It didn’t go great.
In 60 minutes of play, the green and white finished with just a single sack. That statistic should be taken with a grain of salt because we are talking about the preseason, but it was a real glimpse of what 2021 is going to look like.
Immediately after the game, Jets head coach Robert Saleh was asked about the loss of Lawson and what are the plans to replace him?
He responded with the status-quo about moving forward with the defensive ends already on the roster, according to New York Daily News’ DJ Bien-Aime.
That seemed to clarify things moving forward until it didn’t.
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A Shift in Plans
Less than 12 hours later, a new report suggested the Jets have called an audible at the line of scrimmage on those initial plans.
On Sunday, August 22, Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted that the green and white “now are looking for ways to acquire a pass rusher” to fill Lawson’s void on the roster. He added that “a trade before the season is being explored.”
Why the change of heart?
Saleh likely got the chance to review the tape from the Packers game and clearly didn’t like what he saw.
It also can’t be understated how important Lawson was to this team and specifically the defense overall. With him out for the year, the rest of the defense can’t function the way it was supposed to.
While some fans have suggested this as some sort of blessing in disguise because the team isn’t ready to contend in 2021, that’s the wrong take.
Saleh doesn’t view the team in that light and with the pass rushers playing such an integral role to the rest of the team, he and this front office are employing an aggressive strategy ahead of the season.
The Top Players the Jets Could Explore
Anticipating this potential pivot by the Jets we have already covered some potential options the team could explore:
- All-Pro Edge Rusher Among Jets’ Top Replacement Options for Carl Lawson
- Jets Linked to Super Bowl Champion Pass Rusher
Some of these choices came both via trade and free agency. The top potential superstar that could be had is former All-Pro pass rusher Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals.
He requested a trade earlier this offseason and would be an ideal replacement for 2021. On top of that, if the Jets made a move of this magnitude it would behoove them to hand Jones an extension to keep him in the fold beyond this season.
The 31-year-old is entering the last year of his deal and part of his unhappiness in his current gig is due to that factoid.
Not only could the Jets fill the Lawson void for 2021, but they could potentially set up one of the most dynamic duos of pass rushers in recent Jets memory by pairing the two together next season.
Jones is a proven dynamic pass rusher that would immediately become one of the best pass rushers the Jets have had in over 30 years. Since he entered the league back in 2012 Jones has registered 97.0 career sacks.
Although adding a player of that level would likely cost the Jets some serious assets in the form of draft compensation. We’ll see if general manager Joe Douglas is willing to pay the piper for that kind of player.
Douglas may be willing to make a lesser move that could still make a big impact.
The Jets have long had an interest in the talented pass rusher out of Florida. Back in 2018, the Jets “inquired” about the availability of Dante Fowler Jr. when he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fowler is on the last year of a restructured deal and he’s due $6 million in base salary for 2021.
If the Jets traded for him it would cost significantly less than Jones, but you’d also get a lesser player. He would be a nice rotational piece that could eat a ton of the reps that evaporated the moment Lawson was ruled out for the season.
Fowler is only 27 years of age and when he was originally drafted by the Jaguars, he spent his first two seasons with coach Saleh during his stint as the linebackers coach for Jacksonville from 2015 to 2016.
The Jets have assets to potentially make a deal happen:
- 2022 NFL draft picks: Two first-rounders (Jamal Adams deal) and two second-rounders (Sam Darnold deal).
- Potential players that could be moved: Wide receivers Jamison Crowder (entering last year of deal and is likely moving on after 2021) and/or Denzel Mims (labeled a non-scheme fit, but is a talented second-year wideout).