NEW YORK - The New York Jets made a huge splash on the first day of free agency by trading for a big guy to put in the middle of their defensive line.
The Jets acquired three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kris Jenkins from the Carolina Panthers on Friday for third- and fifth-round draft picks. The 6-foot-4, 349-pound Jenkins will move to nose tackle in the Jets' 3-4 defensive scheme.
"I think it will be somewhat of an adjustment," Jenkins said Friday night. "I mean, I am human. I can't just put on a red cape and fly away. I think it is something I can handle, and something I can excel at."
Jenkins' acquisition started a busy day for the Jets, who also traded linebacker Jonathan Vilma to the New Orleans Saints for an undisclosed draft pick, and signed defensive tackle Sione Pouha to a three-year contract extension.
New York also appeared to be the front-runner for free-agent Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca.
After trading for Jenkins, the Jets came to terms with him on a new five-year contract worth $35 million, including $20 million in guaranteed money.
"Kris is a productive player who is stout at the point of attack and has the ability to rush the passer," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "We are looking forward to adding him to our defense."
The deal ended a tumultuous year for Jenkins, who was also placed on the trading block last year and angered the Panthers' coaching staff for being overweight and missing offseason workouts.
"Whatever I have to do as far as my weight is concerned, as far as my work ethic, training, I'm open to everything," Jenkins said.
He played in all 16 games last season, but had only 2 1/2 sacks. Near the end of the season, he said he wasn't sure if he wanted to return to Carolina. After speaking with Mangini and general manager Mike Tannenbaum, Jenkins knew he wanted to be a member of the Jets.
"It didn't take too much of a sales pitch for me," he said.
The Jets hope Jenkins can regain the form that made him one of the NFL's top defensive tackles before missing most of the 2004 and '05 seasons with injuries.
"I want to take on this task of this 3-4 defense," said Jenkins, who made his third Pro Bowl in 2006. "Basically, I get to be the big stud in the middle who makes it easier for the linebackers and helps my team do what it needs to do to win."
He'll likely be backed up by Pouha, who showed marked improvement last season after coming back from a knee injury in 2006. Pouha, who had one year remaining on his rookie contract, had a career-high 32 tackles.
"It wasn't an easy deal and it took a while, but the Jets were reasonable throughout the negotiations," agent Ken Vierra told The Associated Press. "Sione loves Eric Mangini and he loves (defensive line coach) Dan Quinn. He's also looking forward to playing with Kris Jenkins."
With Jenkins' arrival and Pouha's extension, veteran Dewayne Robertson could be dealt. The former No. 4 overall pick in 2003 has been a starter most of his career with the Jets, but at 6-1 and 310 pounds, was miscast as a true nose tackle.
Vilma's departure ended a four-year stint in which the linebacker went from being one of the league's top playmakers to a player struggling to fit in once Mangini installed the 3-4 defense.
Vilma was the defensive rookie of the year in 2004 and led the league in tackles the following season, but his production dipped in 2006, when Mangini arrived. He played in seven games last season before injuring his knee at Cincinnati and being placed on injured reserve on Oct. 27. Meanwhile, rookie David Harris appeared to be the perfect fit for the defense, racking up a team-leading 117 tackles.
Vilma, who would've been a free agent after next season, reportedly was given permission to explore trade options with other teams. He should become an immediate starter at middle linebacker in the Saints' 4-3 defense.
"This represents a new chapter in my football career and in my life," Vilma said. "I am truly excited and fortunate to be joining a team that just a little over a year ago was one win away from appearing in the Super Bowl."
The Jets appeared close to adding Faneca at left guard, a position of need after they traded Pete Kendall to Washington before last season. New York waived Kendall's replacement, Adrien Clarke, on Tuesday after he was ineffective in 14 starts.
"The Jets are being extremely aggressive" in their negotiations with the five-time All-Pro, agent Rick Smith told The Associated Press, adding that no deal was done yet despite reports that suggested otherwise.
Smith said San Francisco and St. Louis are the other teams hoping to sign the 31-year-old Faneca, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection in 10 seasons with Pittsburgh.
"I'll be talking with Alan about his options, and he'll be visiting one of the teams with the purpose of signing a contract," said Smith, who expects a deal to be done by Sunday.