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Special Teams Reset | A Strong Season Is in the Books, Big Personnel Decisions Lie Ahead

P Thomas Morstead, K Greg Zuerlein, Teams Leader Justin Hardee Can All Become Unrestricted Free Agents

Table inside Article
Player Exper in '23 GP-GS-DNP-IA D-ST-Tot Snaps
Justin Hardee (ST) 7th 11 - 0 - 0 - 0 0 - 263 - 263
Thomas Morstead (P) 14th 17 - 0 - 0 - 0 0 - 164 - 164
Thomas Hennessy (LS) 7th 17 - 0 - 0 - 0 0 - 158 - 158
Greg Zuerlein (K) 12th 16 - 0 - 0 - 0 0 - 118 - 118
Austin Seibert (K) 3rd 1 - 0 - 0 - 0 0 - 5 - 5

Finished Season on Practice Squad: Seibert

Signed Reserve/Future Contract: Seibert


Unrestricted: Hardee, Morstead, Zuerlein

Lay of the Land in '24
It will be an interesting offseason for GM Joe Douglas, coordinator Brant Boyer and the special teams as the Jets, again a top-three NFL unit (see ST Trivia below), have to make decisions on at least three key contributors who can become free agents.

Punter Thomas Morstead and kicker Greg Zuerlein both had very strong seasons, with Morstead returning to the Green & White after filling in for injured Braden Mann in 2021 and "Legatron" logging his second long-distance season in green. Justin Hardee, listed here with the specialists since he played no defensive snaps and was selected as an AFC Pro Bowl special-teamer after the '22 season, led the Jets' units again despite missing 6 midseason games with a hamstring injury.

Quietly outstanding long-snapper Thomas Hennessy returns, as do Xavier Gipson, who handled virtually all kick returns as an undrafted rookie free agent, and LB Jamien Sherwood, who, due to Hardee's hammy, logged the most special teams snaps for the season. Other cover/return performers under contract are FB Nick Bawden, LB Chazz Surratt, WR Irv Charles and CB Brandin Echols. But S Ashtyn Davis and LB Sam Eguavoen, second and third for most Green & White ST snaps, could also become UFAs.

See the best photos of the Jets specialists.

Quick Look Back at '23
The Jets, searching for a top-10 punter for a while, found him in Morstead, who barely led the NFL with 99 punts but easily led the league with 54 punts of 50-plus yards. He was second in the NFL with 36 inside-the-20 punts, first with 14 inside-the-10s, first with 6 inside-the-5s, 10th with a 48.8 gross average and 19th with a 41.8 net, and he set the franchise season marks with both averages.

Zuerlein's achievements were many: He set the franchise record with 26 consecutive field goals made, tied for the NFL lead with 4 game-tying/-winning FGs, converted 5 of 6 kicks from 50-plus yards and 35 of 38 FG tries overall, tied for the NFL lead with 4 game-winning/-tying FGs and was fourth with a 90.6% touchback percentage.

Gipson tied for the NFL lead with one punt-return TD — his opening-night game-winner vs. Buffalo — led the league with 30 fair catches, but was tied for 11th with a 9.67-yard PR average. He was fourth (among seven with at least 17 returns) with a 23.2-yard kickoff-return average. Davis led the Jets with 12 ST tackles, followed by Sherwood with 11, and they led the KO coverage unit that came in first in the league with 15.4 yards allowed on eight returns.

ST Trivia
It's not unusual for an NFL club's special teams performance to describe an arc over the years, as the coordinator loses top teams performers to free agency and slowly rebuilds his unit back to prominence. That's just what has happened for Brant Boyer and the Jets, as underscored by Rick Gosselin's annual NFL special teams rankings. Boyer became the Jets' coordinator in 2016 and two years later they were ranked No. 1 in the league by Gosselin. Next came the downward arc as the Jets fell to eighth, then 26th. But Boyer and his players never took their eyes off the prize, rising under HC Robert Saleh to 13th, ninth and, this season, back into the league's top five special units at No. 3.

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