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5 players NY Jets should not bring back in 2024

Mekhi Becton, NY Jets, Contract, Free Agent, Stats
Mekhi Becton, New York Jets, Getty Images

Many of the NY Jets’ 2024 free agents should be sent packing

Was Joe Douglas’ 2023 offseason the worst of his tenure with the New York Jets?

The acquisition of Aaron Rodgers may just save him from that fate. That just goes to underscore how poor several of his other offseasons were, though.

Still, on the whole, Douglas brought in player after player who has vastly underachieved. He restructured contracts rather than releasing players with inflated cap numbers. He left the offensive line bare, drafted a developmental player in the first round in a win-now year, and didn’t beef up the receiving corps.

With that in mind, here are the players the Jets should not bring back in 2024. The list is officially five, but there are so many other obvious candidates that it is actually a lot longer.

Mekhi Becton

Even the most stubborn of Jets fans should finally recognize what has been true for a lot longer than that: Mekhi Becton is not even a ghost of his former self. The behemoth left tackle leads all offensive linemen in sacks allowed (11) and is tied for second in penalties (13). His numbers do not do his putrid play full justice; just watch Joe Blewett’s film breakdown from the 30-0 loss to the Dolphins to understand how poorly Becton has played.

Not only shouldn’t the Jets re-sign Becton as a starter — they should not even consider bringing him back as a backup. Becton looks no better than perennial practice squad lineman Jake Hanson, and perhaps he’s been worse given each player’s pedigree. Any team that gives Becton a contract larger than Billy Turner’s one-year, $1.5 million deal is kidding themselves.

As much as Becton has the potential to be so much more, that potential is buried three years in the past at this point. Right now, he is a player at Turner’s level and deserves to be paid as such — the 11th offensive lineman on a team, if even that.

Jordan Whitehead

Just as Becton has been one of the worst tackles in the league this season, Jordan Whitehead has been one of the worst — if not the worst — safeties.

Among 65 qualified safeties (min. 320 coverage snaps), Whitehead has allowed the 12th-most yards (378), the seventh-most yards per reception (17.2), the fifth-most YAC (221), the longest touchdown (81 yards), and the most touchdowns (8), all despite having the 23rd-ranked average depth of target (10.3). He also has just a 9% forced incompletion rate, ranking 40th, signifying that he does not have many plays on the ball or tight coverage reps despite his four interceptions.

Furthermore, Whitehead does not even have his run defense as a saving grace. His 16.4% missed tackle rate in the run game ranks 47th out of 65 qualifiers, negating much of the impact of his 4.4% stuff rate, which ranks 9th. The eye test demonstrates just how many times Whitehead missed a tackle to turn a run stuff into a gain or a modest gain into a big one.

Bringing back Whitehead in 2023 was a mistake after he crashed and burned in 2022 (notwithstanding Robert Saleh’s bizarre praise). Doubling down on that in 2024 would be catastrophic.

Al Woods

Al Woods was an underrated part of the Jets’ run defense, which crumbled once he tore his Achilles in Week 8. Still, at age 36, he was never going to be much more than a one-year rental. Furthermore, his complete non-existence as a pass rusher makes him difficult to play, as offenses take advantage of his presence to pass the ball with little trepidation and a numbers advantage in their pass-blocking.

The Jets need to replace Woods with a run-stuffer who has some more pass-rush oomph. That may not be easy to find, but their run defense needs reinforcements.

Zach Wilson

Zach Wilson has one more year on his contract after this one, but reports indicate that the Jets will try to trade him after the season. That is a must, even if the return is only a conditional seventh-round pick as it was for Denzel Mims. If they cannot find a trade partner, the Jets should release him and eat the $11 million dead cap hit. Wilson’s time in New York is simply over.

The Jets should have tried to trade Wilson last offseason, but once they did not, 2023 should have been a redshirt season for him. They did him a disservice by keeping him in a position to start if a 40-year-old quarterback would get injured behind a porous offensive line. Still, they cannot repeat the mistake in 2024.

Perhaps, as my grandfather (a Jets fan since their Titans days) insists, Wilson will go elsewhere and live up to his potential as the No. 2 overall pick. If that happens, I will eat my hat. (If you want to hold me to that, notice how high I set the bar: living up to his potential as a No. 2 overall pick.)

Laken Tomlinson

The Jets were stuck with Laken Tomlinson last year due to his contract. This year, they are not stuck with him, no matter what bridge Saleh may try to sell the fan base.

Statistically, Tomlinson has outdone even his putrid 2022 season. His 7.3% pressure rate dwarfs his 4.5% mark a season ago, and his Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade is very similar (48.9 vs. 46.9). Not only is Tomlinson consistently beaten in the run game, but he also makes it far more difficult for Joe Tippmann to learn the center position by passing off stunts poorly.

The money the Jets have invested in Tomlinson compared to his production makes him the biggest free-agent bust of the Douglas era. They can mitigate that damage from extending into 2024 by releasing Tomlinson with a post-June 1 designation, which would save them $13 million with a $5.9 million dead cap charge (plus another $4.9 million in 2025).

With that $13 million, the Jets could potentially sign a solid guard-and-a-half. With Alijah Vera-Tucker’s ability to play either guard spot, the team has quite a bit of flexibility in choosing their next guard.

Obvious: Carl Lawson, Dalvin Cook, Billy Turner, Randall Cobb, Duane Brown, C.J. Uzomah

If the Jets bring back any of these players, they’ve taken an unsafe dose of ayahuasca. They have been among the worst players at their respective positions in the NFL. Uzomah was benched in favor of Jeremy Ruckert weeks ago and had a bloated contract in the first place.

Other candidates: Micheal Clemons, Max Mitchell

These two fourth-round picks do not deserve a spot on the 2024 roster. Micheal Clemons has regressed after playing as a strong edge-setter in the run game in 2023; he also has no pass rush thump at all. Max Mitchell has shown that he is not even a competent backup tackle. He is involved in virtually every run stuff for the Jets’ offense and has an 8.9% pressure rate.

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Jim G
4 months ago

I agree as to all of them. That totals 13 players, almost 25% of the roster. Is it me or is that pathetic?

You should not have to eat your hat if Zach Wilson were to succeed for another team. He is so broken as a QB that he must be completely remade, a process which will take at least 2 years of watching & learning. Sort of like what Pete Carroll did with Geno Smith.

4 months ago

Don’t disagree with Rivka’s list above. Ironically, I think Zach improved quite a bit in 2023 (admittedly a low bar), but not enough to overcome the OL and very poor game calling. He will play much better elsewhere under improved play calling.

4 months ago

The off season wasn’t as bad as made out here, I’m not going to say it was great by any stretch but this is a bit harsh. Q resigned, his brother resigned, Rogers trade (yes he got hurt but if we are being honest a good move) Q Jefferson signed (excellent move). The OL wasn’t left bare, Schweitzer injured, Tippmann drafted (looks like a quality pick), McGovern, although not a stud, still a good move given the player/salary. Woods as a 1 year rental to boost the run D wasn’t a horrible move either.. Gipson, a good addition, not saying he’s a stud or anything but he was undrafted and has made some important contributions.

Also forgotten here is the Douglas can’t just get whoever he wants. It was reported he did try to sing OL in free agency, it didn’t work out.

The have started 7 right guards, 5 centers took snaps, 4 RT’s, no team has that kind of depth.

4 months ago
Reply to  Jets71

The worst moves were the ones he had to make for Rodgers; Lazard, Cobb, Turner, Boyle and Cook.

4 months ago

I’d be curious to know how Mitchell stacks up against other backup RTs. He’s definitely not good compared to starters, but when you’re down to the backups; what’s the expectation?

4 months ago

It’s a shame we can’t add Lazard to the list because of his contract.

4 months ago
Reply to  DHB

I can understand him struggling without a HOF QB throwing him the ball. His lack of effort is inexcusable.

4 months ago
Reply to  Reprocity

I knew nothing about him but after listening to his pressers/interviews, he’s just not somebody I ever connected with as “likable.” There’s some arrogance in the way he talks that turned me off.