Jets sticking to same draft script despite lockout

The NFL lockout and a lack of free agency have handcuffed Mike

Tannenbaum so far this offseason.

No trades. No signings. No big splashes.

Still, the New York Jets general manager is heading into next

week’s draft with the same approach he always has.

”We’ll take the 30th-best player,” Tannenbaum said Thursday,

”whoever that is.”

That’s the usual boring draft-speak most general managers use at

this time of year, but it might actually be true this time. Part of

the reason is the fact the Jets – like every other NFL team – have

little clue what holes their roster will have once the lockout

ends, if it does.

”They’re telling us we’re going to draft now, so we’re prepared

for that,” Tannenbaum said. ”When there’s veteran free agency,

we’ll be prepared. When we can trade players, we’ll be prepared.

This is the next step of what I would say is an opportunity to

improve the team.

”Whatever the next step is after that, we’ll go for that.”

With the Jets picking late in the first round next Thursday

night, they could be targeting a defensive lineman or a pass rusher

to help Rex Ryan’s already-solid defense. But New York has plenty

of other question marks to address.

Wide receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith

could be free agents, and the Jets don’t know if any will be back.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie and defensive end Shaun Ellis are also

scheduled to be free agents. Before the lockout began, the Jets

released nose tackle Kris Jenkins and right tackle Damien Woody,

leaving big holes at key spots.

”We’re not sure what the rules are moving forward,” Tannenbaum

said. ”How many of our guys eventually we’ll be able to keep, it’s

hard to say.”

Six of the Jets’ seven draft picks during Ryan’s tenure have

been offensive players, but there’s a good chance New York will

address the defense early this year. Despite finishing third in

overall defense, Ryan’s unit wasn’t always dominant – as shown in

the first half of the Jets’ 24-19 AFC championship game loss at

Pittsburgh in January.

Getting consistent pressure on the quarterback was one culprit,

so New York might look at players such as Baylor nose tackle Phil

Taylor, Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget, Ohio State

defensive end-tackle Cam Heyward and Temple defensive end Muhammad

Wilkerson.

”Yeah, I think if we could add some depth, competition on the

defensive side, that’s something we’d like to accomplish during the

offseason,” Tannenbaum said before adding, ”if the right

opportunity comes along.”

Tannenbaum has been active during the past several offseasons

leading to the draft, pulling off major trades – running back

Thomas Jones, Holmes, Cromartie – and making big-name signings –

Woody, LaDainian Tomlinson, Alan Faneca, Calvin Pace. This has been

a different type of winter for Tannenbaum, who has also made noise

during the draft with big moves: trading up to select key players

such as Darrelle Revis and Mark Sanchez.

Whatever the rules are, Tannenbaum has one goal for the team: to

make it better – starting with the draft.

”It’s up to us as an organization to improve the team to give

us the best chance possible to be successful in 2011,” Tannenbaum

said, ”try to look back the last couple of years, try to look at

what we did well and look at areas where we can improve.”