OverviewMike Maccagnan wants to build the Jets through the draft and he solidified the linebacker position last April. ILB Darron Lee, an Ohio State product who was selected No. 20 overall, brought an infusion of speed and performed well in his first season. There were growing pains along the way, but Lee appeared in nine contests and finished fourth on the defense with 73 stops. A tremendous athlete in a league that favors speed, the heady Lee could be poised for a sophomore leap.
After selecting Lee, Maccagnan came back in the third round and nabbed Georgia OLB Jordan Jenkins. Over the last quarter of the season, Jenkins found his groove while registering 17 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. The 6'3", 259-pound Jenkins is stout on the edge and he brings heavy hands to the pass rush.
Across from Jenkins, second-year OLB Lorenzo Mauldin experienced some tough luck. Maudlin, a third-round pick in Maccagnan's first draft with the Jets, missed the final five contests with an ankle injury. His playing time increased before that and Mauldin, who finished with 2.5 sacks, had 18 QB hits.
David Harris remained a pillar in the middle, pacing the club with 113 tackles while moving into No. 2 on the Jets' all-time tackles list.
Best Images of the Veteran LB During the 2016 Season
Jets Free AgentsLB Bruce Carter (UFA): In his first season with the Jets, the reserve 'backer appeared in 13 games. Carter finished tied for fourth on the club with five special teams tackles.
OLB Mike Catapano (UFA): For a second consecutive season, the Princeton product went to injured reserve in December. Catapano started four times, finishing with seven defensive stops.
LB Corey Lemonier (UFA): A third-round pick of the 49ers in 2013, Lemonier was claimed off waivers in late December and played in the Jets' Week 17 win over the Bills.
OLB Josh Martin (UFA): While Martin didn't get but a few snaps on defense, he was the Jets most consistent special teams performer. Reunited with Brant Boyer, Martin led the Green & White with 14 special teams stops.
Best Images of the 2017 Restricted and Unrestricted Free Agents
The MarketThe Jets finished just 299h in sacks (27) last season and 16.5 came from defensive linemen. There will be some prolific pass rushers on the market including OLB Chandler Jones, a 26-year-old former Patriot who racked up 11 sacks last season for the Cardinals. Chargers OLB Melvin Ingram has collected 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons and possesses a non-stop motor. After four relatively quiet seasons to start his career, Packers OLB Nick Perry amassed 11 sacks in 2016. And while Lorenzo Alexander was best known for his special teams prowess from 2007-15, the 33-year-old is coming off a 12.5-sack campaign in Buffalo. James Harrison will turn 39 in May, but he remains a physical specimen and has amassed 15.5 sacks over the past three seasons in Pittsburgh. Limited to 10 games in 2016, Denver Broncos OLB DeMarcus Ware remains a handful when healthy. While all of the aforementioned players predominantly line up on the outside, this is a deep inside linebacker free agent class. Dont'a Hightower (New England Patriots), Zach Brown (Buffalo Bills), Kevin Minter (Arizona Cardinals), Sio Moore (Arizona Cardinals) and Lawrence Thomas (Pittsburgh Steelers) could all become UFA, but the Browns kept former Pats LB Jamie Collins off the market with a four-year deal.
SynopsisA legendary competitor, Kevin Greene* *was hired to lead the Jets outside linebackers. In 15 seasons, the Hall of Famer registered 160 sacks and had double-digit sacks in 10 seasons. He could be a great asset for Jenkins and Mauldin as they look to make pass-rushing jumps in their second and third pro seasons respectively.
Solid as a rookie, Lee is hungry to become the playmaker he was at Ohio State. The future is bright and he couldn't have asked for a better vet to learn from than Harris. Legendary NFL personnel man Gil Brandt, a NFL Media senior analyst, believes Lee has a chance to be a star. Lee is a building block and it will be interesting to see how the Jets continue to fill out the position around him this offseason.