Contract talks: The Leon Factor

It’s an image that still haunts Jets players, the sight of Leon Washington with blood stains on his right sock. It was last Oct. 25, the day the popular running back suffered a horrific leg injury that included two open fractures. Bone pierced the skin in two places that day in Oakland, and the first witnesses – the players on offense – were deeply impacted.

Especially those seeking long-term contract extensions.

Football is a brutally violent sport, and a promising career can be cut short in a heartbeat. Thankfully, Washington is on the road to recovery, but there’s no telling how many millions he lost because of the injury. He rejected a long-term offer from the Jets before the season, opting to play out the year, but the strategy backfired. Next thing you know, he’s on a plane to Seattle, traded on draft day to the Seahawks.

He went from a core player to a spare part, still chasing that big contract.

It’s amazing how often Washington’s former teammates mention his name when discussing their current contract situations. C Nick Mangold and LB David Harris, both entering the final year of their deals, mention his name when talking about the desire for long-term security.

CB Darrelle Revis essentially has three years left on his contract, but he’d be taking a big risk this season by playing for only $1 million. The Jets are planning to buy back 2011 and 2012, guaranteeing him a total of $20 million, but they don’t have to execute that transaction until after the 2010 season, when his deal voids. If Revis suffers a Leon-like injury, do you think the Jets will guarantee $20 million? Unlikely.

So, yeah, Revis & Co. are freaked out by a potential Washington disaster.

“When something like that happens, it’s fresh in the mind, especially since Leon and I came in together (in 2006),” Mangold told me.

Revis told friends that he was unsettled by Domenik Hixon’s freak, season-ending knee injury on the turf at the New Meadowlands Stadium, where the New York Giants held a minicamp practice only one day before the Jets. At any given moment, a career can be altered. That’s why these players want the Jets to show them the money.