The quarterback conversation was front and center when discussing the New York Jets’ embarrassing primetime performance versus the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Zach Wilson wasn’t the only player that put together a pitiful showing under the bright lights.
After the game ended — and mercifully so — Jets X-Factor film analyst Michael Nania called out two underperforming veterans that are getting paid hefty salaries by the organization.
He tweeted: “[Carl] Lawson, [Laken] Tomlinson see ya. Didn’t see much of anything from Lawson in the easiest matchup possible. JJ [Jermaine Johnson] and [Bryce] Huff can eat into his snaps next next year. Tomlinson is on a Trumaine Johnson level. Eat the dead money, better than risking your QB and RBs lives behind [number] 78.”
Jets Urged to Cut Carl Lawson & Laken Tomlinson in 2023
Coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2022, this was never going to be an easy campaign for Lawson — a pass rusher who raised expectations time and time again by flying past Jets blockers like Mekhi Becton and George Fant during summer one-on-ones.
Little did we know that was more of a precursor of the NYJ O-line than it was foreshadowing Lawson as a game-wrecker defensive end. As a pass rusher, the big-money free agent has been average, with flashes of success here and there.
Not including Week 16 (has not been reviewed yet), Pro Football Focus has credited Lawson with 38 quarterback pressures, which ranks third on this roster behind Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers. Of the pressures, he has gotten home on six sacks.
The edge rusher has also been inconsistent as a tackler with five missed tackles on the year — yielding a high missed tackle rate of 23.8%. In 334 less defensive snaps, the first-round rookie out of Florida State (Johnson) has actually registered one more big-time “stop” than Lawson on PFF (16 compared to 15). Per the grading site, a defensive stop is a “tackle that constitutes a ‘failure’ for the offense.” Williams leads the D-line with 29 of those and linebacker C.J. Mosley leads the entire defense with 40.
All in all, a fair way to label Lawson’s 2022 season is underwhelming — especially when you consider his expectations based on training camp over the past two years. Speaking of underwhelming, Tomlinson has fit that description as well after the Jets spent $40 million on the left guard this spring ($13.9 million guaranteed).
It’s hard to see general manager Joe Douglas giving up on this signing after one season but he could do so by waiting until after June 1, taking on a minimal $4.26 million dead cap hit in 2023 and 2024 according to Over the Cap. The move would be justified too, as Tomlinson has been a revolving door on the offensive line with a team-leading 27 quarterback pressures allowed.
The run-blocking has been worse according to PFF, with a putrid grade of 47.3 in that regard.
Carl Lawson Release More Likely Than Laken Tomlinson
For multiple reasons, Lawson’s departure is more probable than Tomlinson’s. The first and most obvious dealbreaker is the contract situation.
As we mentioned above, Tomlinson is tied to the Jets for two more seasons and Douglas would have to wait until after June 1 to even think about releasing the 2022 newcomer. Considering the lack of O-line talent around the league, that doesn’t seem wise unless you preemptively sign someone that you believe can replace him.
Lawson’s heading into the final year of his deal and the way his contract was structured, it’s practically begging for him to be cut during the spring. According to Over the Cap, the Jets can save $15 million out of the $15.33 million and change they owe the pass rusher in 2023. He’s off the books after that.
With the way Lawson is performing, this is almost a sure thing — barring some sort of massive pay cut where the Jets bet on the veteran D-end one last time at a much more beneficial price tag.
The other major reason is depth. Douglas appears to have hit on two defensive ends in the draft with Johnson and promising fourth-rounder Micheal Clemons. They also have an explosive pass rusher inside the organization in Bryce Huff (need to re-sign or extend), even if he struggles against the run.
As Nania illustrated, Johnson and Huff make the perfect tandem on the edge, being that “J.J.” is incredibly sound against the run and Huff is great on third downs. There is far less depth behind Tomlinson and the Jets will probably hoard as many capable blockers as they can this offseason considering all the injuries — even if the San Francisco 49ers transplant hasn’t impressed.
The aforementioned Jets X-Factor film expert said it best before the game on December 22, it’s “now or never time for Carl Lawson.” The Jags were without starting left tackle Cam Robinson, and inexperienced backup Walker Little was going head-to-head with the savvy vet.
“This is the *perfect* matchup for Lawson,” Nania continued. “Cannot ask for a better shot at a signature game.” Unfortunately, the camp hero didn’t show up — a similar theme of the 2022 campaign.