Arizona Cardinals star Chandler Jones highlights players the NY Jets may target in a trade.
Chandler Jones, NY Jets, Getty Images

New York Jets are reportedly exploring a trade for an edge rusher

Following the loss of Carl Lawson to a season-ending Achilles injury, the New York Jets appear to be on the prowl for an edge rusher to replace him.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Jets are looking to acquire a pass rusher to fill the void left by Lawson and that a trade is being considered.

Here are some players the Jets could go after through the trade market and free agency.

NY Jets trade targets to replace Carl Lawson

Dante Fowler

Dante Fowler, 27, played defensive end for the Falcons’ 4-3 defense last season, which was captained by now-Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich for the final 11 games following the firing of head coach Dan Quinn. Fowler also played under a linebackers coach named Robert Saleh for two years in Jacksonville (2015-16).

Fowler signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the Falcons in 2020 after a breakout season with the Rams in 2019.

His first season in Atlanta was a failure. Over 14 games, he posted only 30 pressures, ranking 56th among edge rushers. With those 30 pressures coming over 384 pass-rush snaps, Fowler posted a pressure rate of 7.8%, which ranked at the 27th percentile among qualified edge rushers. He also only had three sacks.

Fowler’s struggles led to a contract restructure. His 2021 base salary was reduced from $14 million to $6 million with up to $4 million in incentives added for various sack-total benchmarks. The third year of his contract was voided, making him an impending free agent, although he is still owed $4.7 million in 2022.

Expiring contracts like Fowler could be appealing to the Jets in their current trade search. Unless they are looking to give up premium capital for a top-tier option that could be around for years to come, they are likely looking to spend limited capital for a short-term solution to plug the hole left by Lawson for just one year. That would make players like Fowler more attractive considering the lack of long-term financial commitment.

The third overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, Fowler has had a wildly inconsistent career but has shown that he does have elite upside. In 2019, Fowler had 11.5 sacks, six passes defended, and two forced fumbles while ranking 11th among edge rushers with 67 pressures.

It is key that the Jets’ new edge rusher can play defensive end, lining up with his hands in the dirt rather than standing up. That’s how the edge rushers are deployed in Saleh’s 4-3 defense.

Fowler played with his hands in the dirt on 63% of his defensive snaps in 2020. Standing up as an outside linebacker might be his best fit, though, as when he had his 2019 career-year with the Rams, he played defensive end just 29% of the time.

Derek Barnett

The Eagles drafted Derek Barnett with the 14th overall pick in the 2017 draft while Joe Douglas was their vice president of player personnel. Philadelphia picked up Barnett’s fifth-year option for the 2021 season and he will become a free agent after the year.

Barnett, 25, has been a solid player throughout his Eagles career. He owns a career pressure rate of 10.5% (slightly above the 2020 EDGE average of 9.7%) and a career run defense grade of 69.3 (above the 2020 EDGE average of 61.4).

Barnett can line up either standing up or with his hands in the dirt but leans toward the defensive end position in Philadelphia’s 4-3 defense. He played defensive end on 65% of his snaps last season.

Marcus Davenport

Marcus Davenport, who turns 25 in September, is a promising young defensive end for the Saints. He is entering his fourth season and had his fifth-year option for the 2022 season picked up.

What makes Davenport a possible trade candidate is the fact that New Orleans just drafted defensive end Payton Turner out of Houston with the 28th overall pick in the first round of this year’s draft.

Davenport is a versatile player who had a 49%/51% split between snaps with his hands in the dirt and snaps standing up last season. He has posted borderline star-caliber levels of efficiency throughout his career, owning a 12.6% pressure rate and a 75.7 run defense grade.

The question marks for Davenport are injuries and his ability to handle a starter’s workload. He has missed 11 games in three seasons and has averaged only 35.1 snaps per game over 41 career regular season and playoff appearances. Davenport was a starter in only 15 of his 41 games.

Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones is in the final year of his five-year, $82.5 million contract that he signed with the Cardinals going into the 2017 season. He requested a trade from the Cardinals in late July.

Jones is one of the most accomplished pass rushers of the past decade, but there are strong signs that he may be on the downturn.

Now 31 years old, Jones missed the final 11 games of the 2020 season with a bicep injury that required surgery.

Jones was having the worst season of his career by a massive margin prior to the injury. Through five games, he had a 6.0% pressure rate with only 10 pressures on 166 pass-rush snaps. That rate landed him at the 10th percentile among qualified edge rushers by the end of the year.

In addition, Jones ranked at the position’s 42nd percentile in pass-rush win rate (11.9%) and 43rd percentile in PFF’s pass-rush grade (63.1).

Even Jones’ box score numbers were bad. He had one sack and 11 tackles in five games, both career-lows on a per-game basis. Jones was simply a below-average player across the board.

Just one year prior, Jones was named a first-team All-Pro with a career-high 19 sacks. Jones also ranked eighth at his position with 75 pressures.

Whether or not Jones fits the Jets’ scheme is a legitimate question. Throughout his Cardinals career, Jones has primarily been a 3-4 outside linebacker who lines up in a two-point stance (standing up). Jones put his hands in the dirt on only 10% of his snaps last season.

However, Jones does have experience playing defensive end from his time in New England from 2012-15, so he is capable.

Jones could definitely come back strong in 2021 and prove his small-sample 2020 woes were a fluke. He would be an exciting swing for the fences for the Jets, but they should be careful not to overpay for him. There are legitimate red flags regarding his future outlook.

NY Jets free-agent targets to replace Carl Lawson

Olivier Vernon

Olivier Vernon’s availability is unclear after he suffered an Achilles injury of his own during the Browns’ 2020 season finale. He remains a free agent.

Vernon, who turns 31 this October, remained a strong rusher in 2020 as he ranked 17th among edge defenders with 51 pressures. He played 42% of his snaps with his hands in the dirt last season, which is around the norm for his career. Vernon is capable of playing both defensive end and outside linebacker.

Everson Griffen

Everson Griffen will turn 34 years old this December and is not the star he once was, but he was still a good player for the Cowboys and Lions last season. His 15.2% pass-rush win rate ranked at the 73rd percentile among qualified edge rushers.

Griffen is a perfect fit to fill Lawson’s shoes at the right defensive end spot in the Jets’ 4-3 scheme. He played that spot in Mike Zimmer’s 4-3 defense with the Vikings, lining up at right defensive end on 94% of his snaps in 2019.

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, Griffen was reported to have worked out with the Vikings, but there has been no news since then regarding the possibility of a deal being signed.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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Kevin Robbins
2 years ago

Chandler Jones seems the least likely to me but the sexiest target. If they liked Griffen they probably would have signed him over Curry, right? I think Griffen is most likely because we dont have to give up draft picks. Will be interesting to see if we dangle the Sam pick for a big name someone doesnt plan to keep after the season.

Braden Bethwaite
2 years ago

From what I’ve been reading I think Derek Barnett is the best option. It will be interesting to see what JD does here

2 years ago

Excellent article. More options than I thought, but agree Barnett could be the best option. Really like this organization and have confidence that Douglas, Saleh & Ulbrich can collaborate and find the best solution.

2 years ago

It doesn’t really make sense to give up any real assets this year for a non core piece. Lawson injury is horrific for the outlook of the defense, but this is another development year. See who gets cut, and go from there.