In today’s NFL, rushing the passer is an essential part of any stout defensive unit. Unfortunately, the Jets have been seriously longing for a decent rusher since John Abraham left town, and somehow they have failed to address the need in the years since.
Jets can't ask Maybin to do everything.
True, Aaron Maybin did provide some semblance of a pass rush last season, but Maybin is best used as a situational rusher and is not an every down player. Additionally, veteran LB Bryan Thomas is a free agent and recovering from an Achilles injury he suffered last season. While several sources close to the team have indicated that they’d like to keep Thomas, the Jets still need help.
Further complicating matters in the search for a pass rusher is the recent news regarding LB Bart Scott. Reports indicate that Scott has been “granted permission to seek a trade,” leading many to believe that Bart’s time as a Jets is coming to a close. I would imagine that shopping for a future replacement for Scott was on the off-season homework list (likely through last round in the draft), but now the search has grown a little more time sensitive. I still believe that a pass-rushing OLB/DE should remain at the top of the list of priorities, but the Jets will no doubt also be looking for other versatile linebackers to add to the roster.
For now, I am just going to concentrate on the specific need at outside linebacker.
The first option is that the team can try to acquire a free agent to fill the position. I have put together a short list of guys that have been discussed, reportedly been targeted or should be targeted. I have included some defensive ends on the list, mostly because they have been mentioned, but I sincerely doubt they go this route. The team drafted Muhammed Wilkerson at the position last year and furthermore, Rex’s scheme generally generates a pass rush from the OLB position. Given that there is a lack of really elite FA 3-4 OLB’s, the Jets are going to be targeting players that can move around; guys that can rush the passer, effectively stop the run and also drop back into coverage.
DE/OLB Mario Williams (HOU): Williams is not only at the top of the list of FA pass rushers, he is at the top of the list of free agents. The Jets have indicated that they will not go after Williams, likely because he will command a very hefty salary. In fact, by the end of free agency, Williams may ultimately end up as the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.
Sorry Jets fans, but this is nothing more than a pipe dream.
DE John Abraham (ATL): The aforementioned Abraham is seeking a hefty payday in free agency (reports indicate he is asking in the $12 million range). We can argue about Abraham’s productivity but fact is, he is getting older and he wants too much money. It’s just not going to happen at that price.
DE Robert Mathis (IND): For years, Mathias has been one of the top pass rushers in the league. While he is starting to creep up there in age, his ability to get after the quarterback is still top tier.
Update: The Cots have now franchised Mathis, though the two sides will continue to work together on a long-term deal.
LB Anthony Spencer (DAL): Jason LaCanfora is reporting that the Cowboys have franchised Spencer. Will have to cross him off the list for this year. Seems like a lot of money to give to Spencer, but I’m not Jerry Jones. Thank goodness.
LB Jarret Johnson (BAL)- Various reports have indicated that the Jets have interest in acquiring the Raven LB through free agency, and it’s easy to see why. Johnson has a lot of versatility as a player, the price is reasonable and he was also a favorite of Rex’s from his days in Baltimore.
Problem is, Johson isn’t really the guy to consistently go after the QB. It seems to me that Johnson would be more of a replacement for Bryan Thomas above anything else, and some argue that in that case, it’s more of a lateral move and less of an upgrade.
Ravens free agent LB Jameel McClain has also been linked to the Jets. McClain has played at both inside and outside linebacker in Baltimore. I see him more as a replacement to Bart Scott than anything else but it’s at least worth noting.
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