Whirlwind Jets Weekend Ends With Antonio Cromartie

Cromartie is back after Asomugha chase goes wrong way.

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    Kick returns are just one good part of Cromartie's return.

    Anyone who thought Sunday was a day of rest for the Jets was sorely mistaken.

    The day started with a jolt -- Plaxico Burress returning to New York -- and it kept getting busier from there. The team reported to training camp at their headquarters in New Jersey, the draft class was all signed to contracts and, finally, they reached an agreement for a new four-year deal for Antonio Cromartie.

    Technically, the Cromartie deal wasn't done until early Monday morning, but we'll fold it in alongside all the rest because most of the heavy lifting was done in the waning hours of the weekend. The final deal -- $32 million over four years -- comes with a tinge of regret because Nnamdi Asomugha decided to join the Eagles on Friday night, but it is a pretty good one as far as backup plans go.

    Cromartie had a good overall season with the Jets in 2010, although it was marred by some big breakdowns that serve as a reminder of why the team went so hard after Asomugha. Still, Cromartie was the best guy left on the market and his skills as a kickoff returner (remember the Colts playoff game) will be nice to have on hand with Brad Smith now plying his trade in Buffalo.

    Cromartie also gives the team some stability at a key position, never a bad thing in an offseason that's being played at fast forward because of the lockout. In the long run, bringing Cromartie back and using the other money saved by losing Asomugha to bring back players like Shaun Ellis and James Ihedigbo could wind up being a big advantage to a Jets team accustomed to making a bigger splash. 

    Plax's return takes care of that all by itself anyway. Cromartie, pros and cons, is a known quantity and we can come up with a pretty good expectation level for what he'll do on the corner.

    Burress, on the other hand, is a total crapshoot, if you'll pardon the use of shoot in any close proximity to the recently incarcerated receiver. If he's a reasonable facsimilie of the guy we last saw with the Giants, the Jets will have upgraded on offense even while losing Smith and Braylon Edwards.

    That's what makes the risk of signing Burress worthwhile, but it is hardly a situation without a downside. If Burress has lost a step or if he takes extra time shaking off the rust, the Jets will find themselves in a very tough spot.

    As thrilling as the playoff runs were the last two years, they would have been unnecessary if the Jets did a better job of taking care of business in the regular season. To do that, they need to take a big step forward offensively and the chance of that happening falls squarely on Mark Sanchez's shoulders.

    Burress could do for him what he did for Eli Manning and provide a safety blanket for all manners of erratic passes down the field. Or he could wind up being a non-entity that allows defenses to take away Santonio Holmes and force Sanchez into making bad decisions while trying to make things happen.

    When you're taking risks like that on one side of the ball, it pays to have a little assurance on the other side. Cromartie helps provide that for a Jets team that hopes not to have many restful Sundays until the middle of February.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.