Jets Face Crucial Decision on Defensive Tackle Foley Fatukasi in 2022

Folorunso Fatukasi

Getty The New York Jets must decide whether to extend defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi in 2022.

The job of an NFL general manager is not easy, despite what people may think.

Every investment and dollar spent could be crippling if you choose wrong. Just look at the offseason spending of New York Jets GM Joe Douglas compared to New England Patriots HC/GM Bill Belichick as the perfect example.

Jets Major Signings/Results Patriots Major Signings/Results
DE Carl Lawson (3 years $45 million)- injured reserve, zero games played DE Matt Judon (4 years $56 million)- 13 starts, 12.5 sacks
WR Corey Davis (3 years $37.5 million)- injured reserve after nine starts, 492 receiving yards TE Jonnu Smith (4 years $50 million)- 12 games played, 271 receiving yards
DT Sheldon Rankins (2 years $17 million)- 12 games played, two sacks TE Hunter Henry (3 years $37.5 million)- 13 games played, 394 receiving yards
WR Keelan Cole (1 year $5.5 million)- 11 games played, 326 receiving yards WR Nelson Agholor (2 years $26 million)- 13 games played, 416 receiving yards
LB Jarrad Davis (1 year $5.5 million)- seven games played, 17 tackles DB Jalen Mills (4 years $24 million)- 12 games played, 32 tackles
S Lamarcus Joyner (1 year $3 million)- injured reserve, one game played WR Kendrick Bourne (3 years $22.5 million)- 13 games played, 623 receiving yards
RB Tevin Coleman (1 year $2 million)- eight games played, 243 rush yards DT Davon Godchaux (2 years $16 million)- 13 games played, 48 tackles
TE Tyler Kroft (1 year $2 million)- injured reserve after six games played, 104 receiving yards LB Kyle Van Noy (2 years $13.2 million)- 12 games played, 4 sacks/42 tackles
DE Vinny Curry (1 year $1.3 million)- non-football injury reserve, zero games played C Ted Karras (1 year $4 million)- 13 games played, nine starts

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Out of the nine Jets players above, two have appeared in 10 games or more. For New England, all nine have appeared in at least 12. The end result? The Pats are currently in first place in the AFC East with a 9-4 record while the Jets are in last at 3-10.

You can say Gang Green is cursed, Douglas can’t evaluate talent, or they should fire their trainers. Any way you slice it though, the Jets failed in free agency and these polar opposite results are a huge factor in why things have turned out the way they did in 2021.

In simpler terms — Douglas got these decisions wrong last spring, he cannot afford to get them wrong again in 2022 and the first one may involve Folorunso Fatukasi.

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Fatukasi Listed as Jets Top Free Agent in 2022

Pro Football Focus just dropped their top 75 free agent ranking for next year and Fatukasi was the highest Jet on the list at number 41.

They wrote: “Fatukasi plays on the defensive line alongside recently extended defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers, and the Jets also have 2019 No. 3 overall pick Quinnen Williams’ next contract to think about in the not-so-distant future. Still, Fatukasi has been one of the league’s best, if unheralded, nose tackles over the past few years, with run defense grades of 87.6 in 2019 and 86.2 in 2020. He’s added to his repertoire as well, with 14 quarterback pressures on 226 pass-rush snaps so far in 2021, beating his previous career-high of 12. Fatukasi’s play the rest of the season may dictate how much he ultimately gets on the open market and whether the Jets or someone else will be paying.”

According to the grading site, the run-stuffer projects to garner a contract of somewhere around “three years, $25 million ($8.33 million per year, $15 million total guaranteed).”

The question is, should the Jets pay Fatukasi?

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Weighing the Pros & Cons

This is a really tough one because the former sixth-round selection was a rare draft sleeper for ex-GM Mike Maccagnan. He’s also a local kid from Queens (UConn product) that has grown into a team leader and captain in 2021.

Fatukasi embodies the type of player that head coach Robert Saleh wants in his locker room and you don’t want to let pieces like that walk in free agency.

At the same time, his performance has taken a nose-dive in this new scheme. The defensive tackle is coming off his best outing of the season according to PFF, with an 80.4 grade against the New Orleans Saints.

To save his job, he made need more games like this the rest of the way.

Fatukasi started the year out with business as usual Weeks 1-4 but his numbers fell off a cliff after that. Coincidentally, so did the Jets’ run defense.

The defensive lineman already has a career-high in quarterback pressures (16) and he’s one defensive run-stop short of his 2020 total (24). Statistically, it has not been a terrible year, so why has the eye test looked so miserable?

This run defense has been atrocious under Saleh and Fatukasi’s post-Week 14 grades (59.8) reflect that he’s been a massive part of the problem. Many fans have suggested that he’s not a good scheme fit for a 4-3 as more of a natural nose tackle — and they might be right.

So where does that leave Douglas in his decision? Timing is everything and this disappointing campaign couldn’t come at a worse moment for Fatukasi.

If the Jets don’t see him as a long-term fit in this defense, there’s no doubt that another NFL franchise would jump at the chance to steal the reliable run-stuffer away from New York.


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