FREE-AGENT SPLURGE GIVES JETS FLEXIBILITY
By MARK CANNIZZARO
March 8, 2008 -- Alan Faneca, Calvin Pace, Kris Jenkins and Damien Woody are JetsNew York Jets .
Is Darren McFadden next?
There was a definite method to the madness of the Jets' furious free agent spending and trading flurry during the last nine days - allowing them to select the right player with the sixth overall pick in next month's NFL Draft.
"Our goal was to give us flexibility in the draft," Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum told The Post yesterday.
Tannenbaum would not reveal whom the team is targeting in the first round. But the signings of Pace, an edge pass rusher who can play on the line with his hand in the dirt or standing up as a linebacker, and offensive linemen Faneca and Woody, mean the Jets won't feel pressured to fill a need at those spots in the draft.
Entering the draft in this liberated state could mean the Jets might, if McFadden available at the No. 6 overall pick, go after the Arkansas running back, who many believe could be a franchise player.
Despite the $138 million in new contracts, including $63 million in guaranteed money, the Jets are not finished spending.
"We still have a few other things we'd like to do," Tannenbaum said, though he declined to say exactly what else the Jets are seeking.
Multiple sources familiar with the team's thinking say the next player high on their wish list is Colts tight end Ben Utecht, a non-compensation restricted free agent who could be a nice complement to Chris BakerChris Baker , who had the best season of his career in 2007.
Two other players the Jets are speaking to are Miami running back Jesse Chatman and Ravens running back Musa Smith.
One player who has been reported to be close to signing with the Jets, Patriots safety Eugene Wilson, is not likely to sign with the team. Wilson, according to an NFL source, is believed to have priced himself out of the Jets' plans.
As for nose tackle Dewayne RobertsonDewayne Robertson , the former first-round pick whom the Jets tried to trade to Cincinnati for a fourth- and a fifth-round draft pick before the Bengals backed out of the deal, a source said it's "50-50" he'll be back with the Jets in 2008.
The source conceded it would create an awkward situation, because of the fact Jenkins has been signed and the team tried to move Robertson for a modest price. The recent flurry of acquisitions might allow the Jets to trade down from the sixth overall pick, a move that would not be a popular among Jets fans, who want more. They want McFadden.