Kellen Winslow Jr. turned a three-day tryout into another chance at reviving his NFL career.
The former Pro Bowl tight end was signed to a one-year deal by the New York Jets on Friday after a solid performance during the team’s minicamp this week.
Winslow was brought in on a tryout basis and impressed coach Rex Ryan, who wouldn’t comment Thursday as to whether a signing was imminent but seemed to indicate he was pleased with what he saw.
”That athleticism and his ability to catch the football,” Ryan said, ”it certainly jumps out.”
Winslow received a call from the Jets last Saturday, flew to the New York area Monday and was practicing the next day. He was active during the minicamp practices, making several catches on throws from both Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. He was also used red-zone drills, in particular, with a few of his receptions coming in those situations.
”He’s still a very athletic guy,” Ryan said. ”How many catches he had specifically, I’m not sure, but you certainly feel his presence.”
Winslow, who turns 30 next month but said his sometimes troublesome knees were healthy, adds depth to a position thin on experience after New York allowed Dustin Keller to leave as a free agent. Jeff Cumberland, with 32 career catches in three seasons, has been the projected starter, with Konrad Reuland, a solid blocker, and former rugby player Hayden Smith the backups.
Winslow played in just one game last season with New England before asking for his release. He expected to get another shot, but was left wondering about his NFL career this offseason when no calls came. Winslow said after his first practice with the Jets that ”I have years left.”
Before leaving the team’s locker room Thursday, Winslow said he hadn’t heard yet if he would be signed by the Jets but made it clear he thought he could add something to Marty Mornhinweg’s offense.
”I feel like it would be a great spot,” Winslow said. ”I like it here. I like the team, I like the teammates. Hopefully, I can stay.”
Winslow, the son of Hall of Famer and former Chargers star Kellen Winslow, was a first-round draft pick of Cleveland in 2004. After a broken right leg as a rookie and a torn knee ligament the next year, Winslow had 89 catches in 2006 and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate the following year.
He was traded to Tampa Bay in 2009 and had solid seasons of 77, 66 and 75 catches. The Buccaneers traded him to Seattle before last season, but he was waived in September after declining to reduce his salary. He signed with New England a few weeks later and played one game with one catch for 12 yards before asking for and being granted his release.
”We thought Kellen did a nice job given the fact that you get off a plane, you get into a meeting, and a couple hours later you’re out on the field,” general manager John Idzik said. ”I think all things considered, he did a pretty good job.”