In the NFL, the offseason can often spawn rumors and generate scuttlebutt. Sometimes true. Often not.
Put Jets DE Carl Lawson in that latter category.
In the depths of winter the whispers emerged, saying that Lawson would be a cap casualty. Wrong. Still, the 28-year-old who signed with the Jets in free agency before the 2021 season did agree to take a pay cut. Before that happened, head coach Robert Saleh was asked about the possibility of Lawson being cut loose.
"Pass rushers, they don't grow on trees," Saleh told reporters at the NFL Owners Meeting in Arizona in February. "Carl has a commodity, in this league, that's gold. So, he will be here as long as he can walk and play."
Carl Lawson can most certainly walk, play and more. Much more.
"I didn't really understand the hysteria," Lawson told team reporter Eric Allen on this week's edition of "The Official Jets Podcast." "I guess it's just things for people to talk about. I want to be here. If they didn't want me here, no gripe, they gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to provide for my family and play. It's all I've ever wanted -- to be a starter in a big market. I got another opportunity to prove myself. I have an opportunity, that's it."
After joining the Jets from the Bengals, Lawson turned heads early in training camp in 2021. Then he sustained a season-ending Achilles tendon injury during a joint practice in Green Bay. He returned last season, but with his type of injury you just never know. But the edge defender played in all 17 games in the 2022 season, taking nearly 60 percent of the snaps on defense while notching 7 sacks (the second-best of his NFL career; he had 8.5 as a rookie), 51 pressures (fourth in the league) and 24 QB hits.
"The first year you're not quite where you want to be, and then that second year everything comes back," Saleh said during OTA sessions in early June. "Monday [June 5] was the first day we've seen him. He looks freaking awesome. I'm really excited for him and what he can do having two years removed from that injury."
That injury came after Lawson dealt with a pair of ACL injuries, a track record that might have planted questions in his mind. Simply not the case.
"I'm limitless," he said. "There's nothing I can't do, nothing I can't overcome. I'm never going to stop growing, getting better. I'm limitless how good I can be. I'm in the mindset of trying to reach the Sun until I burn up.
"I've had so many different injuries I've often asked why this happened. It doesn't matter. What matters is getting another opportunity to go out there and ball. It doesn't matter what anyone says as long as you keep fighting and don't quit. You'll come out on top. Each time I amaze myself."
He added: "I want to play until I'm 35."
In the Jets' upcoming training camp, Lawson will have the opportunity to look across the line at a quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, who will soon turn 40. Their paths have crossed before -- when Lawson was a Bengals rookie, at that joint practice and now here. As a rookie out of Auburn in 2017, Cincinnati visited the Packers and held a touchdown lead heading into the fourth quarter. Rodgers and the Pack scored 10 points, Cincy got a field goal before Green Bay won the game in OT. Lawson had 2.5 sacks and 3 QB hits in the game and Rodgers took notice.
"Every time I've met him, he's come across as one of those calm but confident guys," Lawson said. "I played against him in rookie year. In the fourth quarter he takes his helmet off and he looks at me and says '58 calm down.' Sure enough, they come back and beat us. That's the dude. He reminds me to calm down. In Green Bay [in the preseason] it was '58, calm down.' I saw him the other day, and he says '58 calm down' four different times. He slings that ball around like he's passing out poker cards. Every time I see him, it's here we go."
Lawson said that he's stoked to play on a Green & White squad that is on the rise and that has guys on the defensive line that are "like-minded people, like myself."
"We've got a room of talented guys," he said. "How do you not elevate and get better? We've got a room full of dogs."
And as he as his teammates realize, the organization would not have made the move to acquire Rodgers in a trade if the expectations were modest, anything other than advancing to the postseason for the first time in a decade.
"We're going to play in the postseason," he said. "We're all in. No option. When you make big moves ... we're going to be in the postseason. That is the expectation. Why make moves like this?
"Saddle up, we're on the boat together."
See photos of the Jets' 90-man roster leading up to training camp.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com Picks Jets Offense Among Most Improved
The Jets traded for elite, veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers to help supercharge an offense that was one of the weakest in the league in the 2022 season -- 29th in scoring offense and 25th in total offense.
Bucky Brooks, an analyst on NFL.com, picked the Jets among four offenses that will make the biggest jumps in the coming season.
"The Aaron Rodgers Experience may or may not result in a Super Bowl appearance, but you can be sure of one thing: The presence of the four-time MVP will accelerate the development of New York's young core while adding structure and organization to an offense that was in flux a season ago," Brooks wrote.
"As a meticulous competitor with a distinguished résumé, Rodgers will set a championship standard for the unit and teach Jets players -- and coaches -- how to perform at that level. With Rodgers demanding more attention to detail, New York's offensive output will improve, as Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Laken Tomlinson team up with the quarterback's guys (Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Billy Turner) to create a much-improved unit that could spark a run at the division crown -- and more.
"If new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett can handle game-management duties without a hitch, the Jets' offense should flourish with a gold jacket player at the helm."