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The ultimate Bryce Huff breakdown: Should NY Jets pay him?

Bryce Huff
Bryce Huff

The New York Jets have big looming decision about Bryce Huff

It’s almost action time for the New York Jets. On March 13, they will need to either pay up for Bryce Huff or see him depart, likely for no return. Joe Douglas already announced that the Jets will not use the franchise tag on Huff. That means he will test the market.

According to Connor Hughes of SNY, Huff’s market may not be as steep as widely assumed. Hughes projected a range between $12-14 million for the dynamic edge rusher. If so, the Jets’ decision should be automatic: get the deal done.

However, it seems unlikely that this number is accurate. Pro Football Focus projected a $16.67 million average per year for Huff (although Spotrac has an unrealistic $9.2 million listed). Over the Cap’s Jason Fitzgerald predicted that Huff’s market will be in the $17-18 million range. Anywhere between $16-20 million seems to be a widely held consensus.

Huff is a somewhat polarizing figure for many reasons. We’ve discussed his profile many times in recent months, and the discourse surrounding him is pretty definitive. Still, there are elements of his profile that have been either glossed over or not fully fleshed out in the public narrative.

Let’s take a deep dive into Huff’s numbers and film, including placing them into context, to answer the question once and for all: should the Jets re-sign Huff? What will the cost be for not doing so?

2023 statistics

Huff’s pass rush numbers were elite by every measure in 2023. According to PFF, here are his numbers and ranks among 72 qualified edge rushers (min. 275 pass-rush snaps).

  • 22.9% pass rush win rate (3rd)
  • 20.1% pressure rate (T-1st)
  • 2.99% sack rate (T-13th)
  • 25.4% true pass set pressure rate (3rd)
  • 18.6% adjusted pressure rate (2nd) (adjusting for a league-average rate of true pass sets)

For reference, PFF’s top-rated edge rusher on the free-agent market, Josh Allen, posted a 17.5% pressure rate and a 20.5% pass rush win rate. That’s how dominant Huff was as an edge rusher.

However, Huff struggled as a run defender. Among 101 edge defenders with at least 130 run defense snaps, Huff’s 48.0 run defense grade ranked 92nd (9th percentile). Among the league’s top 10 most highly paid edge rushers (all making at least $20 million per year), only Trey Hendrickson (51.0) had a run defense grade below 70. In the $15-17 million range, Harold Landry (64.2) and Danielle Hunter (51.7) can be added to the list. Brian Burns (63.2) and Haason Reddick (64.0) are also lesser run defenders.

Still, most of the league’s highly-paid edge rushers can hold their own in the run game. Huff is looking for a Hendrickson or Hunter valuation.

Pass rush fall-off?

Jets fans were clamoring for the team to pay Huff at the bye week after he posted an astounding 28.1% pressure rate over the first six weeks of the season. Through Week 9, he had a 28.7% pressure rate with 43 pressures on 150 pass rush snaps.

However, from Weeks 10-17, Huff appeared to go silent. Over that eight-game span, not a small sample, he had just 16 pressures on 164 pass rush snaps, a 9.8% pressure rate that is below the league average for edge rushers. He then finished off the season with a dominant seven-pressure performance on 20 pass rush snaps against New England.

What happened in those eight weeks, though? Did Huff slow down as his season-long snap count increased?

That does not seem to be the case. While his pressure rate declined significantly, his win rate actually stayed fairly consistent.

For context, a league-average pass rush win rate for edge rushers was 13%. In those eight weeks, here are Huff’s pass rush win rate marks: 12.5%, 16.7%, 25%, 22.2%, 26.1%, 22.7%, 19%, 26.7%. In other words, he had one below-average game in Week 10, but he was still winning his pass rush reps at an elite level in nearly all of his games. Overall, during that time, he had a 21.6% pass rush win rate — not far off from the 22.4% rate he had in the other nine games of the season.

That would seem to indicate that other factors were preventing Huff from getting to the passer as frequently. For one thing, two of those games came against Tua Tagovailoa, who got the ball out in an average of 2.18 and 2.14 seconds in the matchups. That makes it virtually impossible for an edge rusher to get home, yet Huff still managed to post three pressures in the second matchup and a sack in each one. Aidan O’Connell also got the ball out quickly against the Jets, averaging 2.41 seconds.

Furthermore, teams started double-teaming Huff on a far more frequent basis. That is not an excuse in and of itself, for the league’s top edge rushers face double-teams regularly. Still, he was winning his reps even if he didn’t turn them into pressures, meaning that he was able to beat the double teams. That brought a net positive to the Jets’ pass rush, as he beat the two men while allowing other rushers one-on-one opportunities.

Run defense

There is one measure that, on its surface, seems to indicate that Huff is exceptionally dreadful as a run defender: the Jets’ run defense statistics with and without Huff on the field.

  • With Huff: 129 attempts, 710 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, 43.4% success rate, 0.147 EPA per carry
  • Without Huff: 332 attempts, 1220 yards, 3.67 yards per carry, 34% success rate, -0.185 EPA per carry

However, a glance at the film shows that this is hardly a fair or accurate assessment. Many of the big run plays the Jets allowed with Huff on the field did not go in his direction at all. You can argue that he was somewhat lazy getting downfield, but many of the NFL’s big pass rushers are that way. (It should make Jets fans appreciate Jermaine Johnson that much more.)

Another way to negate the validity of this assessment is to look at the run splits with Huff on the field and Quinnen Williams on or off the field.

  • With Huff and Williams: 82 attempts, 5.73 YPC, 45.1% success, 0.262 EPA per carry
  • With Huff and no Williams: 47 attempts, 5.11 YPC, 40.4% success rate, -0.0551 EPA per carry

Does this mean the Jets’ run defense is better off without Williams? Clearly not.

It’s easy to point at the Jets’ numbers with and without Huff as proof of his subpar run defense, but blaming one player for the team’s performance when he is on or off the field is not fully accurate. That’s why we need to take a closer look at the film and analyze his run defense individually.


Huff’s biggest struggles as a run defender come from the exact mentality that the Jets’ defense teaches. They want their defensive linemen to penetrate quickly. Good offenses take advantage of this by running traps, draws, and toss plays to go past the penetrator, thereby gaining a numbers advantage. This is exactly what happened to Huff many times; he ran straight upfield with abandon, intent on rushing the passer or taking a straight path to the ball carrier, and the ball simply went in the other direction or right past him.

Furthermore, Huff’s wide outside rush tends to allow space for a quarterback to scramble. Several of the big runs that occurred with Huff on the field were quarterback scrambles through the vacated inside lane. In particular, the Jets may have lost the game against the Chiefs because Huff rushed with abandon against Patrick Mahomes rather than working, first and foremost, to maintain gap integrity.

Huff also doesn’t shed blockers on the edge that often, forcing the Jets’ other defenders to be extra disciplined in their lanes. If one Jets box player is blocked, Huff’s inability to make up for it could result in a big play. Still, he’s okay enough at setting an edge to force the running back inside, even if he’s not there for the tackle himself. He’s certainly not a tremendous liability in that area.

Pass rush impact vs. run defense impact

Huff’s run defense is not good. Regardless, there is a strong argument to be made that the value he brings as a pass rusher far outweighs the negative value of his run defense.

Michael Nania pointed out how the disparities in the Jets’ DVOA ratings from 2022 to 2023 coincided with Huff’s snap count increasing from 16% to 42%. Obviously, Huff is not the only factor that changed; Johnson also broke out, and Quinton Jefferson’s pass rush was more effective than Sheldon Rankins’ the year before. Still, Huff is certainly a prominent variable responsible for changes in the Jets’ defensive rankings.

  • 2022: -9.5% defensive DVOA, -5.8% pass defense DVOA, -14% run defense DVOA
  • 2023: -14.2% defensive DVOA, -17.5% pass defense DVOA, -10.5% run defense DVOA

Quantitatively, the Jets’ defense improved in DVOA by 4.7%, including 11.7% in pass defense DVOA, even though they fell by 3.5% in run defense DVOA. Their overall DVOA improved significantly even though their run defense DVOA got worse, and that’s because their pass DVOA was so much better.

When discussing Huff or any other Jets player, pass rush is king. There’s a reason that the league-average pass defense DVOA in 2023 was 4.4% while the run defense average was -6.4%: pass defense is usually far less efficient than run defense. The fact that the Jets’ pass defense provided 21.9% more DVOA value than average defense fully outweighed the small decrease in run defense DVOA.

As mentioned before, Trey Hendrickson and Danielle Hunter got paid despite subpar run defense. It shouldn’t even be a thought on the Jets’ minds.

Effect on Jets’ pass rush

Now that I just discussed the limitations of such an analysis, I’m going to use it again when it comes to the Jets’ pass rush. It’s more accurate to assess a team’s pass rush output with and without a particular pass rusher because he’s actually rushing the passer on each play, unlike in run defense where he may not be involved in the play at all.

The numbers indicate what happens to the Jets’ pass rush without Huff.

  • With Huff: 36.9% pressure rate (Would rank 2nd), 20.8% quarterback hit rate (1st), 9.06% sack rate (3rd)
  • Without Huff: 32.4% pressure rate (10th), 13.1% quarterback hit rate (27th), 6.99% sack rate (23rd)

That’s a very significant difference, particularly in quarterback hits. Not only does Huff himself bring pressure, but he forces defenses to pay attention to him, thereby freeing up space for other defenders.

Paying him

As Nania explained, the Jets need their free agency money to pay an offensive line. In his plan to revamp the line, the Jets would still have $26.1 million to address their other needs, but that’s without Huff included. If they spend $17 million per year on Huff, that would leave them only $9 million to fill wide receiver, safety, backup quarterback, defensive tackle, and the rest of their needs.

One solution could be to trade John Franklin-Myers, which would save $7.3 million against the cap. Part of that savings can be used for Huff. If they’re really ambitious, they can wait until after June 1, save $13.9 million by trading Franklin-Myers, and defer Huff’s biggest cap hit to later years of the contract.


I tried to address the most common narratives about Huff in this article. Yes, he’s bad against the run, but not bad enough to be a prohibitive signing. The pass rush production he brings the Jets more than makes up for any deficiencies in the run game. He still wins his pass rush reps at an elite rate even when teams slant their blocking towards him, although, like Quinnen Williams, it may cause him to fall off on the stat sheet somewhat.

If the rest of the NFL sees Huff as a pass rush specialist, so much the better. The Jets can get him for a bargain price considering the effect he has on their defense. If they need to pay up at market rate, though, $17 million should not faze them. Their defense is predicated on pass rush and secondary. They must make sure the first part of that equation is solidified.

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