New York Jets: It's a Young Man's Game, So How Much Time Do They Have Left?

Christopher NicholasContributor IIIJanuary 25, 2011

Ryan and Tomlin after the AFC Championship Game
Ryan and Tomlin after the AFC Championship GameAl Bello/Getty Images

With the recent loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Jets are headed into another interesting offseason.

17 players on their team is going to be on the free agent market and the other half are 30 years old. 30 in today's football society is like 65 in any other job and means one thing; you're on the decline. Some players, like L.T. and Shaun Ellis seem to have put that notion in the rearview mirror, playing some of the best football they can play. Still, there are the Jason Taylors and Kris Jenkins on the team that have contemplated retirement or demand a new deal, like Darrelle Revis.

Over the summer, those of you who have HBO saw the anxiety one player can cause on the front office with the Revis contract dispute. Whether he deserved all that money is one thing, whether the team can afford to pay the rest of their players is the main problem they will face. Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie and David Harris are all young and up for new contracts, but again who will get them?

Edwards is notorious for his lack of hands and was caught driving drunk at 4 a.m. in the middle of the season, and Holmes has also had his run in with the law last offseason. Edwards is a big physical receiver that can excel at a fade and slant route near the goal line, or dominating a smaller cornerback downfield. Holmes is one of the best receivers in the league and it pains me to say that. He's that good. He is one of the best underneath receivers which put him in space and gives him great run after the catch abilities. And in case you missed Super Bowl 43, he has great hands. Both of these receivers take full advantage of the play action passing and compliment each other extremely well. 

Cromartie showed he could still play like an Pro-Bowler on his new team. The dominating cornerback shutdown most receivers at 6'2" with 17 passes defended and 3 interceptions. He (un)fortunately comes with some baggage. Unfortunately because baggage is never good, fortunately because that's the type of player Rex Ryan likes.

David Harris is a unsung hero like Jim Leonhard, except gets a copious amount of tackles. Not league leading, but for his team. Before Ryan got there he was the quiet enforcer. He is smart. quick, and a hard hitter. If Bart Scott didn't talk they would be twins in the middle. I cannot see any downside to resigning him. But the already numerous play-makers on defense might limit the cash he deserves.

Those are the main offensive players that have contract issues. It's the players like stalwart Shaun Ellis, L.T., Jason Taylor, Kris Jenkins (although over the past two years he's only played 7 games combined), Trevor Pryce, Calvin Pace, Tony Richardson, Damien Woody and Bart Scott who are 30 or older that the Jets have to worry about. Especially on defense where they are asked to master the complex Rex Ryan defense. With only seven draft picks over the last two years, Ryan is forsaking a young rookie that over time would develop in his system, for an "over-the-hill gang" approach, or simply a smart veteran play that has had a run in with the law, that no other team wants.

But when George Allen tried that approach in the 70's, he had good regular season success but very little and limited success. Ryan needs a youth movement and needs it now, otherwise he will always be playing with war torn veterans who will fall apart in the playoffs. 

Inexperience may be the hubris of youth, but football is a young man's game and an old man's dream. Without an infusion of youth, and wise money management on both sides of the ball, the Jets may be in BIG trouble. All in all, I give the Jets three to five years to even get to the Super Bowl and when that window closes, who knows if Rex Ryan can wrangle up a team to make good on his promise of winning the big one.