Many Jets fans last memories of Antonio Cromartie is him whiffing on Shonn Greene en route to Greene's 53-yard touchdown in the playoffs. That play as well as some off-field issues made the former Pro Bowl cornerback available, and the Jets pounced.
Mike Tannenbaum was going to have to get creative this offseason, and he's already begun. Cromartie is 6'2, 211 pounds and is as fast as anyone in the NFL. He is quite simply an athletic freak who has every physical tool you could possibly want in a cornerback. The key is keeping him healthy and motivated.
This may remind you a little of the Lito Sheppard deal last season, and there are certainly some similiarities. Both trades are examples of Tannenbaum buying low on a former star cornerback and hoping he can bounce back. Sheppard didn't work out and was let go as he faced a $10 million dollar roster bonus. Cromartie is a free agent after 2010, so this is a one-year deal as well.
The Jets are banking that the 25 year old will return to form facing team's #2 cornerbacks with a blitzing defense ahead of him. After all, Cromartie was at his best when Shawne Merriman was at his peak and the Chargers' pass rush was fearsome. He has the ball skills and athletic ability to intercept passes and score touchdowns once he has the ball.
This also allows the Jets to have a lot more flexibility. The Jets had a gaping hole at #2 cornerback opposite Darrelle Revis. Now, Cromartie and Revis could be the top tandem in the NFL, and Dwight Lowery is much better suited as a 3rd cornerback. Now, the Jets don't have to draft a cornerback early, and a pure pass rusher is the Jets' number one need.
It's a risky move, there is no doubt about it. A 3rd round pick in 2011 isn't a steep price, but the Jets now are stuck with back to back drafts without a full complement of picks. They are clearly a win-now team, but the beauty of both this trade and the Braylon Edwards one last year is that both players are young and if they do turn it around, they are young enough to be part of the core for years to come.