Mike Tannenbaum knew exactly what he was getting into when the Jets brought Rex Ryan on board. A quick phone conversation with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome was all the primer Tannenbaum needed.

"Right after we hired him, I said 'What do you think about Rex?' " the general manager said. "He said, 'I'm shipping him up I-95. He has a little sign around his neck that says, 'I need corners.'

"That's just who Rex is. He cannot have enough corners. It's crazy."

With that in mind, the Jets probably will look to draft a defensive back this week, even though they began addressing that need March 4 when they sent a conditional 2011 third-round pick to the Chargers for Antonio Cromartie.

Should he return to his 2007 All-Pro form, Cromartie could be the perfect complement to All-Pro Darrelle Revis. But the Jets are a bit thin at corner beyond those two. Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman are the nickel and dime backs, and both were torched in coverage last season.

The Jets also have a hole at safety after shipping Kerry Rhodes to the Cardinals for a fourth-round pick this week and a 2011 seventh-rounder. Rhodes' departure left Jim Leonhard, Eric Smith - who started three straight games when Rhodes was demoted - and James Ihedigbo at the position. They did sign free agent safety Brodney Pool, but he likely isn't the answer.

So there's definitely a need in the defensive backfield, and there's talk that one of Mark Sanchez's former teammates at USC could be on their radar. Taylor Mays has been linked to the Jets by some, and his freakish combination of power, athleticism and speed makes him intriguing. There are, however, concerns about his maturity and commitment to football.

Texas' Earl Thomas, a hybrid safety/cornerback, and Rutgers' Devin McCourty also are options.

The versatility of this year's crop of defensive backs probably has Ryan salivating, given his love for having interchangeable pieces in the secondary of his aggressive 3-4 scheme.

"I think what's happening is the amount of spread that's being run in college is causing you to play with sub-corners or safeties," Jets senior personnel executive Terry Bradway said last week. "Safeties have to match up. There are a good number of safeties in this draft that could drop down and play man to man on the slot, which is good.

"Conversely," Bradway added, "there are some corners who could slide inside and be nickel safeties almost to cover and give you some help in the run game. I do think it's a by-product of all the spread we're seeing."

And the Jets should see their fair share of it next season, too, especially with the Dolphins trading for Brandon Marshall to give them a threat at wide receiver that they haven't had in years.

"That's really where pro football is going, and it's been more spread out," Tannenbaum said. "We'll try to add corners."

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