Pros and Cons of New York Jets' Antonio Cromartie's Possible Move to Safety
New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie recently tweeted something that caught the eyes of his followers.The following tweet is from March 18, 2012, after the Jets received news that Reggie Nelson decided sign with the Cincinnati Bengals.
I guess I'm moving to FS— Antonio Cromartie (@ACromartie) March 18, 2012
This got many people thinking, what if Cromartie actually did make the jump to free safety?
Who knows if Cromartie was being serious or just kidding, but here are some pros and cons of Cromartie to changing from cornerback to safety.
Pro: Cromartie Is Athletic and Could Cover "Center Field"
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Antonio Cromartie is a talented defensive back and his best attributes are his speed and athletic ability.
Cromartie's speed is obvious, because when he gets the ball in his hands he is a threat to score on any play. He was used on special teams to return kicks, and his speed alone was enough to set up the Jets with good field position.
Cromartie is a big-play threat whenever he intercepts a pass, but usually he is tackled after a pick because the wide receiver is close to him. That's just the life of an NFL corner.
If Cromartie could intercept passes in space, it could mean more points on the board by the Jets defense.
Cromartie would need to learn how to read plays presnap to be the quarterback of the defense, which used to be Jim Leonhard's job on the Jets.
It would be an adjustment, but a player with the kind of speed and athleticism that Cromartie has could be a great ball-hawking free safety in the NFL.
Pro: Cromartie Can Cover Tight Ends
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Last time I checked, the New England Patriots are still in the AFC East, and that means twice a season the New York Jets must face Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Gronkowski was hands down the best tight end in the NFL last season and a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He exposed the Jets in both games they played in 2011 because they could not cover Gronkowski with a safety, corner or linebacker.
Cromartie might not be able to shut down Gronkowski for an entire game, but he would be able to challenge Gronkowski over the top.
The Jets were not only exposed by Gronkowski, but many other tight ends had great games against the Jets defense in 2011. Brent Celek (Philadelphia Eagles), Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys), Fred Davis (Washington Redskins) and Antonio Gates (San Diego Chargers) are all tight ends who put up big numbers against the Jets last season.
Cromartie playing safety would make it way more difficult for opposing quarterbacks to target the center of the field against the Jets
Many would argue that Cromartie can't cover Gronkowski, but could he do much worse than any combination of Donald Strickland and Jim Leonhard? Nothing against those guys as NFL players, but they are too small to cover tight ends consistently.
Pro: It Would Fill a Need for the Jets
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Nobody knows if Cromartie can make a successful transition to safety, but if he were to switch positions the Jets focus in the 2012 NFL Draft would probably shift from Mark Barron to developmental safety prospect.
One of the Jets' targets in the draft has been Barron, a safety from Alabama. He is the best safety prospect in the draft, but many would consider him a reach at no. 16 overall, which is the Jets' draft position this year.
He is ranked as late-first-round/early-second-round pick. Injury concerns have hurt his draft status, but if he were to fall to the Jets in the second round they would take the risk. Barron could play behind recently acquired LaRon Landry and would provide much-needed depth, given Landry's injury history.
With Cromartie and Landry as the starters, the Jets could focus on finding a pass-rusher and offensive lineman in the early draft rounds. If they miss out on Barron, they can draft a safety prospect in the later rounds.
Con: Kyle Wilson Would Start at Cornerback
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If the New York Jets moved Antonio Cromartie to safety without signing another veteran corner, Kyle Wilson would most likely be promoted from nickel corner to starting corner.
That would not bode well for the New York Jets defense.
Wilson showed flashes last season that he could become a decent corner. That said, starting him alongside Darrelle Revis would be like painting a bright-red target on his jersey.
Last season Cromartie was targeted more than Revis. Wilson is not nearly as good a corner as Cromartie, so could you imagine how much opposing offenses would pick on him?
The Jets would help fix the middle-of-the-field issues, while creating one opposite Revis.
Con: Cromartie's Contract
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Antonio Cromartie signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the New York Jets last season. That means he is payed roughly $8 million a season. (The contract Cromartie signed is backloaded, so after this season he will make over $10 million during the 2013 season and the 2014 season.)
To put that in perspective, Ed Reed makes a bit more than $7 million this season. That means Cromartie would be among the highest-paid safeties in the NFL.
I don't think any team would want to pay that much for a safety. Simply put, Cromartie makes cornerback money, so that is where he should stay.
Con: Cromartie's Weakness Is Tackling
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Antonio Cromartie is a solid no. 2 corner in the NFL, and on some teams he would probably be considered a no. 1, but a weakness in his game has always been his tackling ability.
Part of playing the safety position in the NFL is the ability to tackle in the open field. A safety is usually the last line of a defense. If a corner gets beat, the safety should be in position to tackle and prevent the touchdown.
Cromartie is very dangerous in coverage, but receivers can usually run through Cromartie after the catch. He has been susceptible to give up the big play, and that is usually due to his inability to tackle.
Tackling is a major part of being a successful safety, and unfortunately it is Cromartie's biggest flaw as a defensive back.