NEW YORK (AP) -For all the money the New York Jets spent this offseason on free agents, Kerry Rhodes patiently waited and wondered when his big payday would come.
``When people were getting signed and me being an athlete and having feelings and thinking about what was going on, there were times when that was in the back of my mind,'' the star safety said Thursday. ``But they came right away and reassured me, so it was a good feeling.''
And so is being one of the richest safeties in the NFL. The Jets signed Rhodes to a five-year extension for $33.5 million, including $20 million guaranteed, according to various media reports. It's just short of the five-year, $37.5 million deal Indianapolis' Bob Sanders, the defensive player of the year, got before last season.
``I was pretty confident that something would be done because of the feedback that I got at the end of the year, that there was something in the works for me down the line,'' Rhodes said. ``They were proactive in trying to get something done. I always had an idea that it would get done.''
The 25-year-old Rhodes, entering his fourth season, had a year left on his rookie contract - he was due to make $927,000 this season - and would've become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
``I think it's good that we got it done early,'' he said. ``It's a big lift off my back knowing where I'll be the next couple of years and having a little security''
Rhodes has eight sacks and 10 interceptions in three seasons and has been a starter since being drafted in the fourth round out of Louisville in 2005.
``It's a sense of gratification because I was looked over a little bit,'' said Rhodes, a former quarterback. ``I mean, I didn't play safety long coming from college. People said I was a talent, but even leading up to the draft, I was told I would be like a second-rounder, so the fact I slipped to the fourth, I mean, it happened and that's in the past. ... It's just evidence that hard work pays off.''
Calvin Pace, fullback Tony Richardson, running back Jesse Chatman, tight end Bubba Franks and cornerback Andre Woolfolk.
``The moves were made to fit areas that we needed,'' Rhodes said. ``The guys we got, they've all come in and worked hard.''
One move the Jets made that disappointed Rhodes was the trade of buddy Jonathan Vilma to New Orleans. The linebacker, who made a habit of watching game film with Rhodes every week during the season, was unhappy in coach Eric Mangini's 3-4 defensive scheme and was allowed to seek a trade.
``I was a little hurt and sad about seeing my guy go,'' Rhodes said. ``I mean, that's my main man, that's my ace, so him being gone, it's going to be difficult. It was a difficult process at first, but he's in a good situation for himself, to better himself and I'm happy for him to be there with a chance to improve himself and make plays like he does. It was good for him.''
Rhodes expects Vilma to thrive in the Saints' 4-3 defense, the way he did in his first two seasons with the Jets.
``Him and the system didn't get along that well,'' Rhodes said. ``It was a difficult situation for him. He's a 4-3 guy. I mean, that's what he's been and that's what he is. He has a chance to go to New Orleans and have that chance again.''
Rhodes is focused now on having his own big year and helping the Jets avoid the slow starts that plagued the defense the last few seasons. He even rejected a few offers to act in the offseason so he could concentrate on rebounding from last year's 4-12 season.
``I turned them down to just get away from everything and try to keep a clear head coming into this year,'' he said. ``This is a big year for us and I just want to come out and have fun and try to get back to the winning ways we had in Eric's first year.''

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