Keeping Up With the Jones’

After watching the Patriots strike early in the 2007 Free Agency period widening the gap in the AFC East arms race, the Jets finally counter-punched yesterday. Gang Green filled the gaping hole in their backfield by acquiring running back Thomas Jones from the NFC-champion Chicago Bears, along with the Bears second round pick, in exchange for the Jets first second-round pick. Essentially the Jets traded down from the pick 37 to 63 and get a starting back coming off consecutive 1200+ yard seasons.

On the surface it may look like a steal for the Jets. Well, that’s because it is. All the chips fell into place for the Jets to cash in on this trade, an unhappy player disappointed with sharing the backfield, a team unwilling to extend a contract expiring next year, and the availability of a handful of other starting running backs making it a buyers market. Throw in the fact the Jets not only fill a huge need, but also grab the best player available at the position, and it looks like another great move for the Mangini/Tannenbaum regime.

Jones brings the power running game that the Jets sorely lacked last year in the absence of Curtis Martin. At 5’10”, 220 lbs., Jones can run between the tackles, and be the complement to the speed and finesse of Leon Washington. Just having a threat in the backfield automatically improves the offense since defenses will be more vulnerable to Chad Pennington’s play action fakes, thus opening up the passing game. Throw in the fact Jones comes off two stellar seasons for a division champion, including a Super Bowl appearance, and the Jets seem to achieve one of the offseason priorities.

Things are not all peaches and cream though. There is always the question of dedication after signing a long-term deal, which the Jets have inked him to, though it’s less prevalent in the non-guaranteed world of the NFL. Some may question Jones’ character after some bickering the past two seasons over having to compete for playing time with Cedric Benson, while others can point to the fact that at the ripe old age of 29 he may be over the hill for a running back.

All in all, the Jets needed to make this move. Outside of Adrian Peterson, who is out of their reach in the draft, there appear to be no immediate standouts available from the college ranks, and of the NFL retreads on the market Jones was definitely the most attractive when you take performance and injury risk into consideration. I still think Leon Washington will be instrumental in this offense, but he needed a complement. Does this win the Jets a Super Bowl? Um, no. How about addressing the run defense before going that far. But it does balance the offense and take them a step closer to where they need to be, Jones works out as planned.

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