Why is Rex Ryan So Excited About Kellen Winslow?

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystJune 14, 2013

The New York Jets are a team that is desperate for an upgrade where the passing game is concerned.

Well, they say that desperation is a powerful motivator. That must be true, because it's motivating Rex Ryan and the Jets into potentially signing a player who has a much higher chance of being a headache off the field than any real help on it.


UPDATE: Friday, June 14, at 6:29 p.m. ET by Gary Davenport

 Mike Garafalo of USA Today reports that the Jets must have seen something they liked, as the team agreed to terms with Winslow on a one-year deal Friday.

---End of update---


Tight end Kellen Winslow, who played in one game for the New England Patriots last year, was recently in New York for all three days of the Jets' minicamp. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Ryan came away impressed with Winslow's ability:

“That athleticism and his ability to catch the football, it certainly jumps out,” Ryan said of Winslow’s performance during the three-day minicamp.  “He’s still a very athletic guy. . .    [Y]ou certainly feel his presence.”

As Mike Garafolo of USA Today reports, Winslow also believes that the workouts went well and that he has something to offer the Jets:

I'll tell you I'm very hungry. I've always been hungry. Whenever I step out on the football field, I want to beat my opponent. I just want to help this team and make plays for them. I am a dynamic player. I'm more of a receiver type. We have bigger bodies (on the roster) and I'm more of a receiver type. Everybody's a playmaker on this team.

OK, we have now officially disconnected from reality.

First, Winslow is already referring to the Jets as "we," even though no contract has been signed.

Second, "Everybody's a playmaker on this team?" Which team? The Jets?

And finally, there's the not-so-small matter of thinking that signing Kellen Winslow is significantly going to help the Jets as a football team.

Listen, I get that after watching the Jets pass-catchers drop ball after ball in a performance that Ryan told Matt Ehalt of ESPN New York was "unbelievable" and "has to get better," that anything starts looking good.

Any port in a storm and all that.

However, a performance over three days in shorts and shells does not exactly equate to game-day production. It's been a while since Winslow had much of that.

To be fair, as recently as two years ago, Winslow had a solid season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making 75 catches and topping 750 yards. When healthy, Winslow is an athletic tight end capable of stretching defenses down the middle of the field.

Hey! The Jets need that! (In fact, the Jets need anyone who can stretch anything anywhere) So, what's the problem?

For starters, there's the issue of Winslow's knees. The 29-year-old has had a number of surgeries on those knees, due in part to a motorcycle accident back in 2005.

Winslow didn't miss a game during his three years in Tampa, but he was limited on numerous occasions by soreness. Those knees are part of the reason why Winslow isn't in Tampa anymore.

The bigger reason, and bigger problem with Winslow, is what's going on between his ears.

Winslow is a talented player, but he's a talented player who has worked his way through four teams in nine seasons. Two of those teams traded him.

There's a reason for that. Winslow has a problem keeping his mouth shut.

After losing nearly two years to injuries and numerous clashes with the Cleveland front office, the Browns traded Winslow to Tampa. Three years and some more butting heads with a new staff later, the Buccaneers dealt Winslow to Seattle.

As Marc Sessler of NFL.com reported at the time, Winslow refused to take a pay cut with the Seahawks and was released before ever playing in a meaningful game for Seattle.

The Patriots picked up Winslow later in the 2012 season, but he didn't last two weeks on New England's roster before being shown the door.

The Jets may need to bolster the receiving corps, but the last thing that team needs is any more drama. Over the past two seasons, the Jets locker room has devolved into a circus sideshow. The Jets badly need to reverse that situation if the team is going to get back on track. Adding Winslow to the mix (in New York no less) isn't going to help put the fire out.

In fact, it's like dumping a can of gasoline on your barbecue grill. Goodbye eyebrows.

Luckily, general manager John Idzik is taking a much more cautious approach with Winslow than Ryan, according to Florio, at least publicly:

We’ll talk about that (signing Winslow). What’s nice about minicamp environments is you get three days.  Unlike when you bring veterans in, or street guys in for free agent workouts, you may get them out on the field for 45 minutes, an hour.  In minicamps we get three days with them and we’ll get to teach them some things and see how they apply it.  We thought Kellen did a nice job given the fact that you get off a plane, you get into a meeting and a couple hours later you’re out on the field.  I think all things considered, he did a pretty good job.

If Idzik's on board with signing Winslow, then I'll confess that while I still think it's a bad idea, it gains a little credence. Idzik just signed on. He's thinking long haul unlike Ryan, who is in desperation mode and trying to save his job.

There's that word again. Desperation. The powerful motivator.

It makes folks do crazy things. Sure, there's a chance that Winslow is healthy, that the last couple of seasons of adversity have matured him and that he could contribute for the Jets in 2013.

With that said, there's an even better chance that the knees are still an issue, Winslow is still a loudmouth and all signing him is going to do is make a bad situation worse.

And that makes it awfully hard to get excited about the idea of signing Kellen Winslow.

Unless, of course, you're desperate.