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FillinÂ’ the Trenches

Written by sports  |  13. March 2008

Jets Upgrade Both Lines in a Big Way After completing a disastrous 4-12 2007 campaign, the New York Jets had many areas that needed to be addressed, no more than both sides of the line. An entire slew of moves by Gang Green shored up many different areas of concern, although a popular former All-Pro was dealt away in the frenzy following the opening of the NFL free agency period. General manager Mike Tannenbaum right away made a necessary move by trading for 335-pound defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, sending third and fifth-round draft picks to the Carolina Panthers. Although Jenkins has not played in a 3-4 style defense, his size makes him a much better fit than the incumbent DeWayne Robinson, who is being actively shopped and was nearly traded to Cincinnati. In 2007, Jenkins recorded 52 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks. A three-time pro Bowl, he does come into town carrying some baggage, such as a weight problem and outspokenness. He also has missed 27 games in 2004 and 2005 due to knee and shoulder injuries. The Jets better hope that the 28 year-old is over his previous issues because they tore up the final two years of his contract and signed him to a five-year, $35 million deal, including $20 million guaranteed. "We did a lot of work and had a great visit with Kris," Tannenbaum said. "We like his size and athleticism and I think he's going to be a really good fit for us." Jenkins sentimented his new GMs feelings, as well. "I'm a little bit anxious about this upcoming season because I want to take on this task of this 34 defense," he said. "I'm a nose tackle. There is no excuse. There is nothing that you can say about anything, and basically I get to be the big stud in the middle who makes it easier for the linebackers and helps my team do what it needs to do to win." Part of that linebacking crew will include a new face, while an old one will not be a part of it. Jonathan Vilma, who is coming off a knee injury, was dealt to New Orleans for conditional draft picks and will be back in the more comfortable 4-3 defense that he excelled in. The former Miami Hurricane never adjusted to head coach Eric Mangini's defense and rookie David Harris stepped in and did a very good job last season, making Vilma expendable. "We do have a firm pick this year and the pick can escalate next year," said Tannenbaum. "We could acquire a pick in the 2009 draft depending on the 2008 performance that could escalate." The Jets also signed free agent linebacker Calvin Pace to a reported six-year, $42 million deal ($22 million in guaranteed money). He is a former first round selection of the Arizona Cardinals as a defensive end, but was switched to outside linebacker last season and had 106 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks, six passes defended, two picks and an interception. Moving to the offensive line, Tannenbaum picked up two players, one being the jewel of the free agent class. Former Pittsburgh Steeler Alan Faneca agreed to a five-year, $40 million contract with more than half of it guaranteed, becoming the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history. Then Damian Woody was inked to his own five-year deal, this one for $25.5 million. The former Patriot and Lion figures to take over the right tackle position, and started the final five games there a year ago. Left guard became the spotlight of troubles for the Jets in '07, and Faneca figures to make it a strong point of the team next time around. After freezing out and dealing veteran Pete Kendall, the offensive line showed its weaknesses and became a glaring spot for improvement. "It was a gut decision to the overall feeling that I had, talking to Coach Mangini and getting a sense of where the organization was going and heading," said Faneca, 31. "It just really felt like it was the right spot for me to be in with me and my family." Tannenbaum also picked up fullback Tony Richardson and there was some chatter about bringing back Ty Law to shore up the secondary.

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