Antonio Cromartie is about to get a new lease on life and a second chance to clean up his off-the-field image.

The Pro Bowl cornerback who was on the outs in San Diego is now a officially a member of the Jets, having been shipped here from the West Coast for a 2011 third-round pick. Cromartie is eager for his new opportunity and expects to be in town by March 22 when the Jets kick off their offseason conditioning program.

"I'm just excited with everything that's been going on," Cromartie said on a conference call earlier this afternoon when I asked for his reaction to the trade. "I’m glad I asked for a trade and now it worked out, and I’m actually I'm going to be around a great organization, a great team. And I’m looking to come in and help any way that I can."

Rex Ryan, who lobbied to bring Cromartie here, can't wait to get him on the field and incorporate him into the Jets' aggressive defense opposite Pro Bowl lockdown cornerback Darrelle Revis. Cromartie said he plays better when in man-to-man coverage, which is the scheme he was in when he recorded 10 INTs in his 2007 Pro Bowl season.

His production has taken a nose dive over these last two seasons, though, in part he says because he was playing in more of a zone scheme.

“He’s got great man cover skills that are unusual," Ryan said. "It’s rare to see a corner with his ball skills. He’s a difference maker. There’s an old saying when you evaluate corners – ‘Can they find it? Can they catch it?’ – and he can do all that. He’s got long arms where he can press you at the line of scrimmage. He’ll fit perfectly into our system. Now, we don’t necessarily have to always put Revis on the toughest guy. We can switch it up. This pair gives us even more options on defense.

"We should be able to disguise what we’re doing a little better than we’ve done in the past. He’s going to be a huge, huge addition for us because what he’s going to bring to the table from a physical standpoint is going to be tremendous. He’s got some unbelievable gifts and we’re just fortunate to have him on our team. When you combine him with the players that we already have, we’re going to be really tough on defense.”

Cromartie, who turns 26 next month, could almost be seen beaming from ear-to-ear through the phone when I asked him about hie newfound chance to playing with Revis.

"Definitely looking forward to that," Cromartie said. "I'm going to be on the other side of the No. 1 corner in the NFL. Just [being] next to him and working out with him during the offseason and getting ready going into the season is going to help out tremendously."

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So will something else: taking care of his off-the-field issues. Namely, the reported $25,000 he still owes in unpaid child support.

Cromartie has seven kids living in five different states, and reportedly has been the subject of five paternity lawsuits over the past three years. But he manned up to his mistakes and said he's in the midst of dealing with fixing those child support issues, saying he's learning from his previous transgressions.

"Those things are being taken care of as we speak and everything is being handled the right way," Cromartie said. "That's the responsibility I've got to take. Those are my kids and I'm going to be the best father to them that I can be. And that's my responsibility."

"It's a fresh start, coming from San Diego," he added. "I feel a change of scenery will work our great. The off-the-field issues are being handled. I don't have no problems with them. I feel like they are my responsibility and I think everything that goes on off the field with me and my personal life -- that’s all on my shoulders. I just have to take responsibility for it and do exactly what I'm supposed to do."

But there's more when it comes to the off-the-field stuff for Cromartie. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported today that Cromartie has missed two court appearances to address traffic tickets and owes $799 in fines.

He was also investigated by San Diego police for assault for allegedly hitting a man over the head with a champagne bottle at a bar in November. Due to a lack of evidence, no charges were filed he said today that he was accused of something that never happened.

"I don't even know where that -- accusing me of anything -- came from," he said. "That was the first time I went out in a year and a half for anything. The first time I go out and something happens like that. But man, everything worked out for the best. Nothing happened. I was accused of something that never took place. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. And my biggest thing is learn from my experience and take care of what I ned to take care of."

Even so, it's that type of negative publicity that aided the Jets in their acquisition of Cromartie.

“We realize that for Antonio to be available, someone of his talent, at his age, at his position, there were some inconsistencies that may have happened out there,” general manager Mike Tannenbaum said. “Without those issues being out there, maybe he would have not been available. So when we made the decision, we felt the risk was reasonable based on the fact that he has been productive and we look forward to him having a fresh start here with us.”

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Back to the field, Cromartie has been getting skewered for his lack-of-a-tackle attempt of Shonn Greene during the Jets' AFC Divisional win, when he basically ran away from Greene during his 53-yard touchdown run. He finally did get a shoulder on Greene -- after the running back did his LaDainian Tomlinson touchdown celebration imitation and flipped the ball into the end zone.

"My thoughts on that is it’s something I should have made the play on, honestly," Cromartie said. "I was there to make the tackle for a 3- or 4-yard gain and it didn't happen. That’s something that I look back on, but now I have to forget and try to look forward to this upcoming season with the Jets."

A season, that he agreed, must feature some better tackling by him.

"I'm not the best tackler out there," he said. "That's something that I’m truly working on this upcoming offseason and I think I’m surrounded by some great guys on this team, and the coaching staff in the Jets' organization. I'm just looking forward to getting into the program and starting from there."

Cromartie said he's already spoken with former Florida State University teammate Leon Washington today as well as WR Jerricho Cotchery. QB Mark Sanchez even phoned Cromartie to welcome him to the team, joking he couldn't wait to torch Cromartie and Revis come training camp.

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With Washington around, it should be beneficial for Cromartie as he makes the move to New York.

"Man, that will help out a lot, having Leon there," Cromartie said. "He’s been there for four years going on his fifth. It's going to help out a lot because he knows the ins and outs of the city and the organization. So I mean, it just helps out a lot and the transition will be a whole lot better."

"I’m not going to let them down in any kind of way," he added. "I’m just going to go and out and have fun and be a part of a great defense."


A couple of quick notes:

--* Tannenbaum wouldn’t rule out a potential return from RB Thomas Jones, who was officially released today. He's spoken with Jones' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, roughly three or four times a day over last three weeks and believes the conversations were amicable. But he said Jones is currently looking at other offers.

So why release a well-like veteran who commands respect in the locker room and is beloved by his teammates?

"We factored all the things that go into it from skill to budget, even though there’s not a salary cap this year," Tannenbaum said. "You still have to make what you think are judgment calls for your roster. We just felt at the end of the day that was in our best interest, but it was still a very difficult decision to make."

--* Tannenbaum also expects S Kerry Rhodes to be on the team "unless something changes" and said Rhodes should be around for offseason program.

--* Lastly, oft-injured CB Donald Strickland was released.