The New York Jets did not shy away from bringing in a premium pass rusher in 2021, signing Carl Lawson to a three-year $45 million contract. Despite the early failures of this deal, many expect them to add another complimentary EDGE in 2022.
There are two obvious ways to do this before getting into more complex trade scenarios — free agency and the draft. The tricky part is determining what draft prospects might be available in March when most signings occur.
For example, if Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux falls to the Jets at No. 4, you might not need to spend big on another defensive playmaker on the edge. If he doesn’t and you draft offensive line or some other position in that spot, then Joe Douglas may wish he’d inked an extra pass rusher a month before.
Much of this league comes down to anticipation during the offseason and if the Jets want to cover their tracks, they may look to add a versatile piece that can also play linebacker in a pinch.
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Free-Agent Option Emerges
One player that we’ve discussed who might fit that mold is Carolina Panthers EDGE Haason Reddick. He started his career as more of a linebacker but transitioned to more of an exterior role rushing the quarterback.
In Robert Saleh’s defense, Reddick would most likely sub in and out as a rotational pass rusher at defensive end but he could slide back as a blitzing linebacker in certain formations. A west coast alternative could be on the table as well.
Coming in five slots below Reddick as ESPN’s 25th best free agent in 2022, Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu could be an option for the Jets — per NFL insider Jeremy Fowler. He wrote:
The Chargers struggled to stop the run, but Nwosu wasn’t the problem. Keeping the edge playmaker should be a priority. If not, I’m sure the Colts or Jets or other teams needing edge-rush help will gladly take him.
Fowler did bet on Nwosu — a former USC graduate — staying put with LAC, but he also noted him as a name to watch for New York. If the Chargers don’t extend the former second-round pick pronto, the Jets should act.
Like Reddick, Nwosu profiles more as a defensive end in Saleh’s system but that added experience at 3-4 linebacker does provide some versatility in a pinch. Worst case scenario, he joins Lawson, Thibodeaux and Bryce Huff to make a stacked four-man rotation on the outside.
That would turn players like Tim Ward, Jabari Zuniga and Kyle Phillips into strong depth. It also would allow John Franklin-Myers to slide back into his more natural defensive tackle role.
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Scouting Nwosu for NYJ
I wouldn’t necessarily call Nwosu the perfect fit for the Jets. Aside from the fact that he would be switching schemes, his skill set also bears too many similarities to Huff.
NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein once described him as a player that “flashes the athletic traits and speed off the edge that teams will be looking for” before adding that he “may not have the edge strength to handle run downs.”
Neither Nwosu nor Huff would be a tremendous option on the early defensive sets but as rotational pass rushers, both can help in throwing situations. The USC product has 15 career sacks and he’s coming off his best season, with an even five sacks in 2021. Nwosu added 40 total tackles (eight for a loss) and 40 quarterback pressures according to Pro Football Focus.
The question is, should you spend on Nwosu when you already have a cheaper alternative in Huff?
Spotrac projects the Chargers edge rusher at an average annual salary of $12.1 million, which would be very steep for a potential third defensive end behind Lawson and a draft pick.
Nwosu could also end up re-signing for a fifth season in Los Angeles. Either way, he’s another intriguing player to keep an eye on as we get closer to March 16.