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By: Rivka Boord
Some New York Jets players have more secure roster spots than before the draft, while others less so
The NFL Draft changes the lives of hundreds of players.
Sure, there are the players who are drafted and the undrafted free agents. But the draft also affects the players currently on rosters. As Jerry Glanville so eloquently put it, the NFL stands for “Not For Long.” There are many players who could be Wally Pipped, going from a competent starter one day to losing their job outright.
Based on the moves the New York Jets made in the draft, there are some players whose roster spots might be less secure than before. Others, meanwhile, can rest more easily.
Let’s evaluate the roster security of several Jets players compared to before the draft.
More secure: Jordan Whitehead
Jordan Whitehead did not play well for the Jets in 2022. In fact, I strongly advocated acquiring two new starting safeties this offseason in large part because of his incompetence. His $10.2 million cap hit made him seem like an obvious cap casualty.
However, given that the Jets did not draft a true safety, it seems more likely than not that Whitehead will remain on the roster. They could still cut him, but seeing as the team does not really have strong safety depth beyond Chuck Clark, that seems unlikely.
It’s probable that the report on Whitehead was true, that the Jets think he will improve in his second year in the system. Overall, the lack of a safety pick in the middle rounds was a win for Whitehead.
Less secure: Carl Lawson
Carl Lawson has also been a cut candidate this entire offseason. His $15.7 million cap hit basically goes away if he is traded or released. Given that the Jets selected another first-round edge rusher, saving that cap space could become even more tempting.
That being said, Lawson was the Jets’ second-best two-way edge rusher last season. There is a lot of youth and specialization behind him. The Jets could still bank on Lawson’s improvement in Year 2 of his return from an Achilles tear. From his tape, it’s entirely plausible that the tear was still affecting Lawson’s rush, as he seemed relegated to a bull rush only.
Robert Saleh did go out of his way to state that the Jets want Lawson on the team. However, that was before the team took an edge rusher in the first round.
This is not to say that the Jets will move on from Lawson. I am still inclined to assume that they will not. It’s just that such a move is more likely than it was before the draft.
More secure: Corey Davis
Corey Davis was presumed gone from the Jets the moment the offseason hit. The Jets’ beat reporters were stating as much. Many thought he would be part of the Aaron Rodgers deal, particularly with all the Odell Beckham Jr. talk. Even after Beckham signed with the Ravens, there remained the possibility that the Jets could draft Jaxon Smith-Njigba or even another wide receiver, which would push Davis’ spot.
However, the draft came and went without a single receiver addition. This all but assured that Davis will be penciled in as the WR2 for the Jets come the fall. Of course, the team could still try to pull off a trade for DeAndre Hopkins, but between his disdain for the Jets and Arizona GM Monti Ossenfort’s assertion that Hopkins likely won’t be traded, that possibility is very remote.
Davis has endured his ups and downs with the Jets, but he showed flashes of his talent. With a quarterback like Rodgers throwing him the ball, a healthy Davis could finally live up to his contract billing.
Less secure: Michael Carter
In a year and a few days, Michael Carter went from the Jets’ RB1 to possibly their RB4. After a strong rookie season, Carter took a monumental step back in Year 2, at times looking completely unplayable. No report of a season-long injury has surfaced, making his regression confusing and difficult to project toward the future.
With Breece Hall returning from an ACL tear, the Jets needed another back to share the workload. If Carter had played well last season, the team might have been comfortable giving him a larger share of the snaps while working Hall and Bam Knight into the lineup. However, Carter’s unreliability made Israel Abanikanda‘s selection in the fifth round a no-brainer.
The Jets carried four running backs all of last season, and it’s unlikely that Carter actually gets cut. Still, if he has a slow camp, between Hall, Knight, Abanikanda, and undrafted free agent Travis Dye, Carter could possibly find himself on the outside looking in.
More secure: Mekhi Becton
This is not as much about roster spot as it is about role. Clearly, Mekhi Becton was going to be a member of the Jets. However, if the team had drafted a Day 1 starting tackle, Becton would’ve found himself in heavy competition for the other starting spot.
Since Carter Warren was the Jets’ only tackle pick, Becton’s chances of being a Week 1 starter are a lot more secure. Sure, he will likely be battling for the right tackle spot with Max Mitchell, but he has a huge leg up talent-wise. There’s a reason Becton was a first-round pick while Mitchell was a fourth-rounder who was expected to redshirt his rookie season.
Obviously, staying healthy will be Becton’s primary goal, and it’s a huge question mark. But it’s one less thing for him to worry about this offseason as he seeks to prove all his doubters wrong.
Less secure: Ashtyn Davis
Whenever a player brings only special teams value, their roster spot is not going to be so secure following the draft. This is particularly true for the team’s punt protector who does not generally participate in coverage.
Ashtyn Davis had one meaningful defensive snap last season but has otherwise been relegated solely to special teams duty. Draft pick Jarrick Bernard-Converse and UDFA Trey Dean III, both defensive backs, could easily push Davis off the roster.
Davis’ $3 million cap hit carries just $284,000 in dead cap, which further jeopardizes his roster spot.
More secure: Zach Wilson
The Jets were not really expected to draft a quarterback who could push Zach Wilson for a roster spot. They also seem intent on trying to develop him, at least in rhetoric. It’s not as if Tim Boyle is really going to threaten him in any way. The Jets could try to trade Wilson post-June 1 to save $3.9 million in cap space, but it would be difficult to get any return for him due to his contract.
If Rodgers goes down at any point during the season, the pressure on Wilson could possibly exceed what it’s been for the last two years. That is a dreadful thought for a quarterback with the yips who clearly could not handle the spotlight of the NFL or New York.
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Originally posted on Jets X-Factor