C.J. Mosley’s return likely won’t be enough for the New York Jets to stand pat
New York Jets linebackers:
- Players under contract: Blake Cashman, C.J. Mosley, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Del’Shawn Phillips, Jamien Sherwood, Quincy Williams
- Free agents: Jarrad Davis (UFA)
- Reserve/future: N/A
QUINCY. WILLIAMS. 😤
— New York Jets (@nyjets) September 19, 2021
The Position on the Position
C.J. Mosley and the $85 million contract (just over half of it fully guaranteed) attached to him appeared to be one final, lasting insult to remember the Mike Maccagnan era by.
Medical woes, both on the field (a groin injury that ate away at nearly all of his 2019 season) and off the field (opting out of 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns), limited him to a mere pair of regular-season games over the first two campaigns of a five-year deal.
When he was finally ready for action, many an article centering on potential future cap-related cuts and trades listed Mosley as a possibility.
Was Mosley worth the wait? It depends on who you ask. Analytics weren’t kind to Mosley. He was a routine target of the number hounds at Pro Football Focus, and his coverage efforts left something to be desired.
Some feel Mosley’s low rankings in PFF’s database were misleading, but conventional stats were equally deceiving. It’s easy to get hyped over his 168 tackles, but that category has outlived its usefulness in terms of determining a player’s value.
His physicality and leadership, on the other hand, impressed both fans and teammates. Mosley was named one of the Jets’ defensive captains at the start of the season and was bestowed the Curtis Martin Team MVP Award at the end of it.
Mosley’s output was satisfying enough for a developing team trying to nurture its defense, but it was nowhere near the production necessary to justify the massive figures attached to him. The Jets eat anywhere from $17-to-20 million if they outright cut him but net some savings in a trade, though it certainly appears he’s here to stay.
Related Article: Exactly how good was C.J. Mosley in 2021? Well, it’s complicated
On the other end of the spectrum, the Jets stumbled into a valuable find from a familiar source: the Williams family.
Quinnen’s older brother Quincy was added shortly after he was a part of Jacksonville’s final training camp cuts and went on to become one of the most valuable pieces of the New York defense. For his efforts (nine tackles for a loss, five pass breakups, three forced fumbles, two sacks, all career-highs), Williams earned an affordable raise through playing time, one that will have a minimal impact on the Jets’ offseason budget.
Injuries ate away at several position groups but the linebackers were particularly afflicted. Only Del’Shawn Phillips played in all 17 games last season, with Blake Cashman and rookie Jamien Sherwood (who worked his way into the September starting lineup) limited to a combined eight games.
Cashman has shown flashes of potential over his three seasons but has already made five visits to injured reserve.
Like his fellow converted secondary man Sherwood, Hamsah Nasirildeen worked his way into the starting lineup early on but was mostly relegated to special teams over his final 10 games (only 11 snaps on defense in that span, all coming in the final two games).
Jarrad Davis‘ Jets tenure was doomed from the start. He got hurt during the preseason, missed the team’s first six games, and never found his footing in New York.
Even when he was ready to go, the former Detroit Lion never lived up to neither his first-round billing from 2017 nor the one-year, $5.5 million deal the Jets bestowed upon him.
Though Davis was seen as a good fit for the Jets’ newfound 4-3 affairs, thanks primarily to his collegiate success in the formation under Geoff Collins and Randy Shannon’s supervision at Florida, it’s likely his time with the Jets is a one-and-done affair.
Will They Draft?
Nakobe Dean is such a relentless player.
Not a lot of ILBs can move and bend like this as a blitzer. pic.twitter.com/qTXS9q31ww
— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) March 11, 2022
It’s probably long past time to have a conversation about the Jets’ reluctance to address the linebacker spot through homegrown means.
The ignorance is partly understandable. Their last first-round linebacker was Darron Lee and their most recent within the first two days was third-round dropout Jachai Polite.
But with the Davis experiment likely over and the team in desperate need of help on the edge, it’d be silly to ignore the need.
All-Americans Devin Lloyd (Utah) and Nakobe Dean (Georgia) are the top options on each side. Lloyd could become a Michah Parsons-like project while Dean drew a comparison to previous Jets selection Jonathan Vilma from NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
Veteran Names to Watch
The kicking fiasco sure did overshadow one of De’Vondre Campbell’s best plays of the season:
Intercepting Joe Burrow in overtime💯 pic.twitter.com/BqrGHBCBnc
— IKE Packers Podcast (@IKE_Packers) January 31, 2022
De’Vondre Campbell, Green Bay
If the Jets want to put a little pressure on Mosley, De’Vondre Campbell would a strong option.
Campbell is fresh off a breakout campaign with the Packers, earning first-team All-Pro honors (the first Green Bay interior linebacker to do so since Ray Nitschke) in a year defined by his drastically improved coverage.
Having reclaimed the narrative on his NFL career, Campbell will probably go looking for something long-term. But the Jets offer Campbell some familiarity that could sweeten a potential deal in New York: Campbell’s first NFL experiences under the supervision of current defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, formerly the Atlanta Falcons’ linebackers coach.
Broncos knew what was coming well in advance. Knew the direction and concept.
Alexander Johnson is a beast, man. Skirts right through a meh cut attempt and makes a play at the LOS. Love watching Johnson play. pic.twitter.com/4zRwzqiWQo
— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) October 5, 2021
A.J. Johnson, Denver
The Jets are in desperate need of run defense and could potentially land A.J. Johnson on an affordable deal as he’s entering free agency for the first time at 30 and is coming off a six-game season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle.
Johnson has developed a reputation as a strong tackler and has been a bit of an analytical darling, ranking fourth amongst PFF’s linebacker ratings in 2021. PFF had bestowed him a grade of 81.0 before his Week 6 injury, with his run defense mark (90.3) ranking third despite the abbreviated showing.
Will forever love Bobby Wagner. One of the best 3 or 4 Seahawks players ever.
— Sports ON Tap Seattle 🎙 (@SONTSeattle) March 9, 2022
Bobby Wagner, Seattle
Defensive collaboration with the Pacific Northwest? It’s worked in the Jets’ favor before.
Russell Wilson wasn’t the only champion Seahawk who was informed his time in Seattle was over this week, as Bobby Wagner was likewise bid farewell (without so much as a personal notification from the team).
It took Jets fans mere seconds to make the Wagner/Robert Saleh connection, as the two had collaborated for the ultimate MetLife Stadium victory during their shared efforts that yielded a ring from Super Bowl XLVII. Though the Jets appear to be satisfied with the young foundation they have at linebacker, they could use an experienced (and still talented) mentor working with them.
The Jets appear to be satisfied with their young group at linebacker after restocking on day three of the draft. Even if they weren’t satisfied with what Mosley has to offer (and the players have made it clear they value him), the Jets are more or less stuck with him.
With no immediate exit from the latest stage of the perpetual rebuild in sight, some could argue that the Jets can roll with what they’ve got for another season, letting Mosley oversee and mentor the young group before they make a more affordable decision on his future.
But the Jets need to make some progress now and their current group isn’t going to get that done. It’s time to make the New York defense scary again. Doing that requires the team to use premier capital to bolster the current linebacker corps.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags