August 01, 2011
In 2010, the New York Jets had one of the best secondaries — and best defenses — in the NFL, finishing seventh in Football Outsiders' pass defense metrics. Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum tried to make things even better this offseason by attempting to sign free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) and pair him with fellow shutdown corner Darrelle Revis(notes). That didn't happen, as Asomugha went to the Philadelphia Eagles after the Eagles mounted a last-minute offensive. Still, the Jets are going forward with one of the league's better cornerback tandems — the same one they had last season.
On Monday morning, it was announced that the Jets agreed to terms with cornerback Antonio Cromartie on a four-year, $32 million contract. Cromartie was originally traded from San Diego to New York before the 2010 season for a conditional pick that turned into a second-rounder based on Cromartie's production. According to STATS, Inc., Cromartie had the fifth-best percentage of catches allowed per targets among corners targeted at least 50 times, giving up 47 passes in 107 targets for a 43.9 percent catch rate.
However, he was also debited for giving up seven touchdowns, the most of any cornerback in the catch rate top 10. Among qualifying cornerbacks, only Washington's DeAngelo Hall(notes) and Cleveland's Sheldon Brown(notes) gave up more scores. This stat speaks to the downside of Cromartie's estimable athletic talent — he's a player able to cover anyone in any part of the field, but he will suffer coverage lapses and give up the occasional exasperating play. It's just the nature of the beast.
He also had 17 passes defensed, which tells you two things — first, he's going to get to some balls other players will not. Second, there are some plays that could be interceptions that are not in his case. That's not to say that Cromartie isn't a player who would be an upgrade for most teams — an enormous update in many cases — but it does indicate just why the Jets were hoping to upgrade with the amazing Asomugha, who would never qualify for our catch rate metrics because teams refuse to throw at him very often.
Spoiled to a degree by the greatness of Revis (who, by the way, finished first in the NFL in that same catch rate stat), the Jets hoped for just a bit more. But there's nothing about Cromartie's game that makes him a compromise choice. Add in 2010 first-round choice Kyle Wilson(notes) as a nickel back and rotation player, and Rex Ryan still has an impressive secondary to work with.
The Jets shot for the stars and hit the moon. Not bad for a backup plan…
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