Valuable contributors are set to hit the market
New York Jets specialists:
- Players under contract: LS Thomas Hennessy, P Braden Mann
- Free agents: KR/PR Braxton Berrios, K Eddy Pineiro
- Reserve/future: K Matt Ammendola
— New York Jets (@nyjets) December 26, 2021
The Position on the Position
With the seemingly unsinkable coordinator Brant Boyer sticking around for a third different coaching regime, the New York Jets have made some big investments into their special teams unit over the past few years. They used their last 2020 draft pick on a punter (Braden Mann) before investing in cornerback Justin Hardee, better known as one of league’s most effective gunners and special teams tacklers.
Thomas Hennessy, granted a four-year extension in 2019, enjoyed another incident-free season.
He wasn’t the only one to enjoy progress last season. Mann missed seven games due to a Week 1 injury (forcing the Jets to call upon the effective full-in services of Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowler Thomas Morestead) but managed to improve his net average by over three yards and placed just over 34 percent of his kicks inside the opponent’s 20 (up from 23 percent the prior season).
Braxton Berrios, already having finished second in punt return average in 2019, became a national name thanks to his new kick return return duties, topping the league with a 30.4 average.
Three more names entered the Jets’ cursed post-Jason Myers kicking gauntlet, bringing the regular season number to seven. The Matt Ammendola experiment was canceled after 11 games (going 2-for-8 from at least 40 yards away) while Alex Kessman lasted only two missed extra points. Ammendola was nonetheless brought back on a reserve/future deal.
Eddy Pineiro took over for the final five games and converted all eight of his triple attempts to go along with 9-of-10 on extra points.
Braxton Berrios starts the game with a 79-yard kickoff return! #TakeFlight
— NFL (@NFL) December 5, 2021
Berrios has gone from depth chart afterthought to the focal point of the Jets’ offseason. The late chemistry formed with Zach Wilson after injuries ate away at the receiving corps was valuable as is, but Berrios provided a reassuring prescience all season long with his kick returns, which provided solid starting field position to a developing offense.
Keeping Berrios will likely come down to his desired price range, as the returns of Corey Davis and Elijah Moore will likely shuffle him back down the receivers’ depth chart. But with the specific, consistent set of skills he’s brought to the table – a set of constant positives so rare by modern New York standards – can the Jets truly afford to lose him?
El pateador pinolero Eddy Piñeiro consiguió un gol de campo y totalizó 5 puntos en la derrota de los @nyjets 28-24 ante los @Buccaneers en la semana 17 de la NFL. #NFL #Jets pic.twitter.com/7TgOULHGwn
— 8Deportivo Videos (@8DVideos2) January 2, 2022
Anywhere else, Pineiro’s efforts would be appreciated under the acknowledgment that it was part of a lost cause. But in New York, as part of a team that has sorely lacked a consistent kicking necessity since they let Myers walk to Seattle without much resistance, Pineiro might as well have been the second coming of Pat Leahy.
A reliable, consistent kicker is a must-have accessory for a team with a developing offense – one that can ensure that as many drives that end in opposing territory as possible end with points on the board. Pineiro is, by far, the closest thing the Jets have had to such a prescience on their roster since Myers’ historic 2018 season.
Will they draft?
Over the past three seasons, the Jets perhaps could’ve benefitted from using a draft pick on a kicker, much like the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals did when they took postseason hero Evan McPherson with the 149th pick of last year’s selections (three picks after the Jets called the name of Jamien Sherwood).
But with Pineiro potentially in tow (and having already spent a recent pick on a punter and Hennessy locked up), it’s unlikely the Jets will use this draft to alter their kicking battery.
Should Berrios leave, the Jets could kill two birds with one stone and use a day two selection on Houston cornerback Marcus Jones, a playmaking defender who is widely regarded as the top returner this class has to offer.
Veteran Names to Watch
11 years ago today:
After a huge kick return by Antonio Cromartie, Mark Sanchez put Nick Folk and the Jets in position to avenge their AFC Championship loss to the Colts from the previous season.
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) January 8, 2022
Nick Folk, New England
One of the few lingering remnants of the Jets’ last playoff team, Nick Folk has spent the last two years rebooting his NFL career.
Thought to be done for after a disastrous stint in Tampa forced him to take a detour in the Alliance of American Football, the 37-year-old has been one of the most reliable kickers over the last two seasons, leading the league with 150 points last year and recording back-to-back seasons with a field goal percentage over 90 percent.
Several of Folk’s New York records still stand. If Pineiro leaves, could he come back and defend and/or expand upon them?
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2021
Younghoe Koo, Atlanta
A graduate of Ridgewood High School (just over a 15-minute drive from MetLife Stadium), Younghoe Koo has become a legend in modern NFL lore as not only an accurate kicker (94 percent on his triples over the last two seasons) but as a rare codebreaker of the league’s increasingly restrictive rules regarding onside kicks.
Bringing Koo back to the start of his gridiron journey could create a source of secure stability unseen in the Jets’ kicking role for a long, long time.
Cordarrelle Patterson 104-yard HOUSE CALL ✌️
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 17, 2020
Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta
Berrios succeeded Cordarrelle Patterson at the top of the kick return rankings, as the four-time All-Pro returner took on a larger role in the Falcons’ offense.
The Jets’ lack of an offensive player capable of putting up four-digit yardage seasons is unacceptable enough so Patterson is another multi-talented threat that could contribute in multiple areas of the game plan.
Using major capital on running backs in this day and age in pursuit of gridiron prosperity is frowned upon (the Jets are still traumatized by the Le’Veon Bell blockbuster bust) but Patterson’s literally historic return capabilities warrant a big check.
One of the Jets’ first moves should be to try and lock up Pineiro, who has done nothing to suggest he’s not capable of handling the Jets’ kicking duties, for at least another year.
But a good portion of the Jets’ offseason outlook will center on what happens to the breakout Berrios. If he stays, the analysis and grading will be centered around the price tag. If he goes, the question then becomes how the Jets make up for the lost production.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags