Same old Jets, right? Well, not so much. In two swift strokes late last week, the Jets erased a combined 18 years of history when they allowed longtime defensive end Shaun Ellis and Jerricho Cotchery to bolt the team for greener pastures.
In both cases it came down to the bottom line: money. Ellis was a free agent seeking one more multi-year deal, while Cotchery was apparently set to make too much money. No matter the reason, it couldn’t have been easy for most of the current Jets fans to watch two leaders walk out the door.
In fact, many were downright shocked to learn both players wouldn’t be wearing Jets green this season. “Man, Shaun Ellis is a brother of mine,” Jets defensive tackle Sione Pouha said. “He had to make the best decision that he [could] in his circumstance and his situation, so he’s up in New England.”
Sure, there were probably some tears shed, a few hearty handshakes and some emotional hugs, but in the end, it’s a business. Ellis, an 11-year Jet, was reportedly offered the NFL veterans minimum by the Jets. He signed with the New England Patriots instead for a reported $4 million. Cotchery apparently became expendable when Derrick Mason became available.
Although Jets coach Rex Ryan said it wasn’t a case of either-or, it’s difficult to believe that the Jets would’ve been able to pay four receivers-Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Mason, Cotchery-a premium salary. In Ellis’ case, the Jets made preemptive moves with the selection of highly touted defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis in last April’s draft. If either player lives up to the hype, the Jets shouldn’t miss Ellis.
The Jets are taking a bit of a gamble with Cotchery, though. Despite coming off a back injury, Cotchery, 29, is a quality player who could serve as a team’s third receiver. The Jets made waves with the signing of Burress, but there’s no guarantee he can be the player he was a few years ago. Mason, despite a strong 2010 with Baltimore, is 37, while fifth-round draft choice out of TCU Jeremy Kerley is a rookie.
Looking at it from a strategic standpoint, the moves were both prudent and necessary because the Jets needed to get young up front and shed salary. That’s the cold hard business of pro sports.