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Jets will retool for another playoff run

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan late

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan late in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. (January 24, 2010) Credit: Newsday/ Thomas A. Ferrara

INDIANAPOLIS - Well, Rex Ryan's Super Bowl plans didn't quite work out this time, as the Jets lost Sunday to the Colts, 30-17, in the AFC Championship Game.

But at least the first-year coach can take solace in the fact that the Jets even made the playoffs after slipping to 4-6, never mind getting within a victory of the Super Bowl. And who knows? With all the accomplishments of these playoffs, maybe 2010 will be the season the Jets finally break a Super Bowl drought of more than four decades.

>> PHOTOS: Colts defeat Jets, 30-17

Look ahead to next season's roster, combine it with the valuable experience from this year's playoff run, and there's reason to believe the Jets will be competitive for a postseason berth again.

There shouldn't be that much turnover on the team, and there could even be a few significant additions through the draft and free agency.

Offensively, the biggest change could be at wide receiver. When the Jets traded with the Browns to obtain Braylon Edwards, they did so without assurances that his contract would be extended. With the NFL likely to have no salary cap next season and free agency going from four to six years, Edwards would become a restricted free agent because he'd be entering his sixth season. He undoubtedly will want a big raise, but the Jets might be unwilling to meet his contract demands.

As of now, the Jets plan on tendering Edwards a contract that would require first- and third-round picks as compensation, meaning it would be prohibitive for another team to acquire him.

The Jets might consider trading for Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall, who was benched for the regular-season finale because of coach Josh McDaniels' dissatisfaction with his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury. The Jets discussed a trade for Marshall early in the season but decided the compensation was too costly and instead settled on Edwards.

The offensive line, which has started 32 consecutive regular- season games, figures to remain intact, but the Jets might want to consider drafting for youth. Tackle Damien Woody and guards Alan Faneca and Brandon Moore will be 30 or older.

Running back could be an issue, at least contractually. Thomas Jones, coming off a career year, is due a $3-million roster bonus in March. His production dropped off during the playoffs, so it's uncertain whether the Jets will pay the bonus to retain the 31-year-old, especially with Shonn Greene emerging late in his rookie season.

Running back Leon Washington, who suffered a season-ending broken leg, will become a restricted free agent if there is no collective-bargaining agreement. The Jets have indicated a desire to keep Washington, but there could be contract hassles similar to those last offseason.

The Jets' defense, the league's top-ranked unit, also will remain largely intact. But there could be changes. Safety Kerry Rhodes is uncertain whether he wants to return. The Jets have told him they want to keep him, but Rhodes remains concerned about being benched in midseason. He has said he will revisit his situation in the offseason before deciding.

Former first-round linebacker Vernon Gholston, a massive disappointment, could be released outright, especially if there is no salary cap. With no cap, the Jets don't have to account for any bonus money and could release Gholston without financial penalty. The Jets also must decide whether to pay cornerback Lito Sheppard a $10-million bonus in March. He barely played Sunday, even though the Jets used seven defensive backs for much of the game. The former Eagle is not expected back.

The Jets also are figuring that nose tackle Kris Jenkins, who suffered a torn left ACL in mid-October and was lost for the season, will return at a high level. His rehab has gone well, and he has indicated he expects no setbacks before training camp.

Put it all together, and the Jets' experiences could translate into another playoff run next season. Maybe it will be the run that finally ends a championship drought that is 41 years and counting.

>> PHOTOS: Colts defeat Jets, 30-17

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