Leon Washington, the versatile runningback whose explosive return abilities helped clinch the Jets key wins before a broken leg ended his season, was traded to the Seattle Seahawks on Day 3 of the NFL draft.
The Seahawks acquired Washington and the Jets' seventh-round pick in the draft Saturday; the Jets got a fifth-round pick -- 139th overall -- in exchange, which they used to nab John Conner, a fullback out of Kentucky. Earlier in today's draft, the Seahawks acquired LenDale White from the Tennessee Titans. Both moves add significant depth to the position for the NFC West team.
The Jets, meanwhile, traded up in the fourth round to get running back Joe McKnight -- a move that now makes even more sense in light of the Washington trade.
At 5'11", the 198-pound former University of Southern California back resembles not only Washington's size, but his versatility on the field. And he's five years younger.
The scrappy 22-year-old knows how to elude blockers, but, like, Washington, he doesn't have the size to be an every-down power back. His ability to burst quickly through a tight hole and take off down the field, however, gives the Jets the same deep running threat that Washington brought to the table. McKnight's solid receiving skills -- whether in terms of screens or downfield shots -- also make him a formidable force on the field.
Plus, McKnight gets to be reunited with his former college teammate Mark Sanchez, the Jets' number one pick in last year's draft who, protected by one of the NFL's strongest offensive lines and bailed out by its best defense, helped propel Gang Green to its first appearance in the AFC Championship game in more than a decade.
The Jets released veteran RB Thomas Jones earlier this year after a career high season. The 31-year-old's productivity plunged as the team moved forward in the playoffs, and Shonn Greene, whom the team traded up to get in last year's draft, picked up the slack. Even before Jones' release, Gang Green appeared confident that the speedy 24-year-old back out of Iowa would be the feature back -- and at nearly 240 pounds, he possesses a goal line threat that makes him a force to contend with at any point on the field.
With Washington headed to Seattle, the Jets now have Greene, former San Diego Chargers superstar and league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and McKnight in the backfield -- a trio with a versatile set of skills that will allow the team to capitalize on the rushing game, in which the Jets led the league last year, and open up plays for Sanchez.
The Jets are poised to build a fiercely elite core of running backs on the shoulders of Greene and now, McKnight -- and while those two develop, the veteran Tomlinson will help carry the load.
Washington ran for only 330 yards last season before suffering a brutal right leg injury against the Oakland Raiders in Week 7. An Oakland player rolled onto the 27-year-old's ankle, forcing his leg to bend awkwardly and causing a compound fracture of the fibula. The bone broke right through the skin.
Washington had surgery immediately after the horrific injury and was said to be recovering. He last appeared publicly in New York for a rally for the Jets before they flew to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in last season's AFC Championship Game.
Known for his agility on the field, capacity to make huge plays off what would appear to be a 1-yard gain and toughness in light of his injury earned him the respect of Jets fans and the roaring applause of the crowd that gathered at that Times Square rally in January.
No doubt, we'll all be a little sad to see him go.
But, given the bold moves Gang Green has made in the last few months, we have reason to be even more excited for the future.