It’s way too early to make a 53-man roster projection for the New York Jets, but we’ll do it anyway
Now that the dust is starting to settle following the draft, minds can more seriously turn to the regular season.
Even though a lot can change between now and Week 1, the core of the New York Jets roster is already set. There can be some quibbling about one player over another but with a win-now roster, most of the players who will be here in September are already here.
Here is a way-too-early 53-man roster projection, an exercise that we’ll likely revisit monthly until August and then more frequently as the cutdown day approaches.
Quarterback (2): Aaron Rodgers, Zach Wilson
That first name is the most important one on the Jets’ roster and perhaps one of the most critical in franchise history. Aaron Rodgers will start for New York, backed up by Zach Wilson. The Jets better hope that Rodgers doesn’t miss a single snap the whole season, especially at MetLife Stadium. The results could be ugly otherwise.
Practice squad (2): Tim Boyle, Chris Streveler
Tim Boyle came along with Rodgers to be a camp arm. The Jets aren’t going to carry him on the roster. Chris Streveler is still a fan favorite but does not have an NFL-level arm, which will relegate him to the practice squad and not any team’s active roster.
Running back (4): Breece Hall, Zonovan Knight, Israel Abanikanda, Michael Carter
Breece Hall will likely be eased into the lineup coming off his ACL tear last November. Michael Carter was supplanted by Bam Knight as the next back on the depth chart last season, so there is no reason to assume Carter will be ahead of Knight. Fourth-round pick Izzy Abanikanda won’t contribute much in the passing game early on, which might push Carter ahead of him.
Knight could also potentially be the team’s kick returner.
Practice squad (2): Travis Dye, Nick Bawden
Travis Dye could be this year’s Bam Knight, waiting for an opportunity if he shows something in the preseason. The Jets surprisingly did not carry a fullback last season, but there just isn’t enough room for Nick Bawden on the active roster.
Wide receiver (6): Garrett Wilson, Corey Davis, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, Randall Cobb, Denzel Mims
Rodgers compared Garrett Wilson’s route-running to Davante Adams. Corey Davis’ slot as the WR2 is pretty assured unless a blockbuster trade is pulled off. Allen Lazard is Rodgers’ security blanket. Mecole Hardman has big-play potential.
Most analysts have assumed that Randall Cobb will join the Jets as a backup receiver. That leaves Denzel Mims in the sixth receiver spot. The rumors have begun that the Jets’ new offensive staff doesn’t like Mims, which could signal a potential cut, but I’m leaving him here for now.
Right now, Hardman profiles as the team’s likely punt returner and possibly kick returner, as well.
Practice squad (2): Irv Charles, Xavier Gipson
Irv Charles was on the Jets’ practice squad last year and impressed in camp. One of Xavier Gipson or Jason Brownlee will probably find their way onto the practice squad; I chose Gipson due to his speed.
Cut: Jason Brownlee, Malik Taylor, Diontae Spencer
Tight end (3): Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, Jeremy Ruckert
The Jets carried four tight ends on a regular basis last season. Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah are the incumbent starters, but Jeremy Ruckert figures to be active each week and try to push Uzomah for snaps. There just isn’t enough room for that fourth tight end on a regular basis.
Practice squad (2): Kenny Yeboah, Zack Kuntz
Kenny Yeboah could find a spot elsewhere, but the Jets carried him on their practice squad to start 2023 and will likely do so again. Zack Kuntz is a huge target, but he’s raw in just about every area. The only question will be if another squad will claim him before he can make it to the practice squad. Whether the Jets expose him to waivers will likely depend on his camp performance.
Offensive tackle (5): Duane Brown, Mekhi Becton, Carter Warren, Max Mitchell, Billy Turner
Right now, Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton are the presumptive starters at tackle for the Jets. However, there was some noise that they planned on moving Becton back to left tackle, which could signal a chance for Max Mitchell to win the starting job on the right side well Brown and Becton battle it out on the left.
Carter Warren is more NFL-ready than most fourth-round tackles and could be the first man up with an injury. Billy Turner has played many snaps at both tackle and guard spots, but his primary spot is on the right side.
This is significantly more depth at tackle than the Jets had heading into 2023, when they had to carry Conor McDermott following Becton’s season-ending injury.
Practice squad (1): Cedric Ogbuehi
Cedric Ogbuehi is basically a fringe NFL player at this point. The Jets signed him to their practice squad last season after a slew of injuries. He could always be signed to an active roster but will more likely start on a practice squad.
Cut: Greg Senat, Eric Smith
Offensive guard (3): Laken Tomlinson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Wes Schweitzer
The Jets have six players on their roster who can play guard, including Turner and their two centers. Laken Tomlinson could find himself benched if he plays as poorly as he did in Year 1. Alijah Vera-Tucker is the anchor of the Jets’ offensive line, and the team wants to keep him at guard so he can potentially reach his All-Pro ceiling.
Wes Schweitzer can play guard and center, but he was much better at the former than the latter. He is a more than capable Nate Herbig replacement.
Practice squad (1): Trystan Colon
The Jets may like Trystan Colon’s upside, but there just isn’t much space for him on the roster. Another team could snap him up or he could end up on the Jets’ practice squad in case of injury.
Cut: Chris Glaser
Center (2): Joe Tippmann, Connor McGovern
Joe Tippmann will be a Day 1 starter at center barring a colossal meltdown. Connor McGovern’s contract is not much more than the veteran minimum, but he is an average starting center and gives the Jets excellent insurance there.
Practice squad: none
Colon can also play center, making him the practice squad player at the position. The Jets also go three-deep there on the active roster.
Edge defender (6): John Franklin-Myers, Carl Lawson, Jermaine Johnson, Micheal Clemons, Will McDonald, Bryce Huff
The debate rages on about whether John Franklin-Myers will shift inside, but for now, we’ll assume that he reprises his edge role. Carl Lawson’s roster spot is also not entirely safe after the team drafted Will McDonald as a weakside pass-rushing nightmare.
Jermaine Johnson will push for more snaps on the strong side, and Bryce Huff’s $4.3 million second-round tender begs for more than 16.8% of the snaps. Micheal Clemons may move inside at times, although the Jets almost never did it in 2022.
Practice squad (1): Bradlee Anae
Cut: Deslin Alexandre
Interior defensive line (4): Quinnen Williams, Quinton Jefferson, Al Woods, Solomon Thomas
Quinnen Williams’ contract will get done at some point. Quinton Jefferson is currently the projected starter opposite him, though the Jets need to find someone else to stop the run. Al Woods is the most likely candidate because the team already met with him.
Solomon Thomas didn’t do much of anything last season, but Robert Saleh seems intent on keeping him in the rotation.
Practice squad (2): Tanzel Smart, Isaiah Mack
Tanzel Smart made a few defensive tackle appearances last season. His poor run defense showed that he is likely not an NFL-ready player. Marquiss Spencer and Isaiah Mack were signed this offseason; one of them figures to be stashed. I chose Mack for no particular reason.
Cut: Marquiss Spencer
Linebacker (5): C.J. Mosley, Quincy Williams, Kwon Alexander, Jamien Sherwood, Zaire Barnes
The Jets still seem to love C.J. Mosley, but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be with the team on this contract past 2023. Jamien Sherwood is his in-house replacement, though he’s played such few defensive snaps that it’s hard to know what to think about his potential.
Quincy Williams was re-signed to play the strong side. Joe Douglas left the door open for a Kwon Alexander reunion, which seems all but assured now that the Jets didn’t draft a natural replacement.
The surprise here is that I think Zaire Barnes will make the roster over Hamsah Nasirildeen. The Jets kept Nasirildeen on the practice squad for most of last year. I think they’d prefer to develop Barnes, who actually played linebacker in college, over the converted safety. That being said, it could come down to which player is better on special teams.
Practice squad (2): Hamsah Nasirildeen, Maalik Hall
Nasirildeen takes a spot on the practice squad to come up in event of a special teams need. The Jets scouted Maalik Hall before signing him as a UDFA, leading me to believe that there is something in his profile they like.
Cut: Chazz Surratt
Cornerback (6): Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, Michael Carter II, Brandin Echols, Bryce Hall, Justin Hardee
Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, and Michael Carter II attempt to reprise their status as the NFL’s top cornerback trio. Brandin Echols took some spot duty last year. Bryce Hall’s status is up in the air, but just as the Jets kept him inactive for most of last season, I think they’ll do it again. They want to make sure they’re covered in the event of a catastrophic injury.
I thought Justin Hardee should have been cut before last season, and I’m generally not a fan of keeping special teams-only players in today’s league. However, for better or worse, Hardee is a critical member of the Jets’ special teams coverage and a team captain. He will be on this roster. He does need to get a hold on his penalties, though.
Practice squad: none
Cut: Jimmy Moreland
Safety (4): Tony Adams, John Johnson, Jordan Whitehead, Chuck Clark
I believe that Tony Adams will be the team’s starting free safety this season. I also think the team will bring in a veteran as insurance since they don’t have any backups at the position. John Johnson is my preference, but Rodney McLeod or another veteran would do, as well.
Jordan Whitehead and Chuck Clark could see quite a bit of time on the field together, but only in the big nickel formation. It’s hard to see the Jets playing them as the safety duo considering that both struggle mightily in coverage.
Practice squad (1): Jarrick Bernard-Converse
Jarrick Bernard-Converse will most likely make the transition back to safety, as he struggled in coverage as a cornerback.
Cut: Will Parks, Trey Dean III, Ashtyn Davis
Will Parks is a fan favorite and was re-signed this offseason. However, he struggled mightily last season and profiles as a strong safety, which the Jets don’t need. I still think he’ll find a way onto someone else’s active roster.
Many Jets fans will want the team to keep Trey Dean III due to name recognition. He was projected as a Day 3 pick. However, he just doesn’t fit the team’s needs this season.
Special Teams (3)
Kicker (1): Greg Zuerlein
Greg Zuerlein steadied the Jets’ kicking position last year, although he struggled somewhat toward the end of the season.
Punter (1): Thomas Morstead
Thomas Morstead finally returns to replace Braden Mann in one of the most overdue moves for the team. Morstead is still a reliable punter in his late 30s.
Long snapper (1): Thomas Hennessy
Thomas Hennessy was just signed to a four-year extension and is the longest-tenured Jet. You never hear his name, which is a good thing.
Rivka Boord is on Twitter @rivka_boord
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