The Game of Risk: Leon Washington

It’s been about a month since the NFL season has officially ended.  Most of us have kept ourselves busy discussing free agents, trades, salaries, combine results, etc.  Many of these post season discussions have revolved around the news of Thomas Jones being released by the Jets this week.  In my opinion this is a huge move that can potentially disrupt the Jets ever potent running game.   What hasn’t been discussed enough however and commands more attention, regards our “other” star running back – Leon Washington.

Rich Cimini of the Daily News reported late last week that although it was not yet official,  Leon Washington, a restricted free agent, would be tendered at the 2nd round level  ( $1.759 mil )

Let’s take a quick moment to review what this all mean.  Basically the Jets have until Thursday March 4th  to make this tender official.  After that teams can sign Leon to an offer sheet and any of the following scenarios can occur:
           1.    If a team makes an unreasonable high offer:   
                The Jets decide not to match this offer and receive a 2nd round pick in exchange for Leon

2.        2.    If a team makes a reasonable offer:
                The Jets decide to match the offer and keep Leon

3.        3.    If no offer sheets are presented:
                Jets keep Leon and pay him $1.8 million to play out the season

By tendering Leon at the second round level, the Jets have basically assured themselves that if they do end up losing him,  they will be compensated for it.  This move makes me believe that Tannenbaum does want to entertain offers.  If he really wanted Leon to stick around he would have tendered him at a first round level or at least a first & third.  No team would give up either of those picks for him and we’d be 100% positive Leon would be in a Jets uniform next year.

Most of Jets nation has found solace in the wake of Thomas Jones being released by banking on the fact that Leon will definitely be back next year.   Can you be so sure of that?

Many say that no team would be willing to give up a second round draft pick for a running back coming off a season ending injury.  Keep in mind though, Leon is ahead of his rehab schedule and in the world of sports medicine, it’s often easier to come back from a fracture as opposed to a ligament or tendon injury. 

The New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Kansas City Chiefs each have multiple second round draft picks.  There is a lack of running back talent in this year’s draft, and I have to believe that one of these teams would be willing to give up one of their picks for an explosive change-of-pace back like Leon.

For these reasons and more I worry that Tannenbaum is taking a big risk with this move.  The Jets led the league in rushing last season.  Say all you want about having a dominant defense,  this team would not have made it to the AFC Championship game without such a powerful ground and pound offense.

Is such a high risk worth disrupting the one strength our offense has?  The Jets could potentially be left with only Shonn Greene.  While I foresee Greene being a force to be reckoned with,  he hasn’t proven that he can carry the load for an entire season yet.

The Jets have a small window of opportunity to fill in some missing pieces and get the Championship we all know they are capable of.  The success of the team’s rushing attack is mainly due to the strength of our offensive line.  With Alan Faneca & Damien Woody getting older, the Jets may have only a few years left to capitalize on such a cohesive unit.  

March will no doubt be an exciting month with lots of potential moves to be made.  While I know the saying is true,  you don’t get anywhere in life without taking risks,  I can’t help but think that if something isn’t broke then why fix it?

I hope that I am wrong…..that this risk will pay off and we’ll see Leon Washington back stronger than ever returning the first kick-off in the new stadium next season.