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Jets Sign DB Justin Hardee

Illinois Product from Cleveland Has Been Key Special-Teams Contributor for Saints Past 4 Seasons

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The Jets have signed unrestricted free agent Justin Hardee, a core special teams player for New Orleans the past four seasons.

Hardee (6-1, 200) arrived on the Saints scene as a versatile performer when he signed as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois after the 2017 draft. He was a wide receiver with the Illini and was listed as both WR and DB with the Saints as a rookie before being called a cornerback the past three years.

But in reality, Hardee is a special-teamer. He has 32 total tackles in kick coverage as a pro, the seventh-most ST tackles in the NFL from 2017-20. He was a part of the NO punt coverage unit that allowed 46 return yards last season, the least in a season since the strike year of 1982, and 2.3 yards/return, least in a season since the early Seventies.

The 27-year-old Clevelander has played in 56 games and 1,220 snaps in the NFL but 1,105 of the snaps have come on specials. He has only 115 defensive snaps in his career and just one defensive snap last season.

Besides tackles, Hardee has produced several big plays. In 2018, he had a 77-yard return on his only interception in a home win over Washington. And he has the NFL's most recent blocked punt returned for a touchdown by the same player when he snuffed a Tampa Bay punt in the Superdome and took it 7 yards for the score as a rookie in 2017.

See the Best Photos of the Former Saints Defensive Back/Special Teams Ace and Jets Free Agency Signing

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