Antonio Cromartie defends QB

Outspoken cornerback Antonio Cromartie absolved Mark Sanchez for the New York Jets' offensive disaster this past season, blaming the front office for failing to surround the quarterback with enough talent.

"If he has good, veteran players around him -- ones that know how to practice and compete at a high level every day -- then you'll have a better quarterback," Cromartie told NFL.com on Friday while at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

"But when you don't have a supporting cast around him, you're going to get an average or below-average quarterback. That's what we got."

Sanchez struggled mightily and was benched in Week 16. The Jets were a mess from the outset, finishing 30th in total offense under coordinator Tony Sparano, who was fired after the season.

Cromartie didn't mention former general manager Mike Tannenbaum by name, but he was obviously referring to him. He took a similar shot in the preseason. When it was announced that he'd get some work at wide receiver, Cromartie declared himself the second-best wideout on the team.

Tannenbaum also was fired after the team's 6-10 season.

"He needs a better supporting cast," Cromartie said of Sanchez. "That's something the new GM (John Idzik) has to look at and evaluate as he's looking at the roster. He needs to get Mark some help."

Despite his poor season, Sanchez is expected to return, largely because his contract is immovable -- it has an $8.25 million guarantee in 2013. But there will be an open competition.

On Thursday, Idzik indicated he plans to acquire a veteran quarterback to compete for the starting job. Controversial backup Tim Tebow isn't part of the team's plans and likely will be released next month.

"We have confidence in Mark," Cromartie said. "Like I've always said, even with the whole Tebow thing, if we're going to sign Mark to a three-year extension, we need to make sure we put guys around him."

Tannenbaum went into the season thinking he had assembled a strong receiving corps, but Santonio Holmes suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4, rookie Stephen Hill disappointed and tight end Dustin Keller missed eight games with injuries.

By the end of the season, their most accomplished receiver was Braylon Edwards, who was dumped by the Seattle Seahawks. The Jets re-acquired him only days after he infamously tweeted that "idiots" in the front office were the cause of Sanchez's struggles.