Whether or not C.J. Mosley can return to form is one of the most important variables for the 2021 New York Jets defense.
The New York Jets‘ biggest defensive addition of the 2021 offseason may not have been a true addition.
The impending return of four-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley that just might be the most crucial change to this unit from a year ago.
Since signing his five-year, $85 million contract ($51 million guaranteed) in March 2019, Mosley has suited up in only two games for the Jets, including none in the 2020 season after he opted out due to COVID-19 concerns. Plenty of skeptics have already labeled the deal as a massive failure for the Jets and a huge swing-and-a-miss for former general manager Mike Maccagnan.
However, Mosley still has plenty of time to live up to his contract, simply because the Jets have no choice but to give him the chance.
Mosley and the Jets are essentially tied together for the next two years. Releasing Mosley now would result in a dead money charge of nearly $28 million for the Jets. Cutting ties with the Alabama native and Crimson Tide star in the 2022 offseason would drop a $20 million dead money charge on the Jets.
The Jets will not have a feasible opportunity to release Mosley until the 2023 league year when they can cut him to save $17 million in cap space while taking on just $3 million in dead money.
Trading Mosley is a more viable option, as the Jets would save $16 million in cap space while absorbing only $4.5 million in dead money if they traded him this year. However, it seems unlikely that any team would want to trade for Mosley and his massive contract right now.
And that’s a good thing for the Jets, who should not be looking to part ways with Mosley anyway. The 17th overall pick of the 2014 draft has been nothing but a bona fide star when healthy since the day he put on a Baltimore Ravens jersey for the first time. Still in his prime at 29 years old, physically fresh with a year off from the game, and highly motivated to quiet the doubters, Mosley is well-positioned to come back in peak form this year.
Mosley’s coverage ability has long been considered a weakness in his game by football fans for some mysterious reason. That urban legend is a complete farce. Mosley is a stud in coverage, using his elite awareness, football IQ, and instincts to thrive at taking away throwing lanes in zone coverage. He has given up a touchdown-to-interception ratio of just 0.8-to-1 since 2018, lightyears ahead of the 2020 league average for linebackers (3.5-to-1).
Even if you just scout the standard box score, you should know that Mosley is good in coverage. From 2014-18, he ranked third among linebackers in passes defended (35) and third in interceptions (9).
Mosley also packs the punch as a run defender and is a sound tackler who whiffs at a very low rate.
The most important factor to remember when it comes to evaluating Mosley’s bounce-back potential is the fact that his game is not athleticism-based – it’s based on what he has in between the ears. Mosley’s bread-and-butter has always been his fundamentals, not his physical tools, and that should help him stand the test of time.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Mosley’s experience, leadership, and smarts will be crucial in aiding the development of a young linebacker room that features the talented but-volatile Jarrad Davis, the athletic-but-frail Blake Cashman, and a pair of rookies in Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood.
Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich will be relying on a bevy of unproven linebackers this season, making the position one of the largest variables on the roster. Athleticism and talent are aplenty, but with a major lack of experience and injury questions abound, the unit has a very low floor to go with its high ceiling.
On the latest episode of the Cool Your Jets podcast, Ben Blessington and Michael Nania break down the Jets’ off-ball linebacker position. What role will each player end up playing? Who ends up getting the most playing time outside of Mosley? It’s all discussed on the newest CYJ.