With the signing of Josh Cribbs, the Jets hope to inject some life into their struggling kick return game., though just how much Cribbs will be able to contribute following arthroscopic knee surgery remains to be seen.
It wasn't all that long ago that Cribbs set an NFL record with his eighth career kick return touchdown in 2009. One of the best to ever play the position, he also ranks as the active leader in kick returns, kick return yards, combined kick and punt returns, and combined kick and punt return yards.
But the Jets most likely aren't getting the Cribbs who was named to three Pro Bowls. He hasn't returned a kickoff for a touchdown since setting the record four years ago and was released by the Oakland Raiders during the preseason.
Health remains a concern as Cribbs failed a physical with the Arizona Cardinals in the offseason and the Jets brought him in for workouts multiple times before finally signing him Tuesday.
The addition of Cribbs comes as the Jets placed both Clyde Gates and Mike Goodson on Injured Reserve, rendering them out for the season. Kyle Wilson could also miss some time after suffering a head injury this past Sunday, leaving the Jets extremely thin on return men.
Through the first six games, the team is yet to get any sort of big plays from a special teams unit that ranks near the bottom of the league, averaging just 20.3 yards per return. The Jets don't necessarily need the Cribbs of old, they just need someone who can contribute more than what they've been getting.
Taking a chance on a veteran coming off major knee surgery has already worked out once this season for the Jets and the team hopes to catch lightning in a bottle twice with the signing of Cribbs. Though recently suspended for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, tight end Kellen Winslow similarly scared off teams this past offseason with injury concerns and has gone on to become one of the team's leading receivers.
Though he never really saw much action at wide receiver during his time with the Cleveland Browns, catching just 107 passes over eight seasons, Cribbs can play the position. With Winslow out another three games, combined with the loss of Gates and Santonio Holmes sidelined due to a hamstring injury, Cribbs might be asked to take on an additional role. The team needs all the receiving help they can get.
Signing someone of Cribbs' caliber is the type of low-risk, high-reward transaction that's certainly worth exploring. This time of year, any available player is going to have their flaws. For a short-term rental, it certainly can't hurt to see what he has left in the tank.
If Cribbs is able to return to anywhere near his old form -- it was just last season that he enjoyed something of a renaissance and was selected to the Pro Bowl -- then the Jets will have found themselves a steal. Even if he's only league average, it would be an improvement over the anemic production they've been getting.