The Jets quarterback on defense, safety Jim Leonard enters this offseason period as an unrestricted free agent. With injuries cutting Leonard's season short the past two years, will New York's front office roll the dice on the injury prone safety or let him test the waters of free agency?
The Green and White were plagued by inconsistent play from the safety position in 2011, particularly after Leonard went on season-ending injured reserved following a collision during the Jets Week 13 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Just one year earlier, Leonard smashed into wide receiver Patrick Turner in practice, shattering his tibia and forcing him out of action for the remainder of 2010.
Undrafted out of Wisconsin, Leonard's cerebral approach and fearless style of play make him a valuable player on the free agent market. With the Jets struggling to find leadership and stability in the locker room, Leonard's presence and poise would certainly help New York keep its house in order.
While Leonard's impact on teammates and command on the field cannot be questioned, his diminutive stature has absorbed the blame for both injuries and the Jets inability to cover big tight ends in the secondary. New York was victimized by New England's dynamic tight ends in Aaron Hernandez and Ron Gronkowski this past NFL season.
As Gang Green has their sights set on an agile and physical safety via free agency or the draft, it's unclear whether Leonard is in the team's plans for 2012. Given the Jets poor team chemistry and camaraderie issues, Leonard would be the perfect candidate to alleviate New York's lack of synergy.
Pairing Leonard with a big physical safety, ala Tyvon Branch, would enable the Jets to mix up their coverages and jam opposing tight ends at the line of scrimmage. As pundits point to Leonard's injury history as a red flag, there's no question that the Green and White would be making a colossal mistake in letting the wily safety play elsewhere next season.
Rick Laughland covers the New York Jets for Greenandwhitereport.comblog comments powered by Disqus