A heaping helping of off-season Whispers

The Jets have a sleeper at defensive tackle they are sending to Europe.

Jets Confidential has learned that right tackle Kareem McKenzie had shoulder surgery last month.

While McKenzie should be fine for training camp, you have to wonder about the stability of his shoulders. In the 2001 draft, some teams didn't even have the Penn State product on their draft boards because he failed their physical due to a rotator cuff issue.

McKenzie is a restricted free agent, who the Jets would like to sign to a long-term deal. But if they can't do that, they need to give him a first round tender, so they don't lose him. Remember McKenzie was a third round pick, and if the Jets give him a third round tender, there is a good chance another team would attempt to lure him away. Giving up a third round pick for McKenzie would be a bargain for another team . . .

Speaking of Penn State offensive linemen, we hear that contrary to numerous published reports , Jets left guard Dave Szott doesn't want to retire. Actually late in year Szott's wife and a close friend contronted a reporter and said the retirement stories were insulting and false. They both told the reporter that the offensive linemen doesn't want to retire.

If Szott's knee is okay, the Jets should probably bring him back. You could make the argument he had a better season than his partner on the left side, Jason Fabini. The 6-7 left tackle had eight penalties, and gave up a number of sacks.

But the big question will be about Szott's knee. He was injured when New England's Ted Washington fell on it in the second matchup with the Patriots. While he didn't need surgery, it's still unclear how severe the injury is. Szott can ill afford another lingering knee malady after having a knee reconstruction last year.

But with all the changes the Jets are making on defense, the last thing they need to do is reconstruct their offensive line. They are likely going to replace Brent Smith with Brandon Moore at right guard, so keeping the other four starters in place, might be the right way to go. If Smith is replaced as a starter, he could move back to the role the team orginally planned for him when he signed - backup swing tackle. With backup left tackle Lance Nimmo unproven, and the loss of backup right tackle Will Ofenheusle to retirement, Smith, a former starting tackle for the Dolphins, could be a heck of an insurance policy behind McKenzie and Fabini . . .

One of the most interesting prospects the Jets are sending to Europe is defensive tackle Alonzo Shuler. He is a big, athletic defensive tackle out of tiny Benedictine College in South Carolina. He was a standout in the 2003 rookie minicamp, but then went home to South Carolina and blew his knee out working out on his own. Now he is healthy, and the Jets feel they could have something here . . .

The Jets are sending two kick return candidates to Europe in Ian Smart and Chad Brinker. One of these two guys could emerge as the Jets returner next season. The team feels Jonathan Carter is too frail for the job. Mike Westhoff likes both Smart and Brinker, and don't be shocked if one of them gets the job.

But a move you have to question was the release of Michael Bates late in the year. After a rough start, he did a terrific job as the Jets kick returner. He broke his hand in the middle of the season and was put on injured reserve. However, he was released late in the year so he could sign with the Dallas Cowboys who needed a returner for the playoffs.

One Jets source told us late in the year Bates was not in their plans because of his age. But Bill Parcells announced a couple of weeks ago that Bates is in the Cowboys plans next year. So Parcells thinks he can still play, but the Jets think he's too old?

We think the Jets are wrong on this one. Bates ran under a 4.3 forty when he came into the league. So if he lost a step, he's probably in the 4.4-4.5 range now, which is still fast enough.

Not only was Bates a good returner for the Jets last season, but one of their best kick and punt cover guys. When he got hurt, their coverage teams weren't as good.

The Jets should have kept him around . . .

We hear John Abraham has been working out at the complex since the end of the season. This is a good sign. There aren't that many players there right now . . .

We hear free agent cornerback Chris McAllister is going to demand a signing bonus of between $16 and $19 million. The Jets are interested in the Baltimore Raven star, but that might be a little pricy. McAllister said he would like to return to the Ravens, but remember his former position coach Donnie Henderson is now the Jets defensive coordinator. This could help the Jets if the shutdown corner does reach free agency . . .

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