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Is this NY Jets defensive lineman the ‘odd man out’?

Quinnen Williams
Quinnen Williams, Getty Images

The New York Jets have three starting-caliber edge rushers

The New York Jets acquired Haason Reddick to complete their edge rusher room.

Sounds like an accurate statement, right?

ESPN’s Rich Cimini suggested otherwise, though. In an article about the Reddick deal, he wrote, “They also have the reliable John Franklin-Myers, although he could be the odd-man out. His roster spot is vulnerable because of a $16.4 million cap charge.”

In theory, that sounds plausible. The Jets added one player with a $15 million cap charge, so they could shed the other. Even if Reddick isn’t a one-for-one replacement of Franklin-Myers stylistically, the room could be complete enough sans Franklin-Myers if the Jets choose to significantly increase Will McDonald’s role.

Furthermore, it’s easy to overlook the value Franklin-Myers brings. As Cimini said, he’s reliable, but he’s not flashy. He had just 3.5 sacks in 2023. Perhaps it is worthwhile to jettison his high cap number.

Looking a bit deeper, though, it takes the film room to recognize Franklin-Myers’ worth.

Sterling run defense

Franklin-Myers’ numbers belie his impact on the edge. Pro Football Focus gave him just a 64.3 run defense grade, ranking 38th out of 73 qualified edge defenders (min. 175 snaps). His paltry 3.1% run stop rate (measuring tackles that constitute a failure for the offense) ranked 71st, and his 3.3 average depth of tackle was 58th. No individual statistics indicate Franklin-Myers was anything more than average at best in the run game.

It’s possible to tease out some of Franklin-Myers’ effect in the run game. He played 89.6% of his snaps on the left side of the defensive line. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, on runs classified as outside right, the Jets had the fourth-best defensive success rate in the NFL at 64%. On the other side of the line, they ranked 24th with a 56.8% success rate.

Still, Franklin-Myers’ impact as an edge defender goes beyond the numbers and starts with leverage.

Franklin Myers wears No. 91 and lines up at the left EDGE position.

The tackle tries to seal Franklin-Myers and create a hole, but JFM stands him up and causes traffic for Bijan Robinson.

JFM gets a long-arm into the tackle’s chest and shed him to get in on the tackle.

Tony Pollard is immediately forced to cut to his left because JFM has the tackle so deep the backfield. The edge is sealed.

Don’t try to block JFM one-on-one with a tight end. Here, he carries the tight end straight into the ball carrier for the tackle.

JFM jolts the tackle back, not allowing Rhamondre Stevenson anywhere to go.

Franklin-Myers seals the edge, forcing Robinson back inside.

Franklin-Myers knows he doesn’t have the speed to catch up to the jet sweep, but he has the brute strength to push the tackle back into the ball carrier, giving himself and other tacklers enough time to recover.

Again, thinking a tight end can seal the hole against JFM is a mistake. He simply bullies the tight end right into the running lane.

Here, JFM swims the tight end and nearly gets the tackle for loss.

Again, run plays with tight ends try to block JFM are doomed for failure. He bullies Jack Stoll, a decent blocking tight end, into the backfield and makes the tackle.

Superior interior pass rush

Franklin-Myers’ 2023 season was a bit unusual for him. Normally, he is a slightly above-average pass rusher from the edge and a dominant interior rusher. In 2023, he was above average as an edge rusher but average from the interior. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, his 14.5% pressure rate from the edge ranked 24th out of 71 qualifiers (min. 200 pass rush snaps) and was better than the 13.4% positional average, while his 7.9% rate from the interior was 60th out of 145 (min. 89 pass rush snaps) and just about at the 7.8% positional average.

PFF tracks pressure slightly differently, and they had Franklin-Myers at a 13.9% overall pressure rate, ranking 23rd out of 72 edge rushers. That matches his edge ranking from Next Gen Stats, indicating he was likely above average as an edge rusher.

In 2022, though, Franklin-Myers got to his pressure rate quite differently. He had a 14.3% pressure rate from the interior, ranking sixth among all defenders, while his 9.9% pressure rate from the edge ranked 61st out of 78 qualifiers. His splits in 2021 were more even: 10.2% from the interior and 12.6% from the edge. In 2020, when he played primarily inside, he posted a 15.5% pressure rate inside and only 8.8% on the edge.

Overall, in four seasons with the Jets, Franklin-Myers has posted a 12.1% pressure rate as an edge rusher and a 12.6% rate as an interior rusher. That edge rate is below the positional average during that time (12.9%), but the interior rate is significantly above average (8.1%). He is a serviceable pass rusher from the edge but dominant from the interior.

Rather than maximizing his pass rush from the interior, the Jets utilize Franklin-Myers primarily on the outside for his run defense. They move him inside on obvious passing downs. They appear set to do that again in 2024. However, with two other edge rushers who can take starter snaps (Jermaine Johnson and Reddick), perhaps they’ll move him inside more often. He is a far superior interior pass rusher to Javon Kinlaw (6.2% pressure rate in 2023 per Next Gen Stats).

Would they release him?

Cimini referred to the fact that the Jets can save $10.7 million by releasing Franklin-Myers as a post-June 1 cut. I think the likelihood is very slim. The Jets didn’t trade for Reddick to then jettison Franklin-Myers, especially since it doesn’t save them much money. Furthermore, they would lose the run defense, as Reddick’s 6-foot-1, 240-pound frame cannot bring the same dominance that Franklin-Myers does at 6-foot-4 and 289 pounds.

I don’t think the Jets will get rid of Franklin-Myers this year. They seemingly pursued Reddick because they don’t trust McDonald in a full-time starter role. If they let Franklin-Myers go, that puts McDonald back into a large role.

Perhaps the Jets will restructure Franklin-Myers’ contract somewhat to free up cap space, as they can save as much as $11.6 million (or more) that way. The downside to doing this is that his contract will be even more expensive in 2025 and have a major dead-cap charge in 2026. Therefore, they could also choose to stick with his contract as is, as they did with C.J. Mosley in 2023, and then try to renegotiate a new contract in 2025, heading into his walk year.

If they do choose to try to move Franklin-Myers, though, I think it would be via trade. His inside-outside versatility would likely bring something back. Even though his $13.9 million cap hit would be steep, it’s below the going rate for dominant interior pass rushers.

How will the snap count break down?

The more interesting question for the Jets’ defensive line is how they’ll use all their players. In 2023, these were the snap counts for the Jets’ edge defenders. Note: this includes only snaps taken at EDGE, not other positions.

  • Jermaine Johnson: 739 (65.4%)
  • John Franklin-Myers: 424 (37.5%)
  • Bryce Huff: 471 (41.7%)
  • Micheal Clemons: 337 (29.8%)
  • Will McDonald: 181 (16%)
  • Carl Lawson: 100 (8.8%)

With the departures of Huff and Lawson, there are theoretically 571 snaps vacated along the edge. However, Reddick played 873 snaps as an edge defender in 2023. Even if he goes down to 571, that means McDonald will be stuck at a 19% snap count again. Therefore, it’s most likely that Micheal Clemons’ snap count will be severely decreased if he’s not released outright.

Cimini’s thought that Franklin-Myers’ roster spot could be in jeopardy makes sense when looking at this snap count breakdown. How will the Jets feed all the mouths in their room? Will they reduce Reddick to Huff’s role? Will they bring down Johnson’s snaps to make room for Reddick and McDonald? Or will Franklin-Myers move inside more often, making room along the edge?

This is certainly a good problem to have, but it will be fascinating to see how the Jets approach it. I suspect they will start the season with McDonald in a minimal role, as they did with Huff in 2023. If he takes advantage of those snaps, he’ll see an increase. The problem is that McDonald’s skill set is similar to Reddick’s; would that mean McDonald cuts into Reddick’s snaps?

This is a sample snap breakdown I could see happening, although it’s just a wild guess.

  • Johnson: 678 (60%)
  • Reddick: 622 (55%)
  • Franklin-Myers: 425 (37.6%)
  • McDonald: 362 (32%)
  • Clemons: 173 (15.3%)

I’m not sure the Jets will reduce Johnson’s snaps at all. They played him so much because he’s an excellent two-way edge defender. None of the Jets’ other edges have that same capability. Perhaps they’ll keep Johnson up at 66% and Reddick at around 50%.

Franklin-Myers is important to the Jets’ defense

Jets fans like to hate on Franklin-Myers because he is seemingly overpaid. Certainly, if you compare Franklin-Myers to Jadeveon Clowney, a similar-type player on the edge, the money does not add up. Still, he brings enough value to the Jets to be worth overpaying in an all-in season rather than letting him go to save money.

No, he’s not going to put up flashy sack statistics or make many run stuffs. Still, he does many of the little things that don’t show up in the box score. He also adds a hedge against injury on both the edge and the interior. Overall, Franklin-Myers should not be the odd man out.

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Jim G
Jim G
1 month ago

I agree that JFM is a critical piece on the defensive line. The above film clips showed exactly why the Jets should keep him. The Bill Belichick mantra “Do your job” comes to mind. In those film clips, he wasn’t flashy, but he routinely forced runners back inside for others to make the play, or prevented the runner from getting to the edge, or held his ground against a blocker and disrupted the play.

As you also mentioned, the fact that he can also play inside is valuable in the event of an injury to an interior defender. JFM should be a keeper.

1 month ago

I agree with you on his importance, and I think they are keeping him. The addition is not just for pass rush sake, it’s also to help the run D. You pointed out JFM is very good inside and with him and Reddick, Q and JJ that should help the run D. I do think they will just pay him this year and then try to resign him next season. I believe there are other players than can work with for cap relief.

Extending DJ and Conklin could help, and they seem like players worth extending.

verge tibbs
verge tibbs
1 month ago
Reply to  Jets71

I agree with everything youre saying here. Except id be leary on extending dj. I feel like how much he counts on his make up speed combined with him approaching 30, we could see a quick decline with him as guys usually slow down as they age. I could be wrong but id rather lose him early rather than late. Of course theyd have to replace him n thats not easy but theyve been pretty good at drafting CBs. I guess it really depends what the teams outlook is next offseason. If its still win now mode than maybe you gotta bite the bullet and take the risk of an extension. But thats tomorrows problem, for now i wouldnt extend, just my opinion.

I love jfm though. Appreciate this article showing how important his dirty work is.

1 month ago
Reply to  verge tibbs

Interesting take on DJ. He’s 27 now, giving him a 3 year extension with 2 years guaranteed still let’s