The New York Jets might have discovered a diamond in the rough on day three of the NFL draft.
Gang Green selected Western Michigan defender Zaire Barnes with the No. 184 overall pick in the sixth round. On Friday, May 5 the team announced on social media that they had signed him to a four-year contract.
It is a standard four-year contract with a total maximum value of over $4 million. It also included a $196,220 signing bonus and featured a $750,000 base salary for 2023, per Spotrac.
Zaire Barnes Has a Chance to Jump to Relevancy
Gang Green selected seven players during the 2023 NFL draft. It would be easy to forget one of them especially one of the prospects that was selected in the middle of day three.
Barnes is 23 years of age and he will turn 24 before the start of the 2023 season. In high school, he played the safety position but as he transitioned to college he jumped over to the linebacker spot.
By all accounts the Jets plan on keeping Barnes on the second level of the defense.
He was in college for five seasons including a lost campaign in 2020 due to a torn ACL. However, he didn’t become a full-time starter until 2021. Over the last two seasons, he appeared in 25 games and made 24 starts.
It took Barnes a while to come into his own, but it all seemingly came together during his senior campaign at Western Michigan.
Barnes registered 93 tackles, nine pass deflections, a sack, a forced fumble, and an interception.
One of the biggest compliments he received from Dane Brugler, a draft analyst from The Athletic, is his nose for the football. Brugler credited him for “constantly” being around the football due to “his key reads and play speed.”
To Kwon Alexander or to Not Kwon Alexander Is the Jets Question
The other starter from last year, Kwon Alexander, is still available as a free agent.
There has been a section of Jets fans and current players that have lobbied for him to return to the squad in 2023.
Alexander recently responded to some of that fanfare tweeting, “haha wassup brudda! They got my number.”
Alexander with his social media response suggested that the ball is in the Jets’ court if they want this reunion to happen.
Head coach Robert Saleh seemed to make it a point at the beginning of the offseason that he would like to run it back on defense.
Last year Alexander didn’t officially join the Jets until late July of 2022. Alexander eventually rose from those humble beginnings and became a key cog on the defensive side of the ball.
Right now there is a spot for him to return, but if the Jets opt against it for whatever reason that could open the door for Barnes to burst onto the scene.
Barnes may not have the same ceiling as Alexander, but he could be a long-term answer at the position on a dirt cheap deal.