If the New York Jets want to bring in a veteran quarterback in 2023, they’re going to have to free up some cap space. That creates some difficult decisions that will have to be made and the toughest choice of all may come while deliberating the future of veteran pass rusher Carl Lawson — who was projected as a potential cap casualty by New York Daily News beat reporter Antwan Staley.
When the Jets first signed Lawson, he was supposed to be the answer to fans prayers at a position that had not been a strength in a long time. Unfortunately, the big-money acquisition ruptured his Achilles in year one before reportedly suffering a setback ahead of a seven-sack campaign in year two.
Having said that, general manager Joe Douglas originally structured his deal with a year three “out” in mind and here we are entering Lawson’s third season with a potential $15.4 million in cap savings on the table to be had. That’s almost 98% of the edge defender’s total cap number in 2023.
With youngsters Jermaine Johnson II, Micheal Clemons, and potentially Bryce Huff — must be re-signed — all waiting in the wings, every fan would understand a hard cut like this but that hasn’t stopped the NYJ community from debating it.
Jets Fans Debate Cutting or Restructuring Carl Lawson
Film analyst Michael Nania broke down the entire Lawson situation with Jets X-Factor and in the end, he came to this conclusion:
All things considered, I think releasing Lawson would be the right move for New York. As a team that is low on cap space… the Jets cannot pass up on the opportunity to clear $15 million for releasing a below-average starter at a position where they have plenty of intriguing young pieces ready to step up. Restructuring Lawson is certainly on the table if he is willing to agree to a reasonable deal, but considering the Jets have more important needs at various other positions, I would just take the savings and move on.
A reasonable response indeed, but there is another side to this argument: Restructuring or even extending Lawson to lower that $15 million-plus cap hit.
The popular Buffalo Jet Fan on Twitter voiced: “With Carl Lawson. It’s tough. He wasn’t his 2020 self off the achilles. But at 27 years old, with a 1% work ethic, I could see ’23 being a better year for him. 2 years post-surgery. I’d be open to an extension that gets that cap figure down.”
This tweet was well-received for the most part, so I decided to pose the question myself on social media. Here were some of the top replies from faithful Green & White fans:
“I would restructure, can never have too many pass rushers and Lawson was solid,” one wrote.
Another commented: “I wanna see the kids get increased roles and free up that cap to help the O-line, linebackers and safeties.”
“Keep if [he] reworks contract to more favorable terms for the Jets,” said a third, and a fourth admitted that “I’d prefer he stay at a restructure. But I’m also confident huff/clemons/JJ can get 7 sacks.”
On the contrary, one fan messaged: “I see it different, it’s an [easy] cut you don’t produce then [you’re] gone. He looked terrible at times.”
Several others agreed that Lawson should be released to free up more playing time for Huff, Johnson and Clemons, but I’ll leave things on a more optimistic note. “I read a story the other day that he wasn’t even 100% the entire season, could he get back to 10-12 sacks after a full offseason healthy?” A fan asked me, and we’ll dive into that intriguing report more below.
Jets Reporter Calls Carl Lawson Achilles Feat ‘Remarkable’ After Rehab Setback
As mentioned in the open, SNY’s Connor Hughes caught up with Lawson after the season was over, reporting that the 2022 comeback story had indeed suffered a setback during rehab.
“Something few knew,” Hughes tweeted. “[Lawson] had to have a second surgery around [January] last year on [his] Achilles. Tweaked during rehab. Expected to miss [a] chunk of season. Didn’t start really running [until a] month before camp. Fought back. Played all 17 [games]. 7 sacks. Remarkable.”
Hughes added later in a quote tweet of that information: “There were a lot who criticized Lawson. Think this provides clarity. Dude overcame more than a few hurdles to even play in August & September. Was in pain throughout [the] year & had to manage [through it]. What he did this year shouldn’t be overlooked — it’s a legit accomplishment.”
While all of that is very inspiring, it may not change a naysayer’s perspective on the matter. A former fourth-round draft pick in Cincinnati, Lawson has never had more than 8.5 sacks during a single season. He set that career high as a rookie and has dealt with various injuries since.
Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh targeted Lawson in free agency based on his pass-rush win-rate and potential, but now they have alternative assets on the roster in Johnson, Huff, Clemons and even 2022 practice squad member Bradlee Anae, that are both promising and cost-efficient.
Add in starter John Franklin-Myers to the rotation plus another more affordable veteran — like Jacob Martin or Vinny Curry in 2022 — and there’s really no need for Lawson on the roster. If he’s willing to take a major pay cut, sure. If not, it’d probably be wise to move on.