A heaping helping of off-season Whispers

Not much movement on the Chad Pennington contract front . . .

As we mentioned in that latest issue of Jets Confidential, the system of defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson is very complicated. As Ray Mickens said, "It's more complex than Belichick's."

It's perplexing as to why Herman Edwards is allowing his new defensive coordinator to put in such a difficult system considering how many problems players had in Ted Cottrell's defense. Remember how many times Edwards said they needed to simplify the defense during Cottrell's three year tenure as defensive coordinator. So coming off that, what is the point of having his new coordinator overwhelm the players with a very involved playbook?

"There's a little 3-4, there's a little 4-3, there's a little 46," said Henderson. "We have the capability of moving a couple of guys around on the snap, moving the front. We're multiple right now."

It's great to be multiple, but if guys struggle with their assignments, what good is it? At the minicamp, the defensive players had a lot of problems.

While it's still early, Edwards might want to step in and tell Henderson to pull back. Remember, not only is Henderson a first time coordinator with a new team, he got off to a late start. The Jets took a month to hire Henderson. This took away valuable time for installation of the system. Also remember the Jets have a new defensive line coach (Denny Marcin) and secondary coach (Doug Graber), and Henderson has to teach them what he is doing as well. Bill Parcells used to call this "coaching the coaches," and he tried to stay away from this as much as possible by hiring people he worked with before.

The bottom line is that in the modern NFL, with the revolving door of free agency, simple is better. This attempt by Henderson to put in a very involved system, could be problematic for the Jets, especially early in the season . . .

Jets back-up tackle Lance Nimmo continues to play well in NFL Europe for the Cologne Centurions. But you have to wonder if he is athletic enough to play left tackle in the NFL.

"Lance Nimmo works very hard," said Centurions coach Peter Vaas. "His work ethic surpasses his athleticism."

It doesn't sound like he is athletic enough for left tackle. Last season, his first with the Jets, offensive line coach Doug Morrone said he was still evaluating whether Nimmo was a better fit for left or right tackle. The Jets might need to prepare an heir apparent for right tackle Kareem McKenzie, who has an irrational agent, and is a free agent after the 2004 season. So don't be shocked if the Jets move Nimmo to right tackle in training camp, and leave him there next season. And by training him at right tackle, if McKenzie stays, Nimmo could serve as swing tackle for the Jets in the future . . .

Speaking of NFL Europe, defensive tackle Alan Harper has been very quiet over there, and you have to wonder about his future with the team. Harper is neither big (6-1, 285) or fast, so there is nothing about him that makes him standout. At this point, Harper looks like a longshot to make the team. A key to the Jets defense this year is the defensive tackles keeping the linebackers clean, so players like Jonathan Vilma can run around and make plays. You wonder if a player Harper's size can do this . . .

According to ESPN's Len Pasquerelli, there has been very little dialogue between Chad Pennington's camp and the Jets front office about a new contract. Pennington's deal is up after the 2004 season, and it would be smart for the Jets to get something done now, instead of waiting. If the team waits, and Pennington has a monster year, then the Jets will have a major problem. Remember the John Abraham, Shaun Ellis and McKenzie contracts also expire after next season. The Peyton Manning deal has raised the bar for what franchise quarterbacks will demand in the future. Manning got a contract worth $98 million with a $32 million signing bonus. We hear Jets contract guru Mike Tannenbaum wasn't thrilled with the deal that the Colts gave Manning. He knows this will impact his dealings with Pennington's camp. If a healthy Pennington, who now has the big receiver he was missing (Justin McCareins), plays the way he did in 2002, the Jets will regret waiting to give him a new deal.

So why are the Jets waiting?

"The Jets have a lot of balls in the air right now, as the team tries to secure a stadium of its own on the West End of Manhattan," wrote Pasquerelli.

Some reporters think the Westside stadium project might be impacting the Jets spending mindset. Remember Woody Johnson and the Jets organization has pledged $800 million to the project. This has led some members of the media to question whether this has a trickle down effect to the football side.

"The Jets have close to $10 million in salary cap space," wrote Rich Cimini of the New York Daily News early this off-season. "That should enable them to fill most of their needs. That is if owner Woody Johnson is willing to write big checks."

One Jets front office source thinks there is nothing to this angle.

"We are spending to the cap limit," said the source. "We're not skimping."

Getting a Pennington deal done before this season, not only is the smart thing to do, but would go a long way to dispelling this notion that the Jets stadium project is impacting their spending habits on players . . .

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