A heaping helping of off-season Whispers

There are some people speculating that the Jets slapped the franchise tag on John Abraham with the intention of trading him.<p>

That isn't happening. Herman Edwards, Terry Bradway and Donnie Henderson know how valuable Abraham is, and they aren't letting him out of New York. So if the Jets talk to the Minnesota Vikings about Randy Moss, which we hear they will, Abraham likely won't be part of the offer.

If you want a game that clearly points out the value of Abraham, just pop in a tape of the Jets-Rams game in Week 17. Abraham was sidelined with a knee injury, and Rams quarterback Marc Bulger torched the Jets secondary for 450 yards. A few days after the game, Rams coach Mike Martz called the Jets secondary one of the worst he has ever seen. Without Abraham rushing off the edge, the Jets defense isn't the same. He's one of the NFL's premier pass rushers, and with the new rules making the job of defensive backs unbelievably difficult, the ability to put pressure on the quarterback is essential. If you make defensive backs cover too long, especially units devoid of a shutdown cornerback like the Jets, they will be exposed. There is no way that Edwards, Bradway and Henderson are going to allow Abraham out of Hempstead.

"He has been phenomenal," said Bradway. "He's a heck of a player."

And this isn't Bradway blowing smoke. That is how he feels about Abraham . . .

In a move that could come back to bite them, the Jets let one of the NFL's best strength coaches walk. John Lott left on Monday to take the same job with the Cleveland Browns, under new coach Romeo "Rac" Crennel.

Lott was still under contract, so they didn't have to let him go.

"Cleveland asked and we granted permission," said a Jets source.

From what we hear, Lott and Edwards at times didn't see eye-to-eye. Lott is from the Bill Parcells school, and takes a more hard-nosed, taskmaster approach to things than Edwards. Lott now gets to re-join a Parcells guy in Crennel, who will do things more like "The Big Tuna." Lott and Crennel are in lockstep ideologically.

Edwards is currently conducting interviews with candidates to replace Lott. Lott's assistant, Sal Alosi, is not a candidate . . .

We hear Wayne Chrebet is working out like a maniac this off-season, and has no intention of retiring. Chrebet feels he's in the best shape of his life. There have been rumors that Chrebet might be an off-season cut, but Bradway says that isn't true.

"I expect Wayne to be back next year," said Bradway. "He's an excellent slot receiver for us."

The Jets owe Chrebet a $250,000 bonus on March 1. So far they haven't approached Chrebet about re-working his contract.

With Mike Heimerdinger taking over as offensive coordinator, Chrebet could have a bigger role than last year. Heimerdinger likes playing a lot of three and four wide receiver sets, so Chrebet could be a big part of this. Also, Heimerdinger's system is complex, and the cerebral Chrebet should be one of the first players to become comfortable with the playbook . . .

We hear Justin McCareins is ecstatic with the arrival of Heimerdinger, who he played for in Tennessee for three years. According to an NFL source, McCareins wasn't happy last year in Paul Hackett's offense, and was wondering privately why the Jets bothered bringing him in if they weren't going to use him right. In Tennessee, McCareins was used as more of a vertical threat. But in Hackett's offense, he rarely went down field. McCareins runs real well for a 218-pound receiver, clocking a 4.45 forty before the draft. Expect Heimerdinger to call more plays for him down field.

One of Heimerdinger's assets is his ability to find players strengths and then calling plays for them that fit their skill-set. He is also very good at finding weaknesses in a defense and game-planning accordingly.

According to one source close to the Jets, Hackett wasn't particularly effective at varying his game plans.

"Hackett had basically the same game plan for every team," said the source.

A player who would be a good fit for the Jets with the 26th pick of the first round is Clemson cornerback Justin Miller. Not only is he a talented cornerback, but a very good kick returner. So he would fill two needs. Jerricho Cotchery did a good job returning kicks at the end of the year, but the Jets don't feel he is the long-term answer.

We asked draft expert John Murphy for his thoughts on Miller.

"I am anxious to see his workout next week," said Murphy. "He was ultra productive at Clemson. There are such varying opinions of what kind of 40 time's he will post. If he hits 4.4's, he might soar. With the number of free agent corners on the market like Fred Smoot, Ken Lucas, Andre Dyson and Dwight Smith, Miller might stay on the board for the Jets' pick. That's about the area for him entering next week's Combine. Overall, he is a 20-32 type guy, but could battle for a starting spot quickly."

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