Will Jets Dip into D-Line Free Agency Pool?

Posted Feb 26, 2018

Unit in Transition with Wilkerson Release & Several Good Role Players Eligible to Become FAs

Jets Free Agents
UFA (2): Kony Ealy, Mike Pennel
RFA (1): Xavier Cooper
XRFA (1): Deon Simon

The Market
Notable Non-Edge-Rushing D-Linemen: Star Lotulelei (CAR), Sheldon Richardson (SEA), Dontari Poe (KC), Shamar Stephen (MIN), Bennie Logan (KC), DaQuan Jones (TEN), Kyle Williams (BUF), Brent Urban (BAL), Denico Autry (OAK), Tyrunn Walker (LRM), Haloti Ngata (DET), Beau Allen (PHI).


"Not For Long" indeed. A year ago, Jets fans were envisioning a defensive line of Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson dominating offenses for a few more seasons to come. But in September, Richardson was traded to Seattle for WR Jermaine Kearse, Williams and Wilkerson fought through nagging injuries much of the season, and Wilkerson was a coach's-decision DNP for the last three games. This past week, Wilkerson was released.

"Unfortunately, it was kind of a tough decision for us to make," GM Mike Maccagnan said at the NFL Combine about Wilkerson's departure. "But the way we originally structured the contract gave us sort of a two-year window to make that determination. ... We do wish Mo all the best, but obviously we have a lot of cap space and the ability to go do stuff with that this year, so we’re kind of looking at the bigger picture on that.”

Steve McLendon was a solid contributor with 14 starts and unofficially a line-best 11.5 tackles in his second Jets season and he returns. But three contributing role players and first-year Jets could become free agents. Kony Ealy, the NFL's pass-rejecting star of the first half of the season, and Mike Pennel, an immovable force at times in the second half, can both become unrestricted FAs. Xavier Cooper, who had a knack for big plays in limited snaps after climbing aboard in Game 9, could be restricted.

In light of the Wilkerson transaction, the Jets may well be studying the free agency market for some non-edge-rushing plug-and-play linemen. The group available in free agency beginning in two weeks runs the gamut from young to old and big names to part-timers to Super Bowl performers.

Inside bodies include Star Lotulelei of the Panthers; former Chiefs two-time Pro Bowler Dontari Poe, who left Kansas City for Atlanta last year, and Bennie Logan, who migrated from Philadelphia to KC to replace Poe. The Super Bowler is Beau Allen, a rotational player his first four years with the Eagles, and other role players with playoff experience are the Vikings' Shamar Stephen, the Titans' big DE, DaQuan Jones, and the Rams' Tyrunn Walker.

The list of notable potential free agents also includes some veterans who've done damage to the Jets in the past. Twelve-year Bill Kyle Williams, who will be 35, has more sacks of Jets QBs, eight, than against any other NFL team. Haloti Ngata, 34 and coming off a torn biceps that limited him to five games with the Lions, had a strip-sack of Mark Sanchez that was turned into a Ravens TD in 2011.

Denico Autry has gotten to the QB twice in the Jets' last two visits to Oakland in '15 and last year. And Richardson could be on the market as well after his one season with the 'Hawks.