Jets Should Get Leon Washington Deal Done Now

The versatile running back's salary demands are quite reasonable

When reports of Leon Washington's quest for a new contract filtered out, we remarked that it was difficult to place a price tag on a player with his skill set. Everyone wants to see him play more on offense, but that may mean he has to play less on special teams. Without his superlative kick return skills he becomes a less valuable player, unless he becomes a Brian Westbrook clone.

Maybe that happens, but you can't pay a player based on what may happen. You have to pay him based on who he is at the moment. The good news is that Washington appears to have a pretty realistic vision of how much that player is worth. He and the Jets are discussing a deal worth $3-4 million a season, according to the New York Post, and that's an amount that should make it very easy for the Jets to go forward with a contract extension.

The best comparison in the current NFL to Washington may be Devin Hester of the Bears. Hester was almost exclusively a returner for his first few seasons, a role he used to change the face of games every time he touched the ball. Hester has started playing a lot more wide receiver, which has resulted in a learning curve that's lessened his impact on kick returns. Hester makes more than $5 million a season.

Washington may not be Hester's equal on returns, but the Jets already get more value out of him on offense than the Bears get from Hester. Getting that for less money after Hester has already set the market would be a coup for G.M. Mike Tannenbaum, especially when any other major offensive weapons are going to be low-cost additions via the draft.

There are also plenty of straight-up running backs who make more and produce less than Washington. He may never be a feature back, but the NFL punishes teams that aren't smart enough to provide themselves with at least two strong options at tailback. That goes double for teams that plan to use the running game as much as the Jets.

Get Washington's deal done, and then start figuring out who you're going to match with him in the long term.

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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