Analysis of the Donnie Abraham situation

Donnie Abraham is a good cornerback. Ty Law is a great cornerback.

If the Jets decide to go with a waffling Abraham over Law, it could come back to bite the team in 2005.

Abraham decided last week to possibly resume his Jets career. This decision came after he skipped the first two months of the Jets' offseason conditioning program while he contemplated his future. Abraham's reservations about playing in 2005 were reportedly related to his children's schooling. Abraham splits the year between Tampa Bay and New York, and his kids do the same.

During his first three years with the Jets, his kids would school in New York during the football season, and in Tampa Bay in the offseason. Abraham didn't want to put his kids through this anymore, so he was thinking of retirement.

Last week, Abraham he announced he was coming back -- at least for now. He worked out a compromise with the team that allows him to fly directly home from road games, a rarity in pro sports.So when his teammates board the team charter, Abraham will jump on a commercial plane and head home to Tampa. Then he will likely rejoin the team on Wednesday when practice resumes.

While Abraham's dedication as a father is admirable, you have to wonder if two sets of rules are a bad idea in pro sports. Don't you think there are many players who would like to fly home from road games for a few days instead of flying back on the team charter? Don't you think Jets guard Pete Kendall, a father of three whose family lives in the Boston area, would like to do the same thing?

And this begs the question: Is Abraham a good enough player to merit such treatment? Usually special rules apply to superstars. Abraham is a solid player, but not a star. And one of the reason's he's not a star is his lack of great speed. He has great instincts, but his lack of ideal recovery speed was apparent last year in several games.

The Jets played mostly Cover Two Zone for Abraham his first two years in New York. This fit his skillset perfectly. He excelled in that system while in Tampa Bay during the first six years of his career. But last year, with the arrival of defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, the Jets used more man-to-man, something Abraham isn't very good at.

We will give you a few examples:

In the Rams game, wide receiver Torry Holt got behind Abraham for a gain of 26 in the first quarter. Then in overtime, running back Stephen Jackson got by Abraham for a gain of 22 to set up the game-winning field goal. In Buffalo, wide receiver Lee Evans beat him for a 4-yard touchdown on a fade route. He was also beat by wide receiver Eric Moulds down the sidelines on a 26-yard completion. Against Baltimore, he gave up completions of 23 yards to wide receiver Travis Taylor and 21 yards in overtime to wide receiver Kevin Johnson, setting up the winning field goal. He gave up a touchdown to Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens. Against San Francisco, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd got behind Abraham for a 33-yard touchdown. Abraham was called for illegal contact in both Miami games, and against Pittsburgh.

He had some impressive plays as well, including an interception for a touchdown in Miami and another pick against Pittsburgh in the regular season game.

But the aformentioned bad plays can be mainly attributed to his speed issue. He just doesn't have the type of recovery speed necessary for NFL starting cornerbacks.

Abraham didn't have great speed when he entered the league in 1996 out of East Tennessee State. So after nine ears in the league, it stands to reason that he might have lost a step he couldn't afford to lose, especially in a man-to-man based system.

And missing two months of the offseason conditioning program while he made up his mind was the last thing a 31-year-old NFL player needed. As athletes get older, they generally need more conditioning, not less. How do you think so many older athletes, such as wide receiver Jerry Rice, pitcher Roger Clemens and basketball forward Reggie Miller, hang around so long -- tireless conditioning.

Abraham could ill afford to miss two months of the 2005 offseason conditioning program.While he did some work in Tampa Bay, it's not the same.

Plus, Abraham doesn't seem like a guy who is totally committed to playing this year.

"I have my priorities straight," Abraham told the Star-Ledger. "It's the Lord first, my family second and then it's football. Any of the first two can jeopardize the third thing. That's just the way I am. Some guys have football ahead of everything.

"Who knows where this thing is going to go? I'm coming back to OTAs and see how things go. Part of you wants to keep going and part of you is saying maybe that's enough."

If part of a player is saying "maybe that's enough," then it's time to retire. So it's time for the Jets to turn the page on Abraham, thank him for his solid work, and move on to Law, a future Hall-of-Famer.

Why the Jets are jumping through hoops to accommodate Abraham is perplexing. At this stage of his career, he's not worthy of this treatment. If he wants to stay on the team, he should have to abide by the same rules as all the other players.

The Jets secondary was average at best last year. They had their good moments, but there were also a myriad of blown coverages in 2004. After the Jets-St. Louis game, Rams coach Mike Martz told CBS in a production meeting the Jets had, "worst secondary he has ever seen." Rams quarterback Marc Bulger passed for 450 yards against the Jets in that game.

While the Jets did add three promising defensive backs in the 2005 draft (cornerback Justin Miller and safeties Kerry Rhodes and Andre Maddox), they are all raw prospects who will need a year or two of work before having a significant impact on the defense. The Jets need a player who could elevate this secondary now, and Law could be that guy.

And if an indecisive Abraham stands in the way of the Jets signing this elite cornerback, it could really end up hurting the Jets in 2005.

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