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Former Raven Leonhard follows Ryan, Scott to Jets

The Jets' defense got even more Raven-ous yesterday. In perhaps the least surprising signing of free agency, Jim Leonhard agreed to a three-year contract, reuniting the safety with his former coordinator, Rex Ryan.

Leonhard, also a standout kick returner, will likely start opposite Kerry Rhodes. He is the second high-profile Raven to join the Jets since free agency began Friday morning, with linebacker Bart Scott being the first.

"I've liked Jim since his days at Wisconsin and was excited when we were able to bring him to Baltimore last season," Ryan said in a statement. "He was everything I expected him to be in 2008 when he bailed us out at safety after we had some injuries."

Leonhard, in a statement, said he was looking forward to playing again for Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, a former Ravens assistant. "To be reunited with coach Ryan and coach Pettine is a great opportunity," Leonhard said. "I am really excited to get in there this first year with coach Ryan and, hopefully, help do some great things."

The 5-8, 186-pounder was a walk-on at Wisconsin, where as a sophomore he made 11 interceptions to tie the Big Ten record. After three nondescript seasons in Buffalo, he signed with the Ravens before last season. He started for the Ravens after Dawan Landry was injured.

In 13 starts, Leonhard, 26, had 85 tackles, a sack, an interception and six passes defensed. He averaged 11.6 yards on 20 punt returns and 20.4 yards on eight kickoff returns.

Leonhard is part of a secondary makeover that started last weekend when the Jets traded for two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Lito Sheppard, who was unhappy for much of the past year in Philadelphia. "Change isn't bad," Sheppard, 27, said. "Sometimes change can rejuvenate a player."

The Jets hope Sheppard emulates Kris Jenkins, who made the Pro Bowl this season after being unhappy in Carolina, which dealt him to the Jets.

"It's like closing one chapter of my book and starting a new one," Sheppard said.

Lots of that going on with the Jets lately.

Notes & quotes: The Jets had 49ers free agent Billy Bajema in for a visit as their search for a blocking tight end continued. Bills TE Robert Royal visited over the weekend ... The team announced the re-signing of FB Tony Richardson.


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