When New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Miami Dolphins last September, it put Antonio Cromartie in place as the team's top pass defender. Cromartie responded well, ranking 16th overall in Pro Football Focus' cornerback ratings, but he was not at all happy about the trade that is sending his former battery mate to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Tampa Bay's 2013 first-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2014.
“It sucks. That’s my reaction: It sucks,” Cromartie told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “Losing a guy like that just sucks. A leader in the locker room, a leader in the classroom, a leader on the field. A great playmaker on the field. It just sucks losing a guy like that. I’m surprised really, to tell you the truth. I’m surprised more so than anything.”
The 29-year-old Cromartie's primary issue seems to be the fact that without Revis on the team, the Jets are primed to take a major talent hit, even with an additional first-round pick. Cromartie was traded from the San Diego Chargers to the Jets before the 2010 season, during his forst two seasons in New York, the Jets never had a losing season and made it to the 2010 AFC Championship game. But 2012's 6-10 disaster -- the Jets frequently looked far worse than their record might suggest, especially on offense -- led to a front office purge that saw John Idzik replace former general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
Communication between Idzik and Revis was never positive, and though Cromartie agreed to restructure the contract he signed in 2011 to clear up more short-term cap room, he now seems to be on a team that is perfectly willing to punt the 2013 season and rebuild over time.
No veteran likes to see that, given the short-time nature of most NFL careers.
“I know it’s a business… but I don’t even have a reaction now,” Cromartie told Mehta. “I don’t even know what to say…. I was thinking last year when I saw him that it was going to be the both of us (on the Jets) for a long time. But I understand the business standpoint of it.”
“I still think we have a chance to win,” Cromartie concluded. “It’s just about putting pieces together. And everybody buying into not only the system, but buying into [head coach] Rex [Ryan], buying into what we’re doing in the weight room. I think over the past few years, we were one of the weakest teams towards the end of the season the past two years.
"We couldn’t even finish. That’s something that we can’t have.”
Right now, the Jets are more concerned with how they're going to start. Finishing is a concern best left for another season, it seems.