- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Here is a scenario for New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum. It is the third round of the 2011 NFL draft, and the Jets are on the clock while a tempting wide receiver is still on the board. In a normal year, Tannenbaum would have already locked up or let go of free agents like Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith. But with an expired collective bargaining agreement and players and owners at loggerheads, the Jets have been unable to shore up the roster by the usual means.
Every other NFL team is in the same spot, but Tannenbaum & Co. have always tried to wrap up the free-agent shopping by draft day. With Holmes sounding perturbed with his team, Edwards still in legal limbo and Jerricho Cotchery fresh off of back surgery, does he risk picking up a wide receiver only to have too many if he gets the others back?
"Those are great tiebeakers for us, if we feel like down the road we're going to have trouble getting a player back that may break a tie in the draft room," Tannenbaum said. "But those are really hard judgment calls to make, that you do when you're on the clock or formulating a strategy to go up a couple spots or move back."
Jets vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales alluded to Tannenbaum's propensity to trade picks early on when he noted the Jets have nearly all their selections except the second round.
"It's nice to have six picks this year for a change," Clinkscales said and then looked at trade-happy Tannenbaum. "We'll see how long we have six picks."
But it could be more complicated to move up or down April 28 when the three-day NFL draft begins. As the Jets held their annual pre-draft news conference at the Florham Park training facility Wednesday, there were more questions than answers. The price tag for high draft picks is a bit of a mystery with a rookie wage scale on the bargaining table, and teams could trade up only to be stuck with a larger bill if the issue isn't addressed by a new CBA.
"You take the best information you have, put it on paper and go from there," Tannenbaum said.
Teams won't have the option of trading players, which Tannenbaum did last year, sending Leon Washington to Seattle in exchange for the pick that made fullback John Conner a Jet, and a year earlier to get quarterback Mark Sanchez in a multi-player trade with the Browns.
"I think there are other ways to get creative, swapping picks, future years," Tannenbaum said. "If you're trying to solve a problem, you still have other clubs in the bag to use."
Tannenbaum said that the Jets would like to add depth to the defense -- not surprising, given coach Rex Ryan's background as a defensive coordinator with the Ravens. In the Ryan era, however, the Jets have tended to draft offense and pick up defensive players as free agents.
The general manager noted that at the end of last season the Jets signed 18 future free agents and are hopeful that they can augment the roster during the uncertainty of the current labor situation. Tannenbaum also noted that the so-called Core Four were safely in hand, which allows the Jets some stability.
"I feel a lot more comfortable sitting here saying [D'Brickashaw Ferguson], Nick [Mangold], Darrelle [Revis] and David [Harris] are all under contract, with the exception of David, for years to come. I do think the offseason started last year. The longer I'm in this, the more you realize the only part you can control is preparation."
Jane McManus is a reporter and columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.
Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum faces uncertainty in the draft with so many free agents on the roster.