Jets Offering Mixed Signals on Their Offensive Direction

The Jets cleared more cap space by releasing tight end Chris Baker on Friday, a move that wasn't totally unexpected after Dustin Keller's strong rookie season. Baker and the Jets have sniped back and forth on contract issues over the years as well, but they will miss his blocking skills and will need to bring someone in to help Keller handle that part of the job.

There's also word that they are about to release right guard Brandon Moore, saving another $7 million in the process. It's a financial decision, Moore's a good player but he isn't worth $7 million, but one that breaks up what turned out to be a good run blocking line in 2008. With so much of line success built on chemistry and familiarity with scheme and teammates, these two moves would seem to indicate that the Jets will not be focusing on the run in 2009.

But they have to be focusing on the run, don't they? They've got no quarterback, mediocre receivers and a coach who doesn't seem like the type who minds winning games behind a strong defense and an offense that stays out of the way. Rex Ryan has also said, more than once, that he doesn't feel the team absolutely needs a veteran quarterback to battle Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff for the starting job this summer. A willingness to go with Clemens or Ratliff spells a belief in the run, a belief that's in direct contrast with the recent moves.

Even if they did have a vet, they'd want as robust a running game as possible to take the pressure off the passing game. At the very least, losing Baker and Moore, neither of whom should ever get to thinking they're irreplaceable, makes that harder. It also means they'll have two more spots to address in an offseason that wasn't lacking for them in the first place.

Further confusing the whole mess is Dave Hutchinson's report in Monday's Newark Star-Ledger that the team is nearing a new deal with fullback Tony Richardson. It's a sound move, because Richardson's an excellent lead blocker for tailbacks Thomas Jones and Leon Washingon.  At this point, though, you have to assume G.M. Mike Tannenbaum will find a way to give him contract terms that become unfriendly a year from now. Baker, Moore and a pending issue with Laveranues Coles are all examples of a Jets inability to make deals that work well for them, necessitating a yearly dance to find their way under the cap.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to and in addition to his duties for

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