New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum watches pre-game warmups...

New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum watches pre-game warmups before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (Photo by John Dunn) Credit: John Dunn

Free agency can’t come soon enough for Mike Tannenbaum.

For the Jets general manager, March 13 will be the first step toward putting a disappointing 2011 season behind him.

“It should be a lot of fun, a lot of excitement,” he said of the free agency period, which begins at 4 p.m., on WFAN radio Thursday morning. “We’ve talked to a number of teams and we’ll see where things go. To me, it’s the first opportunity to put 2011 behind and go to 2012.”

But this year, there won’t be any midnight meetings between him, Rex Ryan and any free agents -- as was the case three years ago with Bart Scott when free agency began after midnight.

“We’re really looking to try to keep our own initially and then kind of going from there,” Tannenbaum said. “I don’t expect that. This league is filled with unexpected opportunities and I do pride myself on every rock, every day, but I don’t foresee that this year.”

Tannenbaum addressed a myriad of topics during his 20-minute interview, but one of the biggest issues left to be resolved is the status of middle linebacker Bart Scott. The 31-year-old, who left the Ravens as a free agent to join Ryan and the Jets, has a fully guaranteed base salary of $4.2 million in 2012.

Scott has three years remaining on his contract.

“All options are open,” Tannenbaum said. “...He’s a good player, he’s passionate. Obviously, he was frustrated this year, but I think he was frustrated by the performance of the team. And that’s what you love about Bart. We’ll see how that goes.”

But Tannenbaum also said he doesn’t envision a scenario where the Jets would eat a significant salary cap hit for a player not on the roster.

“I don’t,” he said. “We’re going to see what we can work out with Bart, either being here or not. But we’re not in a bad position. If he’s here, he’s a guy that’s played a lot for us, won a lot of games, a leader off the field...He’s really done a lot of good things. He helped install a defense that’s been successful for us. He had some issues during the season that we’re trying to address and we appreciate his passion.”

When asked about the Jets' reported interest in Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne, Tannenbaum wouldn’t go into specifics.

“He’s a player under contract to another team, so what I will say though is, our position as a whole at quarterback, I think, has a reasonable chance to look different by opening day.”

He said the team still is looking at backups Kevin O’Connell and Mark Brunell. Tannenbaum also said Greg McElroy -- who created a firestorm after the season ended when he said there was a “corrupt mindset” in the Jets locker room -- will return “for sure.”

Tannenbaum, however, wouldn’t give any insight into his level of interest in ex-Jet Braylon Edwards. The wide receiver, who signed a one-year deal with San Francisco 49ers before being released in December, is free to sign with any team.

“We’ll see where that goes,” Tannenbaum said. “He’s done some good things in the past. And once free agency gets started we’ll go from there.”

As for LaDainian Tomlinson’s future with the franchise, the general manager said it’s “hard to say.”

“We’ve had some good conversations with him,” he said. “I’m not sure he’s sure of he wants to play yet. But he did some good things for us and we’ll leave the lines of communication open with him.”

But Tannenbaum seemed resolute -- at least for now -- as to who will be the Jets starting right tackle this season.

Wayne Hunter.

Despite Hunter’s struggles last season as a full-time starter, Tannenbaum said “We expect Wayne back. We expect him to be our starter. We expect more consistent line play. There’s no question about that.

“All our players need to play more consistently up front. ...We expect them to play better this year.” 

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