Hang on to your Vernon Gholston jerseys.
Despite reports to the contrary, the uninspiring play of the Jets' 2008 first-round pick won't lead the Jets to sever ties with the linebacker who's been officially tagged with the bust label.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum said in his season-ending press conference this afternoon that his expectations are that Gholston, who posted a mediocre 14 tackles and zero sacks in 16 games, will be back. Some thought the Jets were going to cut Gholston since there wouldn't be much of a cap hit in an uncapped year.
Not so, according to Tannenbaum. But he did admit Gholston isn't living up to the lofty expectations that come with being the sixth overall selection.
"He has not played as well as he has hoped or we would have hoped," Tannenbaum said. "The attributes of why we drafted him is what gives me hope there which is really a great work ethic. He's 23 years old and this is going to be an important off?season for him."
As for Kerry Rhodes and the comments he made on SNY last night about wanting to be back and how the Jets want him back, Tannenbaum indicated that Rhodes is part of the Jets' 2010 plans.
"I'll just echo the sentiments of what Rex said. We expect him to be back," Tannenbaum said. "Unless something changes, he will be back. I'm sure we'll have more discussions with Rex and some of the coaches where hopefully the level of consistency for both him and us is there throughout the 2010 season. And that kind of goes back to my opening comments which are, we need to have a good off?season and Kerry is one of those players who could really benefit from a very productive 2010, starting in March with the off?season. So a lot of the discussions are really non?contractual, non?economical."
Tannenbaum talked about Pro Bowl KR/RB Leon Washington, who made $535,000 in the final year of his deal. The Jets plan on tendering Washington, who broke his right fibula in October and thinks he'll be 100 percent by the opener.
"I would say that we are definitely going to tender Leon, unless something happens differently with the CBA, which is always a possibility," he said. "Our plan right now is we will tender Leon. We expect him to be back. In terms of a long?term deal, we will just see how that goes over the off?season. Leon is a remarkable guy. I had some time with him Thursday night before we went to Indianapolis and he was as excited and as nervous as if he was playing the game.
"He is a Jet and we are really fortunate to have him. He has an infectious personality, highly competitive and our plan now is to tender him because he will be restricted under the CBA and then we will go from there."
Tannenbaum also said he expects veteran running back Thomas Jones, who will be 32 by the time the season opener rolls around in September, back. Jones was essentially unseated by rookie running back Shonn Greene in the postseason as the Jets' No. 1 running back.
So he would likely be a reserve if he came back and it sounds like his total salary of $5.8 million is a bit much, even for a guy who made $900,000 in what turned out to be a career year where he rushed for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"There are some economic issues that obviously have to be looked at over the next month, but we hope that he is back," Tannenbaum said. "He's done a lot for our team, both on and off the field. Rex has talked about what he's done from a leadership standpoint. We look at his production and its really remarkable, but it's a testament to TJ."
Asked specifically if the economic issues he mentioned with Jones are with the team or player, Tannenbaum said: "It could be a little of each, but we'll see. We have a month to see how that plays out, but again we hope to have him back."
Surprisingly, Tannenbaum said the Jets will tender backup QB Kellen Clemens, who's voiced a desire to test the waters to see if he can be a starter somewhere. He'll likely be tendered as a second-round pick.
"That’s his original draft choice," Tannenbaum said. "Again, that's kind of in pencil right now. There are some nuances to draft class and who you tender and how that could affect other restricted free agents in that same year."
One person who most likely won't be back is CB Lito Sheppard. He's due a $10 million roster bonus and there's no way the Jets are going to pay that, especially give how he fell so far out of favor that Rex Ryan changed things up and went with CB Dwight Lowery over him opposite Pro Bowl CB Darrelle Revis.
Tannenbaum might have to get creative, though, this offseason because of the current collective bargaining agreement. The Jets can't sign another free agent unless they lose one. And if they did sign a free agent after losing one of their own, the money would have to match. That means if a backup nose tackle left for another team in free agency and signed, say, a contract with a base salary of $2 million the first year of the deal, that's all the Jets could sign, say, a free agent linebacker for -- $2 million.
They are kind of victims of their own success.
"We've already had preliminary personal meetings," Tannenbaum said. "It’s a challenge for us, but we embrace challenges and there are still ways to improve the team. We’ve seen that sometimes it's not the most noteworthy signing or a trade that you make that pays off. Sometimes it's guys like Marquice Cole or [Mike] DeVito after the draft, to name a few.
"There are ways to improve the team and we have a couple visits set up next week and we talk about every rock, every day, so it's another challenge. We will embrace it. We won’t make it an excuse and there are ways to improve the team."