Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The End
By Ben Valentine

John Abraham’s tenure with Jets has officially come to a close.

Tuesday night, the Jets dealt their All Pro defensive end to the Atlanta Falcons, the team of his choice, for the 29th pick in April’s draft. The Falcons acquired the pick along with a couple of middle rounders from Denver in exchange for their 15th pick. The Falcons clearly didn’t want to part with their first rounder for just Abraham and the extra picks acquired from the Broncos softens the blow. In addition, it will save Atlanta of having to pay a first round pick, since they now have committed a great deal of money to Abraham.

No Jet drew more ire from fans and media than Abraham during his stay in New York while producing so much. Sure, guys like Doug Jolley and Justin McCariens hear it from those outlets, but they aren’t contributing much of anything to the team. Abraham was arguably the most important player on the Jets defense for his entire time in New York. The problem was injuries; Abraham was hurt often. He missed the second half of both the 2003 and 2004 season. The image of the All Pro standing on the sidelines in Pittsburgh for the Divisional Playoff is something that was permanently burned into the memories of fans, so much so Abraham probably could never have won them back unless he led the Jets to a Super Bowl.

That being said, Abraham’s stay in New York should be considered a success. No individual player on the Jets did more to improve his teammates than Abraham with his pass rushing abilities. It allowed players like Shaun Ellis and Jonathan Vilma to be freed up of extra blockers while also helping out the weakest link on the Jets’ D; the secondary. Nothing can make a defensive back more effective than a defensive end who causes all types of problems for a QB. And when he was on the field that’s exactly what Abraham did.

In many ways it’s a shame the relationship had to end this way; one wonders what kind of force Abraham could have been alternating between lineman and linebacker in the 3-4 style defense new coach Eric Mangini has brought with him from New England. But Abraham wanted out and with the Jets in their rebuilding mode, it made little sense to keep a disgruntled player, let alone try to sign him to a long term deal.

Did the Jets not get enough for Abraham? Generally it’s hard to quibble when a team gets a first round pick back for any player, though many fans probably feel it would have nice for the Jets to have gotten the 15th pick from the Falcons. But it was not to be, and the 29th pick of the first round is nothing to sneeze at. It gives the Jets three picks in the top 40 and puts them in a position to get three building blocks to fit into their rebuilding process.

It is important to note that high picks for player deals seem to end up favoring the team that received the picks. While Corey Dillon did benefit the Patriots, Peerless Price, Keyshawn Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, Laverneous Coles , and AJ Feeley all backfired on the teams that acquired them. Abraham certainly will fit into that boom or bust category; he will either stay on the field and remain an impact player on defense, or spend a lot of time on the sidelines, eating up cap space instead of opposing QBs.

For the Jets this year, there is no replacement for Abraham. Bryan Thomas will most likely slide into his spot on the end. However, Thomas has struggled just to be an adequate lineman. It is hard to imagine he will suddenly develop into a force off the end. In the draft there are intriguing prospects, but the Jets figure to spend the fourth overall pick on either a quarterback or D’Brickashaw Ferguson. There is also a chance the Jets could trade their newly acquired pick in an attempt to move up to #1 or #2 in the draft to grab the quarterback of their choice. However, that would be foolish. Right now the Jets need talented, cheap, young bodies.

The Falcons, meanwhile, got their man. They now have one of the most exciting players in football on defense to go with the firecracker they’ve got on offense. Michael Vick no doubt knows how effective Abraham can be at tracking down opposing QBs; he was one of the primary reasons the Jets defense made Vick look miserable on Monday Night Football earlier this year(Vick posted a 13.3 QB rating). The questions will persist with Vick and the offensive scheme down there in Georgia, but the defense should improve as long as Abraham is on the field. Of course, like Mr. Vick, that will be a question which will linger throughout the season. However when it comes down to it, what are the odds the Falcons were going to get a player of Abraham’s caliber at 15? Thus it is hard to fault them for this deal. It may not work out but when you have a player of this caliber you have to roll the dice.

Right now there is no way to determine who wins with the trade. Any trade which involves picks for players comes down to what the team with the pick does with it. When the Jets traded Keyshawn Johnson to Tampa Bay, it allowed them to not only pick up extra picks, but the flexibility to draft the best available player with their actual pick. Those picks turned into Abraham, Ellis and Chad Pennington; three of the key components to the success the Jets have had over the past four years.

So check back in a couple years. Then we’ll be able to clearly see who got the better end in the deal.


Blogger Todd said...

I could see the Jets picking up DE Mario Williams at #4 and a OT at #29.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

It's certainly possible, especially if they go and pick up Jon Runyan as they are rumored to be interested in doing. I don't know though. I tend to think the Jets will want to make a splash to keep their fan base interested in the team next year. One of the QBs would do that.

Honestly, it's tough for me to get a read on what this team is going to do. A lot may depend on what happens with the Saints' pick at #2.

11:49 PM  

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