New York Jets Free Agency: Why the Jets Should Target Cullen Jenkins

Tommy FavaloroContributor IIIMay 15, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Cullen Jenkins #77 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after a sack of quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears in the first half in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The lockout was on, the Jets drafted six college stars, then the lockout was off, and now the lockout is back on after the U.S. Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay of injunction on April 29. Players are not allowed inside team facilities, but that hasn’t stopped players from working out on their own.

In the midst of all this uncertainty as to what teams and players can and can’t do comes the question of what happens when it comes to free agency.

Unless a new collective bargaining agreement is signed, free agents cannot sign a deal with any team in the NFL. This greatly affects the Jets offseason, as the Jets have a boatload of unsigned players on their roster. Some of New York’s free agents include Braylon Edwards, Santonio Homes, Antonio Cromartie, Shaun Ellis, Brad Smith, David Harris and Brodney Pool.

There are also a host of other key players on the roster who were regulars for the Jets in 2010 but who currently do not have a contract. Needless to say, the Jets have their work cut out for them in deciding which players to sign and which players to let go of once the lockout is over and free agency goes back to normal.

Have your choice of targets that the Jets should go after. Do they re-sign Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes or both? Do they hold on to Antonio Cromartie or decide to bring back Brodney Pool? Should they go after Shaun Ellis, or will their No. 1 priority be re-signing David Harris?

There are so many free agents on the team, but not enough money to go around. Many expect the Jets to sign one of their star receivers and lock up David Harris to a long-term deal. The next order of business would be evaluating who else to hold on to, then looking outside the organization for some help.

Although the popular pick in free agency would be to go after the second-best cornerback in the NFL, Nnamdi Asomugha, Jets fans should expect a more realistic signing.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see Asomugha and Revis on the same team. But unless Asomugha takes a pay cut, he will want Darrelle Revis money, and it wouldn’t be very smart investing so much of the team’s money in one position.

A player that the Jets should look at is a Super Bowl-winning defensive tackle from last year’s Green Bay team, Cullen Jenkins. The younger brother of former Jets defensive run-stopper, Kris Jenkins, Cullen is the missing piece that the Jets need to become champions of the National Football League.

Look no further than last year’s AFC Championship game, when the Jets defense was absolutely torn apart by the Steelers. They could not contain Rashard Mendenhall in the rushing game, and in the limited amount of times that Ben Roethlisberger actually threw the ball, the pass rush was non-existent.

It wasn’t only that game in which the defensive line failed to put pressure on the quarterback. It was a major problem the entire season. The Jets pass defense finished sixth last season in passing yards per game, their weakest area on defense.

Much of this was due to the absence of defensive star Jim Leonhard; once he went down, the pass defense was exposed and teams began to understand the Jets blitzes. The defense last year did not have the luxury of having a true pass rusher. Instead, Rex Ryan was forced to blitz numbers and leave his cornerbacks in single coverage.

Jenkins would be a great addition and an excellent fit in Ryan’s defense. With him on the team, the Jets can still play their 3-4 defense and won’t have to blitz as many linebackers and defensive backs anymore because of his effectiveness in rushing the quarterback.

The 300-pounder can play defensive tackle or defensive end, has playoff experience, finished with seven sacks in 2010 and emerged as one of the NFL’s top defensive linemen throughout the 2010 season.

Jenkins did miss five games last season due to a calf injury, and he has missed a total of 17 games over the past three seasons, but that is a risk the Jets can afford to take.

The Jets drafted Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis with their first two picks to try and fill the holes on the line. While Jets fans expect these two youngsters to start right away, experts feel that Wilkerson and Ellis will need time to adjust to the NFL. Sitting behind Jenkins would only do them good, as the Jets can ease their way into professional football. In the event that Jenkins gets injured, either player can fill in.

Jenkins’ injury history can actually be a positive. The recent string of injuries can drive down his market value and the Jets might be able to get him for a pretty reasonable price. Jenkins seems to want out of Green Bay, where he will likely be a backup on the line for it next season with the slew of injured Packers players returning from injury.

As a result, Green Bay chose not to re-sign him, leaving Jenkins free to test the free agent market. The Jets will compete against teams like the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, among others, but New York is definitely a hot destination for defensive players.

It is the perfect scenario for the Jets. Jenkins will be available and he is a player that New York can afford to sign. His pass rush is much needed on this team, and he will have a good shot at winning a second consecutive Super Bowl if he decides to sign with the Jets.

The Jets need a force in the middle of the defensive line next season, and Jenkins is just the man Rex needs to back up his Super Bowl talk.