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Jets GM John Idzik has no regrets over free-agent spending

New York Jets general manager John Idzik talks

New York Jets general manager John Idzik talks with reporters during NFL football training camp in Cortland, N.Y., Monday , Aug. 11, 2014. Credit: Hans Pennink

CORTLAND, N.Y. - The only two people who don't seem overly concerned about the state of the Jets' secondary are the general manager and the coach.

"We have no regrets whatsoever,'' John Idzik said when questioned Monday about his lack of spending during free agency, particularly at cornerback.

The injuries that cornerbacks Dee Milliner (ankle sprain) and Dexter McDougle (torn ACL) suffered Sunday have cast a spotlight on an already shaky position group, one that could have been upgraded in the offseason. But unlike some Jets fans, Idzik and Rex Ryan refuse to panic.

There's plenty of depth on their roster, they said. Idzik -- who held an impromptu interview session at the request of reporters -- plans to spend the next few weeks checking out what the Jets already have.

The process began with moving safety Antonio Allen to cornerback in practice, in which he made two interceptions. But it's unclear how long that experiment will last or whether their makeshift secondary will be any good.

The Jets refused to re-sign former No. 1 cornerback Antonio Cromartie and also chose not to spend big money on top-tier free-agent defensive backs in March. Instead, they entered camp with 10 cornerbacks, all with question marks because of skill level, injury history or lack of experience.

Cornerbacks Johnny Patrick, Jeremy Reeves and Dimitri Patterson (who was supposed to replace Cromartie) have been sidelined by injuries. With Milliner, a starter, expected to miss several weeks and rookie McDougle done for the season, the unit is an even bigger issue heading into the second preseason game Saturday in Cincinnati.

Although Ryan acknowledged that his Jets defenses were at their best with a top-flight player in the secondary, he made it clear he doesn't need a shutdown corner.

"My defenses work, period,'' said Ryan, whose unit ranked 11th (2013), eighth (2012), fifth (2011), third (2010), and first (2009) overall.

Ryan made headlines last summer when, in an interview with Newsday, he proclaimed that he's "a hell of a lot better football coach than I'm given credit for'' and "I don't have to brag, even though statistically, I can brag about anything I've ever done defensively.''

Now he's determined to prove his defense will succeed because of his system, not specific individuals.

"This is going to work -- we just don't know how yet,'' Ryan said. "But one thing we know for a fact is, this defense will be an outstanding defense.''

The Jets entered the offseason with plenty of cap space, and to the dismay of fans, they still have lots of money to spend. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Jets have $21.7 million in cap room. Idzik said reported financial figures aren't always accurate, but he refused to divulge a figure.

"We're always searching. That's not isolated to this case, this position,'' Idzik said. "The first order of business is seeing what our guys can do. Now they have the stage to do it. Let's see how they react. We'll get the Ras-I Dowlings out there, the Brandon Dixons, the Johnny Patricks, Jeremy Reeves. See what they can do.

"I don't think immediate spending translates into winning. I think responsible spending translates into sustainable winning. That's what we're about.''

In the NFL, injuries can't be predicted, but they should be expected. Although Ryan is being forced to turn safeties into corners and backups into starters, he said he supported Idzik's offseason moves -- or lack thereof.

"If you could spend like the Yankees, trust me, we would have an all-star team,'' Ryan said. "When you're looking at the big picture, it's not just a one-year, one-shot deal where you go: 'Hey, let's throw everything into this one year and let's take everyone we have and mortgage the future.' That's not what it's about. It's about building it the right way.''

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