With four playoff wins in two years, Rex Ryan has already proven these aren’t the “Same Old Jets.” If they want to end their season on a different note next year, though, they can’t be the same old defensive line.

The Jets, while boasting the third best defense in the league, were more often than not an average unit in getting to the quarterback. Without a true pass-rushing defensive end in the 3-4 scheme, Ryan was forced to blitz linebackers to create real sustained pressure. And while that was effective at times — the Jets still ranked eighth with 40 sacks — it created a dropoff in turnovers.

“There’s no question we pride ourselves on turnovers,” Ryan said at one point this season. “For us, that means getting more pressure on the quarterback. I can’t explain it any simpler.”

It might not be so simple to improve upon the unit in the offseason.

It won’t just be splash the cash. The Jets will be handicapped by limited room under the salary cap, as long-term deals for D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis have tied up big-money payouts.

General manager Mike Tannenbaum will have to decide who gets the remaining cash. Tannenbaum will likely shell out huge dough for linebacker David Harris, but will he also put up big dollars to hang on to both Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes? Perhaps he should load up the piggy bank instead, and make a run a legitimate sackmaster like Tennessee’s Jason Babin, whose 12.5 sacks were more than triple what any Jets’ defensive end had last season.

Potential targets

Five free agents who make sense for the Jets:

1 Mathias Kiwanuka —An explosive rusher who won’t cost much after playing just three games in 2010 due to injury.
2 Cullen Jenkins — The Super Bowl-bound DE could play alongside his brother Kris.
3 Paul Posluszny — A run-stuffing option at LB if David Harris decides to test the market.
4 Cliff Avril — A veteran team would be wise to pursue this 24-year-old DE who had 8.5 sacks.
5 Haruki Nakamura — While they aren’t desperate for a safety, this Raven has huge upside.

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