only do they get a competent replacement right away in Alabama star cornerback Dee Milliner, widely regarded as the top cornerback prospect in this year's draft, but they do it for a contract that will pay him less for his entire rookie deal than Revis' $16-million salary in 2013.
That's how you do it in the era of the salary cap with a team coming off a 6-10 season. No disrespect to Revis, who is a terrific player -- although in an uncertain situation because he's recovering from major knee surgery -- but you have to make tough decisions like this one and know when to move on and get younger and cheaper at the position. Well, the Jets got a lot younger, they got a lot cheaper, and if Milliner plays the way scouts expect him to, the Jets will have made a no-brainer of a move here.
No guarantees that Milliner will emerge as a star, but this is the purpose of a smart drafting strategy, making decisive moves at the right time. This has all the makings of one for Idzik. Milliner is just as good a move -- if not better -- than the one the Jets made taking Revis in the 2007 draft.
Like any player, Milliner carries risk. His play at Alabama has been exemplary from the beginning, when he earned the rare distinction of starting for demanding coach Nick Saban as a freshman. A first-team All-SEC selection, he was a finalist for the country's defensive player of the year. But he has had shoulder problems, and recently underwent shoulder surgery. He is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.
The Jets certainly hope he'll be right physically as he starts his NFL career. But there was every reason for the Jets, who closely scrutinized Milliner during and after his college career, to be optimistic about his prognosis.
And the pressure of trying to fill Revis' shoes? There is none, Milliner insists. "I'm not worried," he said. "I'm just going to work hard and take it from there."
As for Richardson, he's a good prospect, and he joins fellow first-rounders Quinton Coples and Mo Wilkerson on the Jets' defensive line. No, they didn't get that outside pass rusher they coveted in Barkevious Mingo, who went fifth to the Browns. But they did get a reliable defender who is nimble enough to provide some good inside pass rush and beef up a run defense that was just abysmal.
The one guy the Jets may have regretted that got away? Tavon Austin, the speedy receiver/returner/running back out of West Virginia. Clearly concerned that the Jets would take him at ninth, the Rams moved up to Buffalo's No. 8 pick to take Austin, an explosive playmaker.
Only time will tell if that regret will turn into the kind of disappointment Jets fans have grown accustomed to. But don't forget, it's still early. Another six rounds to go for the Jets to address more of the myriad needs they had entering the draft. All in all, a promising start.