Now comes the hard part for Jets chief negotiator Mike Tannenbaum - attempting to get McKenzie signed to a long-term deal. This could be really, really hard considering how irrational McKenzie's agents, the notorious Poston Brothers, can be. Like we mentioned in the post draft version of Jets Confidential, teams will actually avoid drafting players who are represented by these two. For instance the Washington Redskins passed on tight end Kellen Winslow because he's represented by the Poston Brothers. Kevin Poston told Pro Football Weekly after the draft that McKenzie, "loves the Jets organization, the coaching staff and the city, but he's not willing to take any offer below market value."
What market value is he referring to, the actual market value, or the market value in the world of the Poston's? Remember these are the guys who asked the St. Louis Rams for a signing bonus just under $30 million for left tackle Orlando Pace. The Rams have tried for over two years to re-sign Pace, but have had to put the franchise tag on him twice because of the wild demands of the Poston's.
One other situation to consider. The last premier free agent still on the market is former Denver linebacker Ian Gold. Guess who is agents are? You got it, the Poston Brothers.
McKenzie is a very good player, but he's not considered an elite tackle in the NFL. Remember he ended the season with a poor game in Miami, and then had shoulder surgery after the season. This procedure has to be factored into his contract situation. McKenzie has had a history of shoulder problems. In the 2001 draft, there were teams that didn't have him on their draft boards because of shoulder issues he had at Penn State. In the Jets locker room, you constantly see McKenzie with shoulder harnesses on. While his shoulders never kept him off the field with the Jets, obviously they have to be a concern.
The Jets want to keep McKenzie. He is a boon to the organization, on and off the field. Aside from being a very consistent right tackle, he might be the most active player on the roster in terms of community service. The highly-intelligent, well-read Willingboro, NJ native, almost never turns down the community relations department when asked to make a charitable appearance.
But while the Jets love having McKenzie in green and white, if the Poston's don't deal with reality, like often is the case, the Jets could possibly let McKenzie walk after this year. Why not put the franchise tag in 2005 and keep him around another year? There are two problems with that. First off, the tender figure for offensive tackles if way to high, and could be problematic for the Jets precarious cap situation. Secondly, the Jets have three other high priority free agents next off-season, quarterback Chad Pennington, and defensive ends Shaun Ellis and John Abraham. They very well might need the franchise tag for one of those three.
The Jets have contingency plans in case McKenzie leaves. Lance Nimmo, who they spent last year developing after claiming him on waivers from Tampa Bay, is a player they really like. Finding Nimmo was one of the better moves by Jets GM Terry Bradway last year, and as we know, it wasn't a good year for him. The Buccaneers tried to sneak Nimmo through waivers at the end of training camp last summer because they had a numbers problem on their roster at the time due to injuries. The Jets jumped on him, and now have a potential starting tackle. Remember Nimmo had a high grade coming out of West Virginia, and the Buccaneers picked him in the fourth round in the 2003 draft. You rarely see fourth round picks waived in late August of their first training camp. Bradway took advantage of the Buc's roster issue, and now the Jets have good insurance in case of a McKenzie departure. Nimmo is playing well in NFL Europe right now.
Also in the mix are 2004 draft picks, fourth rounder Adrian Jones, and sixth round selection Marko Cakva. They are both excellent athletes with exciting potential, but are very raw. But in a year from now when the Jets might need one of them, who knows, one might be ready.
But the best scenario is for the Jets to keep McKenzie. If he is willing to accept a similar deal to Jason Fabini ($17 million for six year), something could get done. However there is a good chance he will test the waters of free agency next year and try to get more.
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