Almost every important Jets player is either under contract for next season or a restricted free agent who is expected to stay with the team, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any turnover within the AFC runners-up. The secondary responsible for the league’s top-ranked pass defense might lose Lito Sheppard and Dexter Strickland if they are let go as expected, but the bigger question mark is safety Kerry Rhodes.
Most Jets fans and pundits expected Rhodes to take the proverbial “next step” under Ryan, a noted defensive guru. They thought Rhodes could become Gang Green’s version of Ravens perennial Pro Bowler Ed Reed.
Much to their disappointment he was not, and he was even benched in the middle of the season after some poor performances. He regained his starting spot late in the season and played well during the team’s playoff run.
According to Rhodes, Ryan wants him back next season. His contract isn’t up, and he is due a $2.7 roster bonus in March as part of the five-year, $33-million extension he signed in 2008. Rhodes told the New York Post on Wednesday that he’s very comfortable in the Jets’ defense and after a year learning the system, he wants to stick around and take the next step in his education. As he put it, he’d like to become a “Rhodes Scholar.”
So if Ryan wants Rhodes back — and if Rhodes wants to be back and he doesn’t even need to sign a new contract — then where’s the story?
Well, it’s unclear whether or not Ryan really wants the enigmatic safety to return. When asked about it Tuesday, Ryan told the Post, "This one I don't really want to talk about much, because there's an individual thing that Kerry and I have talked about.”
It’s an unusually cryptic response from a coach who’s made his mark by speaking his mind. The Post apparently later had a request denied for an interview with Rhodes.
SNY’s “The Wheelhouse” did land an interview with the safety on Wednesday, and in it, Rhodes revealed that the situation is apparently up to him, and he can decided whether to stay or request a trade.
As it turns out, Ryan’s respect for his conversation with Rhodes might just be the kind of thing the 27-year-old is looking for.
"To be honest, I want to be here … to end my career as a Jet," Rhodes said on SNY. "I want to be here and the team wants me to be here, so we'll see."