The 2013 NFL season has been filled with head-scratching stories for the New York Jets. Yes, this season was supposed to be for rebuilding, but the team is 5-5 and still in position to make the playoffs — even after witnessing the debacle against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The team continues the win-one, lose-one streak; the franchise is still dealing with quarterback drama, but out of all of those, there is one curious, head-scratching story that is brewing:
The disappearance of cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
In a disastrous 2012 season, Cromartie was one of the very few bright spots on the team. When Darrelle Revis went down with his torn ACL, the Jets had no choice but to stick Cromartie on the opposition’s best receiver, and, week in and week out, Cromartie matched up against the opposition’s top receivers, and every week the cornerback would shut down those top receivers — he did this despite the lack of a legitimate pass rush and earned himself a trip to the Pro Bowl. Ten months later and he’s nowhere near the player he was last season, being one of the worst in the league at the cornerback position.
The Jets parted ways with Revis this past offseason because they thought they had an elite cornerback in Cromartie, but the way he has been playing, I’m sure there is some regret with the move. Cromartie has allowed five touchdowns and 20.5 yards per reception (a huge jump from 12.8 last season), the second highest among cornerbacks this season.
Is age a factor? Cromartie prided himself on being one of the fastest players in the league, but after seeing him get torched this season, it is clear that he has lost a step … or two. Without that speed, he doesn’t have that recovery speed and can no longer mask the flaws in his technique. The corner also isn’t as physical as he was last season; he is no longer disrupting the receiver’s routes, jamming them at the line of scrimmage, so receivers have a chance to beat Cromartie with their speed. Can it be the injuries he’s been dealing with? The injuries could be taking a toll on his aging body, and, in turn, it’s leading him to be passive.
His decline in play couldn’t have come at a worse time; the Jets are trying to make the playoffs, and Cromartie has only one year left in his contract. The way he’s been playing, it’ll be a surprise if the Jets keep him around, especially if the corner’s cap number is $15 million.
So, what should the Jets do?
One thing’s for sure: they shouldn’t cut him and get nothing. The Jets should try to generate interest and shop him around. This, of course, can be an off season for the cornerback (every player has one of those), so why not try to sell (semi) high?