The NFL is an extremely fluid sport.
One day your job could be safe and then a new acquisition could completely change that dynamic. That unfortunate reality has seemingly befallen a respected New York Jets team captain who could now be on the outs.
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A Tough Pill to Swallow
That move raised some speculation on social media about the potential ripple effects on the Jets roster.
One of those moves could include Gang Green cutting one of their special teams’ captains and resident locker room leader Justin Hardee.
These two essentially contribute in the same exact way as cornerbacks with special teams experience.
However, there are a few notable differences that could feed into Hardee getting dumped later this offseason.
James is younger than Hardee by two years (26 versus 28). The former Eagles veteran is also cheaper than Hardee.
Last year the former member of the New Orleans Saints signed a three-year deal for $6.75 million to join the Jets in free agency. However all of the guarantees in the deal came in the first season, these last two remaining years feature none of those guarantees.
If the green and white decided to move on at any point ahead of the season they could save $2.04 million.
Versatility Is the Name of the Game
In the NFL the more feathers you have in your cap, the more valuable your roster spot is. Hardee is exclusively a special teams player only registering a single defensive snap last season.
This means you better be so good on special teams that an NFL team like the Jets can completely overlook your lack of contributions on defense.
David Wyatt-Hupton of Jets X-Factor had some pretty damning evidence to suggest Hardee isn’t getting the job done:
- Hardee ranked 105th among special teamers last season out of 546 qualifying players, per Pro Football Focus.
“The issues for Hardee came in two areas. He led the Jets in both penalties (5) and missed tackles (5) on special teams. The argument could be made that he’s a gunner so missed tackles are part and parcel of the position, but his 5 missed tackles were tied for third-most in the league. His 5 penalties were tied for the second-most in the league.”
That is a lot of baggage for a player with his price tag.
Quite simply it seems like his days are numbered because there is a younger and cheaper alternative waiting patiently to replace him.
Obviously, Jets head coach Robert Saleh loves Hardee and has been effusive with his praise whenever asked about him at the podium. However, a coach often has to separate his feelings for a player versus making the best decision for the team.
Hardee in just a single season with the Jets has commanded the locker room and has made an impact on special teams. Unfortunately, that might not be enough to save his job ahead of final roster cuts in August.