FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan vowed to turn Vernon Gholston into a productive player. It didn't happen. Now the New York Jets coach has a new reclamation project on defense -- Aaron Maybin, the former Buffalo Bills draft bust.
Maybin, the 11th overall pick in 2009, signed Wednesday with the Jets, passing his physical. Ryan confirmed the agreement and believes Maybin has the ability to become an effective pass-rusher.
"He has no clue -- he doesn't know a single defense -- but it's like, 'Hey, just turn that corner' -- and he did that pretty good," Ryan said after Maybin's first practice -- an impressive showing with the third string.
Ryan jokingly compared him to Hall of Famer Fred Dean, saying, "We'd settle for Fred Dean. That would be nice. I don't think it's going to happen, but he's got that body type -- the long, lean body the great pass-rushers have. He can get off the football. It'll be interesting to see him in this system. He's got a chance. You look for those kind of guys, with that burst to the quarterback."
Maybin signed a one-year contract, presumably for the veterans' minimum. He's also receiving $2 million in guarantees from the Bills, according to a league source. Maybin, released Monday after two seasons in Buffalo, had three years left on his rookie contract.
"I'm not going to lie and say you don't have a chip on your shoulder when something like that happens, but as far as the business goes, you can't be surprised and take it personally," Maybin said.
But he did say that he picked the Jets, in part, so he could face the Bills twice a year. The biggest reason, he said, was Ryan's track record as a defensive coach.
If Ryan and his staff can turn Maybin into a contributing player, it might go down as one of the all-time great coaching jobs. In 27 career games with the Bills, he didn't record a sack or start, drawing the ire of fans and media. He hit rock bottom last season, when he was declared inactive for five straight games.
Sound familiar? In 2008, one year before Ryan took over, the Jets used the sixth overall choice on Gholston, who wound up playing three seasons in New York without a sack. Each year, Ryan predicted big things for Gholston. He finally gave up on him, releasing him in February. Gholston signed recently with the Chicago Bears.
One of Maybin's problems is maintaining weight. He entered the league at 250 pounds, but reported to the Bills' training camp at 228.
"That's the big thing," Bills general manager Buddy Nix told reporters when Maybin was released. "I saw where somebody said that he didn't fit the scheme. But I don't know what scheme he fits at that size unless you're a strong safety or something."
Maybin lost weight before camp because he was sick with pneumonia, according to a source, adding that Maybin is up to 242 pounds. The Jets haven't confirmed that.
Maybin said he had pneumonia before training camp and dropped 10 or 11 pounds. He said he weighs 240, but hopes to reach 255 during the season. He said he has no preference on whether he plays defensive end or outside linebacker.
"That's a question I've been getting for years and I tell people all the time, 'I'm an athlete. Just put me on the field and let me go,'" he said.
Even so, Maybin probably is too small to play outside linebacker in the Jets' 3-4 scheme. The knock on him is that he's a poor run defender, but the Jets don't intend to use him on first or second down. His only assignment will be to get to the quarterback.
The Jets didn't address their outside pass rush in the draft or free agency, instead relying on Pace, Thomas and unproven third-year linebacker Jamaal Westerman. Jason Taylor, one of their most productive rushers last season, was released in February and ended up re-signing with the Miami Dolphins.
"I always spoke highly of him when he was with Buffalo," Ryan said of Maybin. "I always thought he had ability to rush the passer."
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.