Free agency preview - Part Two

When it comes to defense, expect the Jets to do quite a bit of shopping.

The Jets top three needs on defense are for a shut-down cornerback, mobile safety and a fast linebacker.

The Jets are looking to replace Aaron Beasley, and according to a team source, they don't think Jamie Henderson is a starting quality NFL cornerback.

The top two cover corners on the Jets shopping list are unavailable. Herman Edwards wanted to sign either - Champ Bailey or Chris McAllister. That isn't going to happen with Bailey inking a long-term deal with the Denver Broncos, following a trade from the Washington Redskins, and McAlister being given the franchise tag by the Baltimore Ravens for the second straight year.

So it's on to Plan B, and there are some very good second tier cornerbacks. Seattle's Shawn Springs is a talented player, but has had trouble staying healthy during his first four years in the NFL. He also has been guilty of mental lapses. But when he's healthy and focused, he is considered a shut-down cornerback.

"He is extremely smooth," said one scout. "He has speed, a burst and elite change of direction ability. He is good in press coverage and run support."

The Jets have two excellent secondary coaches in Doug Graber and Herman Edwards, so Springs could really blossom in New York.

Jacksonville's Fernando Bryant is underrated because he's played on some bad teams. The Jaguars know how good he is because they are still trying to re-sign him. While his size (5-10, 180) isn't ideal, he's an accomplished cover guy.

"Bryant is one of the league's best man-coverage guys," said one scout. "He is excellent at diagnosis and has a great feel for the position."

Buffalo's Antoine Winfield is a tremendous run support cornerback, and a solid cover guy, but isn't very good at grabbing interceptions. He has just six picks in his five years in the NFL. At 5-9, 180 pounds he is considered undersized, but don't let that fool you, he might be the toughest cornerback in the NFL.

Another excellent tackling cornerback is San Francisco's Jason Webster, but he has had a hard time staying on the field. His agent says he's healthy now, but his injury past has to be a concern. His partner in San Francisco, Ahmed Plummer is also a free agent. While he's a decent player, he has not lived up to his first round selection. He was a constant target of opposing quarterbacks last year.

Another player the Jets might consider is Dallas' Mario Edwards. Bill Parcells really likes him and wants to re-sign Edwards, but he could be had for the right price.

Two long-shots are Arizona's David Barrett and Kansas City's William Bartee, but they are more second or third cornerbacks, not shutdown cover guys.

The pick here is Springs. With some injury luck and improved focus, he can turn into a star, and the price shouldn't be too steep.

At the end of last year, the Jets starting safeties were Tyrone Carter and Sam Garnes. They were both cut on Monday, so the Jets need for more bodies at safety is obvious. While Jon McGraw will be back from a shoulder injury to man the free safety position, the Jets will target a new partner for him, at strong safety, in free agency. Talking to one Jets source, you get the sense that the team doesn't think Derek Pagel is starting material at this point. The Jets would like to improve their pass coverage at the safety positions, and Green Bay's Antuan Edwards would certainly help. He is a former cornerback who runs very well. Another player who will interest the Jets is Carolina's Deon Grant. After a disappointing first few years in the league, he really came on last year. His next team (if he doesn't re-sign with Carolina), could be getting an emerging star. He has great size (6-2, 207) and speed (4.5).

Another safety who interests the Jets is Pittsburgh's Mike Logan. However while has good size (6-0, 210), he doesn't run that well and has durability issues.

Colts safety David Gibson was drafted by Herman Edwards in Tampa Bay, so he could be on the radar screen, but he lacks speed.

The Jets should probably target Edwards or Grant because they have the type of speed the team lacked at strong safety last year. The Jets certainly don't need another speed-challenged safety.

With the release of Mo Lewis and Marvin Jones, the Jets will definitely add a free agent linebacker (and another one in the first or second round of the draft).

However, the linebacker crop is very thin in free agency.

The Jets new defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson loves Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas, but he's a better fit for a 3-4 defense at 6-2, 260 pounds. The Ravens played the 3-4 last year and he moved from defensive end to linebacker.

Tampa Bay's Nate Webster is a player Herman Edwards admires and played a big part in drafting, but at 5-11, 230 pounds is undersized. However he's got great speed, toughness and instincts that help make up for his height deficiency. He is definitely on the Jets radar screen. He is the type of mobile middle linebacker they so desperatly need. His style has been compared to Miami's Zach Thomas.

"He is very good at reading and reacting," said one scout. "He is a punishing tackler for his size. He is fearless."

Another undersized speed linebacker who could help the Jets is Detroit's Barrett Green. He is a terrific player in space and an excellent open field tackler. He is the same size as Webster.

Another name that has been attached to the Jets is Oakland's Eric Barton. While he has much better size than Webster and Green, he doesn't nearly have their speed. Barton is 6-2, 245 pounds. The Jets are getting some great insight on Barton from their new tight ends coach Bob Casullo who came over from the Raiders.

One other linebacker candidate could be Denver's speedy Ian Gold, but he's coming off major knee reconstruction, and giving him big money could be risky.

Barton and Green might be the most pragmatic targets, since they are pure outside linebackers. With Sam Cowart moving to the middle, Webster, who has played primarily in the middle, might not be a good fit.

On the defensive line, the Jets will not be very active. With the John Abraham and Shaun Ellis trade rumors being false, the Jets are in good shape at end. True Abraham could play some linebacker, but he will likely still play some end as well. The Jets have decent backups in Bryan Thomas and Matt Walters. They also added an intriguing prospect in Joey Evans this off-season.

But if the Jets decide to play Abraham at linebacker full-time (this situation is still being examined), they could go after Adalius Thomas and move him back to end, his college position.

At defensive tackle the Jets are pretty much set with Josh Evans (if he takes a paycut), Jason Ferguson, Dewayne Robertson and Tank Reed. Two defensive tackles who could interest them are former Colt Chad Bratzke and Giant Cornelius Griffin, both former pupils of new defensive line coach Denny Marcin.

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