After losing out on Nnamdi Asomugha, the New York Jets turned to their backup plan: the guy they were trying to replace.
A person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press early Monday morning that the Jets agreed to terms on a four-year contract with Antonio Cromartie, keeping the cornerback in New York. Cromartie, acquired last offseason from San Diego, was solid for New York opposite Darrelle Revis, finishing with 42 tackles and three interceptions.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team hadn't announced the move.
"They say Cro is back, Cro is back all GangGreen fans say is Cro...lol," Cromartie wrote on his Twitter page. "I'm on my FLT headed home glad 2 b a JET...let's go win a Superbowl."
The move capped a huge day for the Jets, who signed wide receiver Plaxico Burress to a one-year deal earlier Sunday.
After signing wide receiver Santonio Holmes, their top priority, the Jets went after Asomugha and were one of the favorites to land the most-coveted player in free agency. But Asomugha surprisingly signed with Philadelphia, leaving New York to turn to a familiar face.
The Daily News and ESPN New York reported the deal is worth $32 million. Cromartie had said recently that he wasn't going to give the Jets "a hometown discount" despite wanting to be back with the team, but took less than Asomugha got from the Eagles and what Johnathan Joseph got from the Houston Texans.
New York made it clear it wanted Asomugha, who was considered an upgrade from Cromartie. Not that Cromartie was at all bad last season. Coach Rex Ryan just imagined a "No-Fly Zone" secondary with Revis and Asomugha, both considered by many to be the best cornerbacks in the league.
Apparently, Cromartie had no hard feelings. And, if there were, it was nothing a long-term deal couldn't fix.
Getting Cromartie back is a nice fallback for the Jets, who would have been scrambling to find a replacement. They drafted Kyle Wilson in the first round last year, but he might not be ready to be a starter after struggling mightily early last season.
Cromartie, who also drew interest from Oakland and San Francisco, had some impressive moments at times for the Jets, and seamlessly filled in for an injured Revis early last season as the team's top cornerback. He even showed he could be a solid kickoff returner, setting up the winning touchdown in the playoffs against Indianapolis with a 47-yard return.
The Jets could use him in that role again this season after losing versatile Brad Smith, the team's primary kick returner a year ago, to Buffalo.
New York acquired the talented but troubled Cromartie from San Diego for a conditional third-round draft pick in 2011 — which became a second-rounder based on his production. He was considered one of the rising talents in the league in 2007, when he was an All-Pro in his second season after getting an NFL-leading 10 interceptions, but struggled on and off the field. Cromartie's tackling was an issue in San Diego, but he vowed to get better when he came to New York, and clearly improved in that area although he led the defense in penalties.
Cromartie was also dealing with paternity issues at the time of the deal, with seven children by several women, but the Jets advanced him $500,000 to help clear that up. He has since married reality TV star and model Terricka Cason, and often tweets about the joys of family life and his faith.
The Jets reported for training camp at their facility in Florham Park, N.J., on Sunday, with their first practice scheduled for Monday afternoon.
"Ok guys taking off c u guys at Florham Park," Cromartie tweeted early Monday. "God Bless u all...Jet sailing 2 be a JET...goodnight 2 some and good morning to others I'm out."