But he will also have to keep an eye on players signing elsewhere. In the first major defection, receiver Brad Smith agreed to a four-year, $15 million contract with the . Though Smith played behind Holmes and Braylon Edwards, he was valued for his versatility. Last season, he caught 44 passes, carried the ball 38 times and passed 3 times. He was also the team’s top kick returner.
Mark Bartelstein, Smith’s agent, said he spoke with the Jets and other clubs, but the Bills had the best plan for featuring Smith. “The Jets were great with Brad, but he was intrigued with how the Bills want to use him,” he said.
Bartelstein added that the Jets were so busy with other business, perhaps the pursuit of Nnamdi Asomugha, that it was difficult to quickly reach a deal for Smith.
The Jets appear interested in the Asomugha sweepstakes partly because he is friends with team’s other star cornerback, Darrelle Revis, but also because they view the cornerback position as a key to a successful defense. The incumbent, , is also a free agent and has signaled that he would like to negotiate with other teams.
“Corners is a huge priority for our football team because we play so much man coverage,” Coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday. “I have a philosophy that you lose games fastest at cornerback and quarterbacks.”
Cromartie, who came to the Jets last season after four years with the Chargers, was a mildly successful counterweight to Revis, one of the best at his position. Cromartie had 3 interceptions, a fumble recovery and 41 tackles.
, 30, had no interceptions and a career-low 17 tackles last season with the Raiders, but that was primarily because opposing quarterbacks avoided throwing to receivers he covered. He went to the Pro Bowl for the third straight year and has proven durable, appearing in at least 14 games in each of his first eight seasons.
While Ryan said he was confident that players are interested in coming to the Jets because of their team, their facilities and easy access to New York City, Asomugha may prefer to stay in California, where he grew up.
Revis called Asomugha the best cornerback in the league — which, given Revis’s high-profile holdout last season, could be a bit of false modesty to lure Asomugha to the Jets. Revis declined to say whether he would restructure his seven-year, $55 million contract that he signed in 2010 to give Tannenbaum more flexibility to sign Asomugha.
One of the alternatives, Johnathan Joseph of the Bengals, signed with the Texans on Thursday night. Carlos Rogers of the Redskins is still available.
On Thursday, the Jets also signed another six undrafted free agents, including two safeties, Byron Landor of Baylor and Davon Morgan of Virginia Tech, to go with the 10 undrafted free agents signed Wednesday.