NFL: Jets, Jason Taylor agree to deal
DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK — Booed and despised by Jets fans for years, Jason Taylor is now on their side.
The former Miami Dolphins linebacker agreed to terms with the AFC East-rival New York Jets on a two-year contract today, bolstering a defense that ranked No 1 in the league last year.
"My expectation is that Jason will be a Jet tomorrow," coach Rex Ryan said during a conference call. "We feel great about that."
The 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year visited the Jets two weeks ago but left without a deal, pondering whether to sign with New York or wait to see if Miami would re-sign him after the draft. After vacationing in Costa Rica last weekend, Taylor decided to go with Ryan and the Jets.
"Clearly, this is one of the premier players in the game, one of the premier pass rushers in the game," Ryan said. "We expect Jason to play a bunch and be a major contributor to our defense."
The deal was first reported by ESPN.com and the Miami Herald. Because of the league's "Final Eight" restrictions, the Jets could only pay Taylor only $1.75 million in base salary this season — the amount unrestricted free agent kicker Jay Feely signed for with Arizona.
At a 30-minute news conference in Weston, Fla., Taylor said he's joining the Jets because he feared their contract offer would be the only one he would receive. He wanted to stay in Miami but said he had to give the Jets an answer on their offer before the draft begins Thursday, and he had no assurance he would receive an offer from the Dolphins or anyone else.
"Unfortunately there was no communication" from the Dolphins, Taylor said. "If I sit here and roll the dice, I could be left out in the cold. ... They're allowed to make that decision. There is a business side to football, and if they feel that it's better for their team to not have me, that's fine. I have no problem with that. That's part of the game. Just let me know."
Taylor, the NFL's active sacks leader who'll turn 36 in September, joins a team he has long considered an enemy. And, the feeling was mutual among Jets fans.
Long a part of one of the NFL's most intense rivalries on the field, Taylor has had a contentious relationship with fans in New York, calling them ignorant and classless and saying their "J-E-T-S!" chant was "dumb."
"Do I expect them to hate me some? Sure," Taylor said. "We've had a long history of going back and forth. We lost a lot of games to those guys for a few years. That wasn't fun. I was a big boy, and I always came back and added more fuel to it. It's a rivalry. That's the way its supposed to be."
Now, he'll try to endear himself to those same fans, the way Brett Favre did in Minnesota or Donovan McNabb hopes to do in Washington. A few early season sacks might do the trick for Taylor.
"I look at it this way: What was the kind of impact Roger Clemens had?" Ryan said. "He was a Red Sox and went over to the Yankees and helped out there. I kind of look at Johnny Damon with the same type of deal.
"So, if Jason could have the same impact on the Jets as those players had on the Yankees and we win a championship, I think we'll all be happy."
Either way, it's the latest headline-grabbing acquisition by the Jets, who have clear intentions of making a Super Bowl run this season after losing in the AFC championship game to Indianapolis in January.
Already loaded with story lines for its appearance on HBO's "Hard Knocks" during training camp this summer, New York has also signed running back LaDainian Tomlinson and safety Brodney Pool, and traded for wide receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
The former "Dancing With the Stars" contestant — he finished runner-up to Kristi Yamaguchi in 2008 — recently expressed a desire to remain with the Dolphins. But, Miami general manager Jeff Ireland said the team would wait until after the draft before deciding whether to make an offer.
A scheduled meeting with Taylor and Dolphins officials was also reportedly canceled recently as Ryan and the Jets aggressively pursued him.
Taylor has 127½ career sacks and provides the Jets with a proven pass rusher who should fit right into Ryan's aggressive 3-4 defensive scheme as a hybrid linebacker-defensive end.
Ryan also said his addition will have no effect on the Jets' approach to having the 29th overall pick in the draft Thursday night.
"We're in an ideal situation," Ryan said. "We're going into the draft where we can take the best player."
Several Jets players met Taylor during his visit to the team's facility in Florham Park, N.J., on April 8, and said they'd welcome him if he signed.
While his best days are clearly behind him, the Jets believe Taylor still has plenty left — at least for a season. He had seven sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and a fumble return for a touchdown — against the Jets — last season.
Taylor played with the Dolphins from 1997-07 before being traded to Washington in 2008. He clashed with Miami for competing on "Dancing With the Stars" rather than working out with the team that offseason.
After one season in Washington, the Redskins released him after he refused to commit to the team's offseason conditioning program so he could focus on his family.
Ryan said he expected Taylor to participate in team workouts before mandatory minicamp in mid-June, save for a few previously scheduled prior commitments.
"These are voluntary workouts, but I've got a funny feeling that Jason's going to volunteer to be here," Ryan said.
Taylor returned to Miami last season with a one-year contract and said he wanted to keep playing, preferably with the Dolphins, rather than retire.
AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Miami contributed to this report.