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7 NY Jets players in jeopardy of losing their roster spots

NY Jets, Micheal Clemons, NFL, New York Jets Roster
Micheal Clemons, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets have several veterans who could lose roster spots

The top of the New York Jets’ roster is arguably as strong as it has been in the last 25 years. The biggest concerns regard health, specifically for Aaron Rodgers, Mike Williams, Tyron Smith, and Alijah Vera-Tucker.

In the dog days of spring into summer, though, all eyes will be on the second and third-tier players of the roster. Which late-round rookies and undrafted free agents will stand out? Who will surprisingly make a run for the final 53? In that vein, some veterans could be at risk of losing their jobs.

Which Jets players who had roster spots in 2023 are in the most jeopardy of release?

OT Max Mitchell

This one feels like it’s all but set in stone. With the selection of Olu Fashanu, Max Mitchell fell into competition with Carter Warren for the second backup tackle spot. Both players’ performance was subpar in 2023, and the Jets seem unlikely to keep both. Warren has the advantage because he’s played only one season to Mitchell’s two.

The Jets may carry 10 offensive linemen, in which case Mitchell could retain his spot. Still, he appears to be on the outside looking in.

RB Izzy Abanikanda

The Jets could keep four running backs. They did it in 2023 with Breece Hall, Dalvin Cook, Michael Carter, and Izzy Abanikanda. However, the selection of two running backs in back-to-back rounds of the draft seems to spell trouble for Abanikanda. Even with Carter shipped off to Arizona and Cook struggling mightily, the rookie did not see any offensive snaps until Week 11 and managed just 77 total for the 2023 season. Robert Saleh’s excuse that Abanikanda had to learn how to pass block to get on the field further bodes poorly.

The truth is that Abanikanda is a one-trick pony: his only asset is speed. He has atrocious contact balance, an inability to break tackles, poor hands, and dismal pass protection skills. The 40-yard dash does not correlate with NFL success for running backs, and it’s easy to see it with the Pitt product.

The Jets’ switch to a gap scheme seems to add to the writing on the wall. It could be between Abanikanda and Nick Bawden (fourth running back) or Zack Kuntz (fourth tight end) for a roster spot.

EDGE Micheal Clemons

This one certainly seems unlikely after the Jets traded John Franklin-Myers. Micheal Clemons is their other oversized edge defender who has the potential to be stout in the run game. Clemons followed up a promising rookie season in that area with a disappointing sophomore campaign, as his Pro Football Focus run defense grade plummeted from 86.4 to 66.3. Coupled with being a complete non-factor as a pass rusher (5.1% pressure rate in 2023, down from 9% in 2022), the former fourth-round pick is not a roster lock.

However, the only realistic player to usurp Clemons’ spot right now is undrafted free agent Braiden McGregor. Considering that the Jets like to dress at least five edge defenders on gameday, it’s more likely that McGregor would make the roster along with Clemons than replace him. Still, the Jets could seek to add a veteran to the room or convert undrafted free agent Leonard Taylor to a big edge, thereby placing Clemons’ roster spot in jeopardy.

WRs Xavier Gipson and Jason Brownlee

The two undrafted free agents were feel-good stories on Hard Knocks, as both made the Jets’ 53-man roster. Jason Brownlee was mostly a healthy scratch throughout the season, while Xavier Gipson took over as the Jets’ starting slot receiver after Mecole Hardman was traded. With the selection of Malachi Corley, Gipson looks to be relegated to a backup slot role. After he had fumbling issues and was generally unimpressive as a returner, his return spot could be in jeopardy, as well.

One or both of these receivers could make the roster as depth. The Jets kept seven receivers on their roster to begin 2023, and they will likely keep Irvin Charles once more as their top gunner on special teams with Justin Hardee gone. Robert Saleh loves Gipson and could keep him around as a backup slot receiver. Brownlee could be the No. 6 and back up Mike Williams and Allen Lazard.

The Jets could still add another veteran receiver, most likely an outside guy. That would put Brownlee on the outside looking in. At least one of these receivers has a shot to make the roster, but they also have a chance of losing their spots.

S Jarrick Bernard-Converse

The Jets seem stubbornly content with their safety room, which would bode well for Jarrick Bernard-Converse. The only competition he faces for the Jets’ fourth safety spot is Mr. Irrelevant Jaylen Key. Still, there are starting-caliber safeties left on the free agent market, and Bernard-Converse played just four defensive snaps in 2023. For a sixth-round converted safety who spent much of 2023 on the PUP list, there’s always a chance that the Jets decide to upgrade.

FB Nick Bawden

As mentioned earlier, it could be Nick Bawden vs. Izzy Abanikanda in the Jets’ running back room. Nathaniel Hackett seemingly likes to keep a fullback, but he barely used him in 2023. Bawden saw just 8.7 snaps per game. Still, the Jets are gearing up to run the ball a lot, and they will likely have more opportunity to do so after constantly trailing in 2023. Bawden could be on the outs, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make the roster.

Not in jeopardy: WR Allen Lazard

I’ve seen suggestions that Allen Lazard‘s roster spot could be in jeopardy. There are 10 million reasons why that is not the case: his 2024 base salary is fully guaranteed. The Jets would sustain a $12.2 million dead cap charge while saving nothing if they released him with a post-June 1 designation. While his name came up in trade talks, no team in their right mind would willingly trade for the worst receiver in the NFL in 2023 (0.68 yards per route run).

Furthermore, as I warned Jets fans, Lazard currently stands as one of the Jets’ starting receivers in 11 personnel. Malachi Corley will need to earn the starting slot job, pushing Garrett Wilson outside and Lazard to the bench.

The Jets have every incentive to hope Lazard regains his footing with Aaron Rodgers. They’re in a bind with his contract. He’s not going anywhere.

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12 days ago

Clemons antics wears thin without production. His immaturity in Cleveland against the fans likely put him on notice with the brass. Without a bounce back in pre-season he is very much in danger if the UDFAs on the line show anything IMO.

13 days ago

Great article. I think McGregor OR Eric Watts could usurp Clemmons. Watts is 6’4″ and about 277 lbs. I actually would like to see both of them make the team