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Freeze on free agency could affect Jets draft

Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum is seen before a

Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum is seen before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Photo Credit: Getty Images, 2010

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- With free agency essentially frozen until the lockout is lifted, that could make things a bit more complicated in next week's three-day NFL Draft, which kicks off Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall.

Take the Jets, for example.

They have a bevy of free agents -- 17 to be exact -- and have to now seriously weigh their actual chances of re-signing the big-ticket guys like Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Antonio Cromartie. Normally, they would have already their big-name free agents on board, allowing them to fill some other needs through the draft.

So how's Mike Tannenbaum approaching things with that uncertainty?

"That's a great question," the general manager said this afternoon out here at The Hangar, as the Jets held their pre-draft press conference. "There's no magical answer. It's the judgment of the best player on the board versus what's going to happen in free agency. Again, even if you don't get your first or second choice in free agency or the draft, there's going to be other opportunities.

"Those are great tiebreakers for us. If we feel like down the road we're going to have trouble getting a player back, that may break a tie in the draft room. But those are really hard judgment calls to make that you do when you're on the clock or formulating a strategy to go up a couple spots or move back."

Tannenbaum will also be handcuffed like every other GM in the league after the draft, unable to sigtn any undrafted players. That's where he's gone to look for a few diamonds in the rough, with the most vivid example coming in the form of right guard Brandon Moore, who was initially signed as a defensive lineman and was converted to an offensive player.

Mike DeVito, who started at defensive end this past season, is another example, as is safety James Ihedigbo and Rutgers product Jamaal Westerman, a linebacker/defensive end.

"We signed 18 future free agents towards the end of the season last year," Tannenbaum said. "Not to say those players are going to necessarily going to fill needs. I really do look at it as a continuum. I feel a lot more comfortable sitting here saying 'Brick [Ferguson], Nick [Mangold], Darrelle [Revis] and David [Harris] are all under contract -- with the exception of David -- for years to come. I do think the off-season started last year. The longer I'm in this, the more you realize the only part you can control is the preparation.

"They're telling us we're going to draft now, so we're prepared for that. When there's veteran free agency, we'll be prepared. When we can trade players, we'll be prepared. This is the next step of what I would say is an opportunity to improve the team. Whatever the next step is after that, we'll go for that." 

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