Elijah Riley, NY Jets, Re-Sign, ERFA, Free Agents
Elijah Riley, New York Jets, Getty Images

Three exclusive rights free agents return to New York Jets

After beginning the day by re-signing Dan Feeney, the New York Jets are continuing to focus on retaining their own players.

Brian Costello of the New York Post reported that the Jets have exercised their exclusive rights on defensive end Tim Ward, wide receiver Jeff Smith, and safety Elijah Riley.

An exclusive rights free agent is a player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If his original team offers him a one-year contract at the league minimum (based on his credited seasons), the player cannot negotiate with other teams.

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Ward, who turns 25 in August, was acquired off waivers from Kansas City in the days ahead of the Jets’ season opener. He played in 11 games, recording 12 tackles and two pass deflections as a situational pass rusher off the edge.

Smith, who turns 25 in April, was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2019, while Mike Maccagnan was still the Jets’ general manager.

Because Smith did not gain an accrued season in 2019 – as he did not join the active roster until mid-December (players need at least six weeks on the team’s active/inactive list, injured reserve or reserve PUP to gain an accrued season) – he became an exclusive rights free agent despite being in the league for three years.

In 2021, Smith played in 12 games and caught eight of his 17 targets for 113 yards.

Riley, who turns 24 in June, was signed by the Jets on November 9 during the 2021 season and ended up starting seven games for the team. Mainly handling the strong safety role, he recorded 45 tackles, three tackles for loss, one pass breakup, and one sack.

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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]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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10 months ago

Ok, so I’ve had ENOUGH of Jeff Smith. His route running is nothing short of horrible, he’s soft going after the ball and he has no instincts or “feel” for the game. He’s a converted QB, who has some speed but he’s caused more INT’s over the past couple of seasons because he doesn’t attack the ball. I don’t know why they are fooling around with him. Draft someone else and let him walk. PLEASE.