Jets Free Agency | In Search of a Consistent Pass Rush

Will Green & White Add a UFA Edge Rusher to the Mix Alongside Their Emerging DL Standout?

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Defensive Linemen on the Roster (GP/GS in 2020)
Trevon Coley (0/0), Folorunso Fatukasi (15/8), John Franklin-Myers (15/2), Bryce Huff (14/0), Kyle Phillips (7/3), Nathan Shepherd (14/3), Tanzel Smart (3/0), Quinnen Williams (13/13), Jabari Zuniga (8/0)

Linebackers on the Roster
Tarell Basham (16/9), Blake Cashman (4/1), John Daka (0/0), Noah Dawkins (5/0), Sharif Finch (3/0), Bryce Hager (10/2), Neville Hewitt (16/16), Jordan Jenkins (12/12), Harvey Langi (14/6), Frankie Luvu (13/3), C.J. Mosley (0/0), Patrick Onwuasor (1/0)

Potential Free Agents
Unrestricted:
LBs Basham, Hager, Hewitt, Jenkins and Onwuasor, DL Coley. Restricted: Langi and Luvu.

Jets' Pass-Rushing Free Agency Snapshot
One of the stated goals for GM Joe Douglas' Jets going forward has been:

"We have to get after the passer."

That hasn't come to the fore yet. Last season the Green & White's sacks (31, tied for 20th in NFL) and QB hits (84, 19th) were both three-year lows. The good news was that DL Quinnen Williams, while not an edge rusher type, still emerged as a second-year pass-rush force with team-leading totals of 7.0 sacks and 14 hits. Not huge numbers but definite signs that "Q" is rising to the occasion as an NFL force.

The only other players with three-plus sacks last season were LB Tarell Basham (3.5) and DL John Franklin-Myers (3.0). DL Folorunso Fatukasi had only 2.0 sacks but developed some giddyup as an inside rusher. LB Jordan Jenkins missed four games with injury, had a career-low 2.0 sacks, and can become a UFA.

The wild card for '21 is LB C.J. Mosley, who was on the COVID opt-out list last season. Said HC Robert Saleh after meeting Mosley at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center: "My expectation is no different than for any other player that's here. For C.J., it's to continue to be the pro that he's been since the day he was drafted and the leader that he's been and find ways to get better every single day."

At ILB, Mosley hasn't been a major pass-rusher in his career and Saleh's 49ers defenses didn't get major sacks/pressures from LBs, but with C.J. back at full health and availability as he spearheads Saleh's 4-3 scheme, that should optimize the pass rush from the returning Jets and the new bodies added in free agency and the draft.

Douglas said of the recent release of Anderson, "I want to thank Henry for what he brought to the team the past few years — his toughness, his leadership, his mentality. So I appreciate that." While Anderson provided availability (1,655 defensive snaps past three years, most among Jets DL) and blocked kicks, he never approached his seven sacks of 2018, totaling only 1.5 combined in 2019-20.

Take a look at the Jets players slated to become unrestricted, restricted, or exclusive rights free agents when the NFL's free agency period begins.

Pass-Rush Free Agent Candidate Capsules
3-4 OLB Shaquil Barrett (6-2, 250), Tampa Bay

Barrett, who turns 29 in November, saw his numbers fluctuate in two Buccaneers years, from 19.5 sacks (led NFL), six strip sacks (2nd) and 37 QB hits (tied for NFL lead) in '19 to 8, 2 and 16 last year. But then he roared with 4.0 sacks and 8 hits in the NFC title game and Super Bowl combined. And he became an 800-D-snaps-a-season player for the Bucs after averaging 460 a season in four Denver years.

3-4 OLB Bud Dupree (6-4, 269), Pittsburgh
Bud Dupree, who just turned 28, continues to rehab his torn ACL, which limited him to 11 games for the Steelers, but he says he'll be ready to rock for July training camp. Pitt could franchise-tag him again but team watchers think that with T.J. Watt also on the roster, they'll have to let Dupree walk. Even with his injury, over the last two seasons he's averaged 10 sacks and 16 QB hits/season. Is this Bud for you, Jets?

4-3 DE Trey Hendrickson (6-4, 270), New Orleans
Hendrickson's only done it one year, but that year was last year and it was a big-time emergence. In the regular season he racked up career highs with 13.5 sacks and 25 QB hits as well as with 15 games and starts and 558 defensive snaps. The Saints want him back but there are doubts out there that they can afford to "cap" him and/or re-sign him. He's on target to become the highest paid Florida Atlantic player in NFL history.

4-3 DE Carl Lawson (6-2, 265), Cincinnati
Lawson's the embodiment of the defensive adage about sacks not being as important as the hits and the hurries. Even though Cincy had an NFL-low 17 sacks and Lawson had only 5.5 of them, the hard-working, young (turns 26 in June) former Auburn Tiger led all pro D-linemen with 32 QB hits. The past two years, he's had just 10.5 sacks but 54 hits, trailing only the Chargers' Joey Bosa on the DL.

4-3 Rush DE Yannick Ngakoue (6-2, 246), Baltimore
Ngakoue, who turns 26 later this month, was in the NFL wilderness last year. After averaging more than 9.0 sacks and 21 QB hits in his four seasons in Jacksonville, he was tagged by the Jags early last year, forced a trade to Minnesota, then was dealt in midseason to Baltimore. Despite the unsettled season, Ngakoue finished with 8.0 sacks, 11 hits and 26 pressures. His 11 strip sacks since 2016 trail only the 14 by the Rams' Aaron Donald among all D-linemen.

4-3 DE Justin Houston (6-3, 270), Indianapolis
In the rent-a-vet category, we could've listed Jadeveon Clowney here, although Clowney's impact has suffered the past two years since leaving Houston. So let's go with another Houston, old reliable Justin, who left KC two seasons ago but kept up his Chiefs production with the Colts in 2019-20 with a combined 32 starts (but with his snap counts in the 600s rather than the 900s), 19 sacks, 53 pressures and 30 hits. And he just turned a youthful 32 in January.

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