Dee Milliner, the forgotten man.
It's a shame he has to be labeled this way, but we all know the NFL is a "What-have-you-done-lately?" business. The New York Jets' former first-round pick suffered a devastating Achilles tendon injury last season and watched in the offseason as the team signed not one, not two, but three cornerbacks -- Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine.
Milliner, who went into last season calling himself the best cornerback in the league, now faces a training-camp battle to keep his roster spot.
"When you look at Dee coming in, you see a guy still kind of working off of an injury, trying to get himself to 100 percent," defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said last week. "But as we looked at him, we expect Dee to compete for a position on the roster like everyone else. This was a top-10 pick, and we think he has a lot of ability and we expect him to compete."
Milliner went from the Jets' No. 1 cornerback to "we expect Dee to compete for a position on the roster." It's quite a drop, but things move fast in the NFL. The Jets had no choice to move on without Milliner, who is recovering from his surgery. He was very limited in last week's organized team activities (OTAs), and it looks he won't be a full go until training camp, if then. He's seven months removed from surgery. An Achilles' tendon injury is about as bad as it gets for a cornerback, who is required to backpedal and change directions perhaps more than any other position.
Despite the injury, it's hard to imagine Milliner not making the team. He has two years remaining on his contract, a fully guaranteed $3.7 million, and teams aren't in the habit of firing players they have to pay. Forgetting about the financials for a moment, it would make little sense to cut him, because he was the ninth pick in the 2013 draft, so you know there's talent there.
The question is, where does he fit in? Aside from Milliner, they have five cornerbacks with starting experience, with Darrin Walls and Marcus Williams backing up the Big Three. And don't forget about former third-round pick Dexter McDougle, who has returned from knee surgery.
"It’s going to be some tough decisions," Rodgers said. "It’s a lot of good football players on the back end."
One scenario that looms as a possibility is putting Milliner on the physically-unable-to-perform list to start the season. By rule, he would have to sit for the first six weeks of the season, but he'd be eligible to start practicing after Week 6. That would buy him more time and it would save a roster spot. The Jets are in a good position because, with their high-priced reinforcements, they don't have to rush him back.