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Sheldon Richardson thrilled with return of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie

Sheldon Richardson #91 of the New York Jets

Sheldon Richardson #91 of the New York Jets reacts after Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots was sacked late in the first half at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie may not be as young as they once were, but don't think they're not still at the top of their game, Sheldon Richardson said.

"Well, Cro's coming off a Pro Bowl -- which he has been in previous years -- and Revis just won a Super Bowl. So you can't really say they're not the same [players]," Richardson told Newsday before the team's first mandatory minicamp session Tuesday. "I've seen nothing but production out of them. They're worth every penny they're paid."

The Jets committed $127 million to three free-agent cornerbacks in March -- first with the addition of Buster Skrine, who inked a four-year, $25-million deal, followed by the return of Revis, who signed a five-year, $70-million offer with $39 million guaranteed. A few days later, the Jets added Cromartie on a four-year, $32-million deal and former Chargers safety Marcus Gilchrist on a four-year, $22-million deal.

(The contracts for Cromartie and Gilchrist aren't entirely as they appear. however. Only $7 million of Cromartie's $32 million is guaranteed, meaning the Jets can cut him without major ramifications. As for Gilchrist, the Jets can opt out of his contract after the 2015 season, resulting in a modest cap hit -- $1.87 million in dead money in 2016.)

With just a few moves, and plenty of cash, the Jets revamped their woeful secondary from 2014. The additions of Revis (who turns 30 next month) and Cromartie (who turned 31 in April) were a no-brainer for first-time Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan, who had several roster holes to fill.

And they were the type of moves Richardson said he was "hoping to see last year.

"But, you know, we played with what we had," said the defensive tackle, who was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. "That's what you've got to do. Best 11 on the field."

And now their "best 11" are expecting to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks this season.

Asked how much better the Jets defense can be based on the offseason acquisitions, Richardson told reporters it'll be "a lot better," adding that he's "extra confident" now that their defensive line has Revis and Cromartie behind it. But Richardson refused to predict just how good the defense as a whole can be.

"I'll leave it up to ya'll," he said. "We're going to be a force, though . . . We're going to make a run this year. I have a feeling."

The Jets offense, and quarterback Geno Smith in particular, already has gotten a taste of this revamped defense. And according to Richardson, it hasn't been pretty.

Asked for an assessment of Smith's performance through OTAs, Richardson said: "It's tough. This defense has been on him a little bit."

But the offense will benefit from facing such stiff competition in practice, he said.

"We feel like we're the top defense in the league. If they're competing day in and day out, they should be used to it, pretty much, and getting better and competing at a high level," Richardson said. "When they play in a game, that should be an off day for them. That's how we look at it."


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