“The Jets are signing DB Dane Cruikshank, per source,” Rosenblatt tweeted. “Spent last year with the [Chicago] Bears after [four] with the [Tennessee] Titans. Primarily has been a safety but can also play corner.”
The news comes on the evening of the first open practice of training camp, but it also comes on the heels of a few notable roster moves. The Jets shifted safety Chuck Clark and wide receiver/returner Diontae Spencer onto the injured reserve on July 19, freeing up two spots on the 90-man roster.
General manager Joe Douglas also subsequently traded one of his first ever draft picks later that night, sending wide receiver Denzel Mims to the Detroit Lions — so there are some openings to fill. Cruikshank will claim one of them for the time being.
The Jets also announced that they have signed wide receiver/returner Alex Erickson not long after Rosenblatt’s report, who profiles as more of a direct replacement for Spencer. “Spent 2016-20 with the [Cincinnati] Bengals, where he played in 80 games,” Rosenblatt informed. “Last two years with [Carolina] Panthers and [Washington] Commanders. He’s been a quality punt/kick returner over the years so adds an option there.”
Jets Newcomer Dane Cruikshank Adds Secondary Depth After Chuck Clark & Jarrick Bernard-Converse Injuries
It’s not a huge shock that the Green & White are signing another defensive back. After losing Clark for the season, they’re also expected to be without rookie sixth rounder Jarrick Bernard-Converse for an extended portion of training camp according to head coach Robert Saleh.
That means the Jets are fielding auditions, and Cruikshank will be the first to take on the opportunity.
The versatile DB is a former fifth-round selection of the Titans in 2018. He actually played four seasons in Tennessee before logging his fifth NFL campaign with the Bears.
Over that span, Cruikshank has totaled 52 career appearances with four starts and two takeaways (one interception, one forced fumble). He’s also registered 66 total tackles, two pass defenses and one tackle for loss on the defensive side.
Cruikshank isn’t known solely for his defensive ability, however, as a core special teamer with the Titans and Bears — 950 special teams snaps over five seasons. Pro Football Focus graded him at a 67.4 on special teams in 2022, with a career-high grade of 79.5 in 2019. He’s logged snaps on every major ST unit except for field goal attempts.
With the Jets, Cruikshank will join a crowded safety room, competing with players like Adrian Amos, Ashtyn Davis, Tony Adams, and undrafted rookies Trey Dean III and Marquis Waters.
Jets Add Veteran Returner in WR Alex Erickson
Erickson’s best season as a wide receiver came in 2019 (529 receiving yards with the Bengals), but he’s really a returner at heart.
According to Pro Football Reference, Erickson has a career kick return average of 24.8 yards per return with a punt return average of 8.0 yards. He’s never registered a return for a touchdown on his career, but those numbers are very solid and his experience jives with the type of player that NYJ special teams coordinator Brant Boyer typically targets.
Erickson’s top years as a returner came in 2016 and 2018, but he did maintain a kick return average of 28.5 in 2021 — it was just a very small sample size of two returns. He’s been more of a punt returner in recent years, but still has the ability to do both.
Spencer was never a consistent member of the Jets active roster, and with WR Mecole Hardman and RB Israel Abanikanda on the roster among other returners, Erickson isn’t likely to be either. Instead, view the former Bengals UDFA as veteran insurance.
Douglas and Saleh seem to prefer having an experienced returner on their practice squad, and if he’s up to the task, expect Erickson to slot into that role for the foreseeable future.