The pickings are slim in free agency at the end of May, but if you look carefully enough there are still some hidden gems available on the open market.
“I would go sign Kwon Alexander. He’s 26 and a very good player. Kwon does his best work in a 4-3 scheme like this where you want to keep him clean and let him run and chase. That’s what this scheme is going to ask of their linebackers. I think he would be a quietly great add for the Jets.”
It’s Been a Long Journey
Despite only being 26 years of age, Alexander has lived a full life.
Back in 2015, he was the 124th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Alexander was initially slated to compete for the strongside linebacker role before ultimately slotting in as the starting middle linebacker.
During his four years in Tampa, he became one of the best young linebackers in football. Alexander totaled six interceptions, six forced fumbles, 380 tackles (271 of those solo), 31 tackles for loss, and seven sacks. That was highlighted by his lone Pro Bowl appearance back in 2017.
Although the former fourth-rounder has been haunted by the injury bug throughout his career. In six professional seasons, Alexander has only played a complete season once back in 2016.
During his final season, with the Buccaneers he tore his ACL which ended his campaign prematurely. Despite that sour end to his rookie contract, Alexander was able to sign a massive free-agent deal the following offseason with the San Francisco 49ers.
The $54 million contract with $27 million guaranteed made him the highest-paid linebacker in football. Of course, he lost that title two days later when the Jets smashed that contract with the one they handed to former Pro Bowler CJ Mosley to the tune of $85 million.
Sadly during Alexander’s first season in the bay, he suffered a torn pec that robbed him of his potential. Ultimately he was traded in the middle of the following year to the New Orleans Saints.
Alexander showed some glimpses but suffered a torn Achilles. Earlier this offseason he was released by the Saints.
Low Risk vs High Reward
Every free agent that is still available has some sort of flaw.
In this particular case, it’s a troublesome injury bug. When healthy Alexander has proven to be a super athletic playmaker.
Speaking of injuries, that should be the main driving force behind the Jets making this move. Gang Green lacks depth at linebacker. Arguably it’s the thinnest position in terms of depth on the entire roster.
In the 4-3 scheme there are three linebacker spots up for grabs.
Mosley and former first-rounder Jarrad Davis are two of the three projected starters, but both have question marks of their own. While the last spot is an open competition between Blake Cashman and several of the 2021 draft picks (Hamsah Nasirildeen, Jamien Sherwood).
What about the depth?
Candidly it doesn’t exist as presently constructed. If the Jets add a proven star in Alexander they’ll either have their third linebacker starter or a reliable depth option that’ll provide injury insurance. It’s a win-win scenario.
The green and white have over $28 million in cap space (including the recent restructuring of Alex Lewis’ contract) which is second-best in the NFL. Alexander could sign a one-year prove-it deal with the Jets.
If he pops, the former Pro Bowler will still be only 27 years old entering free agency next year. That’s still young enough to cash in on another big contract extension. If anything goes wrong with any of his surgically repaired body parts, the Jets can simply move on ahead of final roster cuts this Fall.