|Mario Williams would do a lot for the Jets' pass rush. (US PRESSWIRE)|
By Ryan Wilson
For all the flak quarterback Mark Sanchez took last season -- deserved and otherwise -- the Jets' defense had something to do with the fall from annual playoff team to unmitigated disaster. Specific instances come to mind -- Eric Smith getting Tebow'd in the Thursday night game, Anotonio Cromartie's phantom coverage skills against the Pats (not to mention what happened to him against the Raiders) -- but the lack of a pass rush and ill-timed coverage breakdowns haunted the unit for most of the season.
That and the Jets' willingness to spend money during the offseason would naturally put them in the conversation for Mario Williams' services. The Texans' 2006 first-overall pick, who missed much of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, will be a free agent in a few weeks and there's speculation that he could become the NFL's highest-paid defensive player when he signs his next contract.
While the Jets might covet Williams, the team probably won't pursue him for one simple reason: money.
"Even though the Jets have a glaring need for a 3-4 OLB, they are expected to sit out the Williams sweepstakes," ESPN.com's Rich Cimini wrote Sunday morning. "The primary reason is cap room. As of last week, they had less than $500,000 in projected cap space. They can create room by restructuring bloated contracts and cutting players -- and they probably will -- but they evidently prefer to use the money to address several needs instead of putting all their eggs in the Williams basket."
Which makes the decision to keep Santonio Holmes around for a cool $15.3 million all the more curious. That's obviously not enough to land Williams, but it's a start. And if nothing else, it would rid the team of Holmes, who quit mid-game in Week 17 and isn't much of a Sanchez fan (despite the Valentine's Day XOXO tweet).
For now, Ryan says Sanchez is his quarterback, Holmes is his wide receiver, and Williams doesn't appear to be in the team's offseason plans. That means that the Jets will target lower-priced free agents and use the draft to fix their defense. CBSSports.com's Rob Rang has New York taking Alabama safety Mark Barron with the 16th pick, and Dane Brugler likes South Carolina outside linebacker Melvin Ingram.
Whatever happens in the coming months, one thing remains a certainty: Ryan is still planning on getting a Super Bowl ring quickly.
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