Ex-Jets Draft Bust Available Again After Failed NFC Stint

Joe Douglas

Getty New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas at training camp in 2021.

Joe Douglas’ 2020 draft class has brought New York Jets fans very little joy. Fortunately, it appears the NYJ general manager has made up for that by having a solid 2021 draft year and a slam dunk in 2022.

Given the recent history of Jets selections before him, most fans will take a two-for-three record from Douglas so long as the upward trajectory continues. Having said that, the haunting memory of 2020 still lingers for others and a major bust from draft number one has suddenly resurfaced again.

Seahawks Cut Ex-Jets Third-Rounder Jabari Zuniga

Former Jets third-round defensive end Jabari Zuniga was quietly released by the Seattle Seahawks on October 12. I say quietly because outside of the standard tweets from the Seahawks beat that come with any roster move, the only mention of the cut was by Pro Football Network reporter Aaron Wilson.

The Athletic’s Michael-Shawn Dugar was one of the first to announce the news, stating: “Seattle also signed Bruce Irvin and receiver Kevin Kassis to the practice squad. They cut defensive end Jabari Zuniga and tackle Liam Ryan to make room.”

Zuniga’s stint in Seattle was a total failure, logging zero snaps with the NFC franchise. With the Jets, he at least appeared in 11 games with the highest of highs being his first career sack in 2021.

In all honesty, this is a bit of a surprise because the pass-rushing prospect actually had the best training camp of his young career this summer. Despite all the depth in front of him, Zuniga pushed head coach Robert Saleh for a roster spot with several sacks in August. He even helped fuel the second-half comeback during the first preseason outing against the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the end, there were just too many talented players in front of him — between expensive veterans like Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers and Jacob Martin, as well as newer prospects like Jermaine Johnson II and Micheal Clemons. The final cut came down to Zuniga versus Bryce Huff, Vinny Curry and Bradlee Anae — Zuniga was one of the odd men out.

When given the choice to return on another practice squad deal, the Florida product chose to head west for greener pastures. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out either and now Zuniga is a free agent once again.

Jabari Zuniga Reunion Feels Unlikely

When a former draft pick gets released, the natural thought is: Reunion? Douglas could offer the third-rounder a practice squad role and in theory, Zuniga could decide to give things another shot.

That feels very unlikely at this time though. Even with Johnson day-to-day, the Jets have loads of depth at defensive end with Curry working his way back from the injured reserve. Then let’s say Douglas and Saleh were interested, Zuniga would still have to choose to return and he’s probably looking for an opportunity where he might actually get some usage in 2022.

That’s not with New York — barring a rash of injuries on the D-line.

No, it’s probably best to leave the 2020 draft class in the past when it comes to misfires like Zuniga or running back La’Mical Perine. It’s time for all parties to move on.

Latest on the Injury Front

As mentioned above, Coach Saleh told reporters that Johnson is day-to-day this week with an ankle injury after missing Wednesday’s practice. With so many edge rushers on the roster, it wouldn’t be shocking if the first-round talent was inactive in Green Bay.

On the flip side, linebacker Quincy Williams returned to practice after missing two games with his own ankle ailment. There’s no guarantee the hard-hitter suits up for Week 6 but it appears that he is nearing a return.

Williams was limited at practice alongside veterans Duane Brown (shoulder), Lawson (ankle) and C.J. Mosley (hip), but none of those three seem to be at risk of missing Packers week.

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