Jets GM on Mark Sanchez, LT, wideouts

The architect of the New York Jets believes back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game "solidifies our program," but that program will be tested by many pressing decisions in the coming months.

The top item on general manager Mike Tannenbaum's priority list is determining whether quarterback Mark Sanchez needs surgery on his right shoulder. Tannenbaum said Friday he wants a decision "sooner than later," a sense of urgency that makes you think surgery is more of a possibility than Sanchez is letting on.

In terms of potential free agents, Tannenbaum said he'd like to re-sign the Big Five -- wide receivers Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Brad Smith, linebacker David Harris and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

He also said he expects running back LaDainian Tomlinson and pass-rusher Jason Taylor to return for the final year of their contracts, but he left some wiggle room.

In a state-of-the-organization address, the GM touched on these topics:

• With regard to Sanchez, Tannenbaum said the Jets' doctor is consulting with "shoulder specialists."

Earlier in the week, Sanchez expressed optimism that he'd be able to avoid surgery, claiming his shoulder felt better.
Tannenbaum didn't characterize it one way or the other, except to say he wants a decision soon "because if you're going to have a procedure, you'd like to get going on it sooner than later so you can start the rehab process."

If surgery is necessary, it may be only an arthroscopic procedure to repair minor cartilage damage.

• The labor uncertainty could have a big impact on the team's free-agent plans, but Tannenbaum left no doubt he wants to re-sign Harris, calling him "a top priority." They want to sign him to a long-term deal, but they haven't ruled out using the franchise tag.

• Commenting on Tomlinson, Tannenbaum said, "As of now, he's under contract. We expect him back. Things could change, but we expect him back." He said the same thing last year about Kerry Rhodes, and traded him a day later.

Tannenbaum admitted there's "a little bit of concern" by Tomlinson's pedestrian second-half numbers, but he raved about the future Hall of Famer's intangibles. Tomlinson turns 32 in June.

• On Taylor, who will be 37 next season, Tannenbaum spoke in the past tense in a couple of instances. He expects Taylor to be back, but added, "Once we get closer to the season, things could always change."

• Even though it might not be financially feasible, Tannenbaum said his goal is to re-sign Edwards, Holmes and Smith. He felt Edwards and Holmes aided Sanchez's development.

He declined to comment on speculation the Jets might be interested in Plaxico Burress when he's released from prison in June.

• Tannenbaum's evaluation of Cromartie was positive, but less than effusive. "By and large, he had a good year on the field," he said. "It wasn't perfect, but I'm glad he was a Jet."

It's interesting that he said "on the field," because Cromartie has raised eyebrows in the organization with recent outbursts. Tannenbaum declined to comment on Cromartie's war of words with other NFL players, stemming from Cromartie's profane and controversial remarks on the league's labor unrest.

• Reiterating Rex Ryan's remarks, Tannenbaum said he's 100 percent certain that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will be back. The only team looking for a head coach, the Tennessee Titans, haven't called to request permission to speak with Schottenheimer, according to Tannenbaum.

• The GM was noncommittal on the future of popular veterans Damien Woody, Tony Richardson and Kris Jenkins. Woody and Jenkins are recovering from injuries.

• It sounds like Vernon Gholston is a goner. The disappointing former No. 1 pick was inactive for all three playoff games, an ominous sign.

"He's been given his fair share of opportunities," Tannenbaum said of Gholston, who has no sacks in three seasons. "It could be time to move on, but we're not ready to say that yet. ... Vern is a guy we'll take a long look at and move on from there."

• Tannenbaum hasn't made a decision yet on Sal Alosi, the suspended strength and conditioning coach who tripped a Miami Dolphins player on the sideline.

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.