By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) -- The only things missing from Antonio Cromartie's repertoire are the really big shoes and a red ball for his nose.
Maybe I'm being too kind. Most of us already knew he was a clown. Now he's a somewhat vindictive clown.
And I have to ask, why?
Yeah, I know, free agency is a player's right and all that noise. But there has just been something very unsavory about Cromartie's behavior leading up to what many expect will be the start of the signing period.
Did he really need to say there's no such thing as a hometown discount? Did he need to direct it at the Jets' front office and, more importantly, the fan base via the media? Wouldn't a phone call have sufficed? There's an arrogance here that goes beyond your typical head-strong, money-lusting professional athlete.
And somehow I don't think it's his agent talking.
"At the end of the day, to me there is no such thing as no hometown discount. I'm not giving anybody no hometown discount. I'm definitely going to see what the organization says and then also let them know I would like to go out and test the market and see what my value is," Cromartie said Tuesday.
The second part is really all he needed to say, if anything. The first part? Well, we get it, Antonio. You are as street as they come, bro. He shouldn't be taken seriously after saying all that and following it up with this:
"I love the organization. They're a first-class organization that has always been there for their players. They're all about their players. The chemistry that I built with my teammates there it was above none.
"For me it would be a great opportunity to be back there and to play alongside [Darrelle] Revis and to play in that defense I've been a part of. Rex Ryan is a great coach and I love playing for him."
In other words, pay me. Revis can't do it alone, so you have no choice but to pay me.
While I understand and do not begrudge any player wanting to fill his bank account there's a way to go about it that doesn't scream "screw you people." That's pretty much what Cromartie is saying here. He's going to do what he has to do for him and his and everybody else be damned. His supposed love for the Jets seems more like he had a brief moment of clarity and tried to call Mariano Rivera in to fix a bases-loaded, no-out jam.
Sorry, Antonio, but you can't play the money card in one breath and then the team concept adoration card in the next breath. It reeks of a blatant attitude of entitlement that basically your play on the field has not warranted. And it flies in the face of his boasts that he would play for the Jets until rapture.
Even if this is just a ploy to get the Jets to go a little higher than they had planned, it's not right for reasons I will explain.
Cromartie, for all his ability, hasn't proven as much as he thinks he has. He's still living off that 10-interception season in San Diego in 2007. Last year we didn't for one second see that player. Three interceptions? That's pedestrian at best considering the number of balls that were thrown his way. He also got burned a lot and not because of his trademark ball-hawking, overaggressive nature.
And the part that's most alarming, and many seem to forget, is when the Jets traded for Cromartie last offseason they reportedly agreed to front him $500,000 so that he could take care of his family, a large group of people the entire NFL knows about ad nauseum.
I've grown to accept the fact that loyalty doesn't exist in professional sports, but the Jets are entitled to a little more respect from Cromartie because in his time of need the Jets went above and beyond financially when they were under absolutely no obligation to do so.
Cromartie either has forgotten that fact or simply doesn't give a damn. The former, though unlikely, is forgivable. The latter? Well, it may be the way of the world in today's day and age, but that doesn't mean you should just sit there and take it.
The question on everyone's mind is what will the Jets do? Do they need him? As currently constituted, yes, but the part that makes this an even more difficult decision is the fact that Cromartie has made it clear he's not signing right away with anyone. He'll wait for the premiere player of this free agent class, Nnamdi Asomugha, to set the market for defensive backs. Considering the fact that Cromartie has mentioned six other teams that he seems to think have interest in his services the Jets will either be forced to make a run at Asomugha, something they appear to be in no position to do, or wait and see what happens with Cromartie or a player like Johnathon Joseph.
That's a lot of waiting, a lot of moving parts and very few days to get something of substance done.
It's a predicament for sure. The Jets really don't have the luxury of promoting from within or settling for anyone other than the three top free agents at corner because second-year Kyle Wilson is probably not ready for a ton of responsibility and pretty much the Jets' entire secondary short of Revis is unrestricted and even if those players weren't they are not bonafide guys you can trust. After Asomugha, Joseph and Cromartie the talent pool on the open market dwindles considerably.
And let's not forget there are 31 other teams out there, many with more money to spend than the Jets, who may be looking for help in their secondary.
General Manager Mike Tannenbaum has said bringing back Cromartie is a priority, but if there's a way to upgrade via free agency or trade the Jets should bid Cromartie and his high opinion of himself a fond farewell. They should rid themselves of a negative public relations albatross who hasn't proven himself worthy of anything more than what the market will likely say.
On this team, that shouldn't be good enough.
At the end of the day Cromartie is just a wayward soul in search of his true purpose, but without the life skills necessary to attain the respect on the field and praise off of it many think his abilities suggest he should have by now.
He's a man on mission that only he understands. And the bottom line is he may talk like a Jet, but he certainly hasn't played like one, at least not one any self-respecting fan should actually forfeit a night's sleep worrying about losing.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini
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