FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets kept things simple during the first two days of the NFL draft, sticking with their two picks and shoring up strengths.
The third day was like the rest of the Jets' offseason — busy and headline-making.
New York traded up to get Southern California running back Joe McKnight, dealt the versatile and popular Leon Washington to Seattle and then cut nine-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca on Saturday.
"I think the team knows that we're driven to win a championship here and that we're not wanting to be complacent," coach Rex Ryan said. "We kept the nucleus of our football team. We did lose some excellent football players, but we've added a lot of tremendous players."
Washington, coming off a broken right leg, was made expendable when the Jets moved up and acquired Carolina's fourth-round pick (No. 112). New York took McKnight, quarterback Mark Sanchez's former college teammate, with the pick, and sent its fourth-rounder (No. 124) and sixth-rounder (No. 198) to the Panthers.
Shortly after drafting McKnight, the Jets traded Washington to Seattle, along with a seventh-rounder, for the Seahawks' fifth-rounder. New York selected Kentucky fullback John Conner with that pick.
New York drafted Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson in the first round, 29th overall, on Thursday, and Massachusetts offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse in the second round Friday.
"We've added core players that we think can help us short-term and long-term," general manager Mike Tannenbaum said.
McKnight is regarded as an excellent multipurpose player with a similar skill set to that of Washington. New York also has Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson and Chauncey Washington, another former Trojan, on the roster.
"Whatever Coach Ryan wants me to play, I'll play whatever," McKnight said by phone from his home in River Ridge, La. "Whatever role he has for me in the package or whatever he wants me to do on the field, I'm going to do whatever."
Tannenbaum said it's "a fair assumption" that if the Jets weren't able to get McKnight that Washington would've stayed in New York. Washington recently signed his tender offer with the Jets and might have been in line for a big payday next season if he showed he was completely healed from a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula.
The move to cut Faneca was somewhat surprising because he was one of the leaders of a unit that paved the way for the league's top-rushing offense. Faneca, who played 10 years in Pittsburgh before signing with New York in 2008, will be replaced by Ducasse or Matt Slauson, last year's sixth-round selection.
"He gave us two incredible years, but along with Woody (Johnson), Rex and I, our job is to make the hard decision, not necessarily the easy one," Tannenbaum said. "With Alan, we just felt it was time to move on."
The team released the nine-time Pro Bowl selection even though he's owed $5.2 million in guaranteed salary this year. Faneca's age — he's 33 — and slip in production were also likely factors in him being cut.
"We never would've let Alan go if we didn't think that one or both of those guys could do the job," Ryan said.
The 5-foot-11, 198-pound McKnight was often compared to former USC star Reggie Bush because of his versatility.
"I've got some toughness to my game and I think I showed people this past year that I can work between the tackles somewhat," McKnight said.
McKnight had a few injuries at USC that limited his production at times, and he sat out the Trojans' Emerald Bowl victory against Boston College while the school investigated whether he violated NCAA rules.
McKnight reportedly was seen driving a 2006 Land Rover that state records indicated was registered to businessman Scott Schenter. The Los Angeles Times reported in December that McKnight said he has never driven the SUV and it belonged to his girlfriend's boss.
Conner, regarded as a top blocker, likely will be the backup to veteran Tony Richardson. He's nicknamed "The Terminator" for his bone-crunching blocks and because he shares the name of one of the main characters in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.
"He's a tremendous fullback," Tannenbaum said. "One of Rex's favorite players in the draft."
The pick capped the latest flurry of activity in a busy offseason. New York has traded for Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie, signed Tomlinson, Jason Taylor and Brodney Pool and released Faneca, Thomas Jones and Jay Feely.
"I think this team is going to be special," Ryan said, "and we're out to prove it."
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