The Jets are pursuing free agent outside linebacker Jason Taylor,...

The Jets are pursuing free agent outside linebacker Jason Taylor, according to an NFL source. (File photo, 2007) Credit: Getty Images

When the Jets were courting Jason Taylor, Rex Ryan was his usual jovial self, keeping things light by not putting too much pressure on the unrestricted free agent.

"I was kidding him," Ryan said Tuesday. "I said, 'Jason, you know what's great? If you come here, we think we are going to have the No. 1 defense in football. If you don't come here, we think we're going to have the No. 1 defense in football.' "

So after spending two weeks wrestling with whether to join his hated rivals and the very organization whose fans he once called "classless," public enemy No. 1 finally made his decision Tuesday: He's going to be a Jet.

Taylor has agreed to a reported two-year, $13-million deal that's essentially a one-year deal that could be worth roughly $3.75 million. In light of the "Final Four" restrictions the Jets face, the linebacker will make a 2010 base salary of $1.75 million - the same first-year salary of the free agent the Jets lost, kicker Jay Feely.

The 35-year-old truly wanted to re-sign with the Dolphins, the organization he suited up for in 12 of his 13 seasons. However, Miami publicly stated it would wait until after this week's draft to address his status and didn't seem overly concerned that Taylor might sign elsewhere.

A reported meeting between Taylor and Dolphins coach Tony Sparano was called off, and Taylor told the South Florida media yesterday that an offer from the Dolphins never came. There apparently wasn't much communication between both sides - even when Taylor's agent Gary Wichard went to the Dolphins and told them he had an offer from the Jets.

Taylor, who had shoulder surgery after the season, said the Jets were the only team vying for his services. He's aware he's not exactly beloved by the Jets' fan base.

"Do I expect them to hate me some? Sure," he told the Miami media. "Do I expect them to love me after all the things I said? No. Fireman Ed called me a meathead . . . I've been called worse, trust me."

Ryan brought up the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, hoping that would help assuage the feelings of some perturbed Jets fans.

"I look at it this way: What was the kind of impact Roger Clemens had?" Ryan said. "He was a Red Sox and went over to the Yankees and helped out there. I kind of look at Johnny Damon with the same type of deal. So, if Jason could have the same impact on the Jets as those players had on the Yankees and we win a championship, I think we'll all be happy."

Ryan said Taylor, who had seven sacks last season, will play a significant role. Although he believes Taylor can register double-digit sacks, he won't be in there strictly on passing downs. He'll also spell linebackers Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace with hopes of keeping everyone fresh for the final 15 minutes.

"The ability to finish teams off in the fourth quarter is going to be critical," Ryan said, "and I think Jason is going to be a major contributor for us this year."

A year that has lofty expectations, given all the Jets' headline-grabbing moves this offseason that have teams gunning to knock them off.

"They better be," Ryan said. "We're gunning for them. So what's the difference?"

Notes & quotes: Ryan scoffed at a report stating the Jets are looking to trade or possibly even release Thomas, LG Alan Faneca and DE Shaun Ellis. "I guess you can throw enough names out there that maybe you hit on one, so, whatever," Ryan said. "Nice report."

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