NEW YORK -- The New York Jets were moving forward with their search for a new general manager, with San Francisco 49ers executive Tom Gamble appearing to be the front-runner to replace Mike Tannenbaum.
Gamble, the 49ers' director of player personnel, met with the Jets over the weekend. He also cancelled a second interview with Jacksonville and postponed a meeting with San Diego for their GM vacancies, according to published reports.
New York also spoke with Atlanta director of player personnel David Caldwell this weekend.
The Jets were still expected to interview Marc Ross, the Giants' director of college scouting, and in-house candidate Scott Cohen, the team's assistant GM under Tannenbaum. The meeting with Ross will satisfy the NFL's "Rooney Rule," which mandates that teams must interview at least one minority candidate for front-office and head coaching jobs.
But Gamble seemed to have the clear edge as of Sunday night.
ESPN reported Sunday, according to sources, that Gamble told the Jaguars he wasn't taking a second interview for their vacancy so he could concentrate on the Jets. NFL Network also reported that Gamble rescheduled a meeting with the Chargers, fueling speculation that New York could be moving close to a deal.
The new general manager will have several issues to consider, including what to do with starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, who struggled mightily this season and was benched but has $8.25 million in guarantees in his contract for next season. The team would take a hefty salary cap hit of $17.1 million if he is cut.
The Jets are also expected to try to trade Tim Tebow or release him after just one disappointing season in New York in which he was rarely used -- and never started at quarterback even as Sanchez was pulled. Tebow was disappointed in his lack of playing time, failing to reach the end zone during the regular season despite the team touting him before the season to be a major part of the offence.
The Jets also have several key potential free agents to address, including LaRon Landry, Dustin Keller, Braylon Edwards, Shonn Greene and Yeremiah Bell.
Owner Woody Johnson has not spoken publicly since the season ended and he fired Tannenbaum on Dec. 31 , but he will address the media -- along with coach Rex Ryan -- on Tuesday at the team's facility in Florham Park, N.J. It's unlikely the Jets will have their new general manager in place by then.
If they decide on Gamble, the Jets would get a veteran front-office presence who has been in the league for 24 years, including the last seven with the 49ers. He was promoted to director of player personnel before this season after serving as the team's director of pro personnel.
Gamble played a key role in helping general manager Trent Baalke turn the 49ers into one of the NFL's top franchises during the last few years. He was previously a college scout for the Colts from 1998-2004, a defensive assistant/quality control coach with the Jets from 1995-96 and started out working in Philadelphia's front office from 1988-94.
Gamble and Ryan have some history since their fathers worked together with the Eagles. Harry Gamble was the team president when Buddy Ryan was the Eagles' coach in the late 1980s.
Rex Ryan is expected to remain as coach for at least this season since he has two years remaining on his contract, and Johnson praised him in a statement last week, saying he "has the passion, the talent, and the drive to successfully lead our team."
Ryan and his staff were expected to return from a week of vacation on Monday. Despite rampant speculation, the team hasn't made a decision on the fate of offensive co-ordinator Tony Sparano, whose offence finished 30th overall in his first season with New York. Defensive co-ordinator Mike Pettine turned down a contract extension early in the season, and special teams co-ordinator Mike Westhoff retired after the season finale, so there could be several changes to Ryan's staff.