Jets Lock Up Scheme Fit After Unexpected Departures: Report

Solomon Thomas

Getty New York Jets defensive tackle Solomon Thomas in January, 2023.

In a matter of hours, the New York Jets were absolutely pillaged at the defensive tackle position in free agency.

Both Nathan Shepherd and Sheldon Rankins agreed to contracts with new organizations on March 15, and that — coupled with the fast-moving market at D-tackle — appeared to alert general manager Joe Douglas who countered with a transaction of his own.

NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero announced the move, as “veteran DL Solomon Thomas is signing back with the Jets on a one-year deal worth up to $3.9 million, per source.” At the very least, this reunion should stop the bleeding at an area of need.

Solomon Thomas Re-Signing Was Necessary Move for Jets in Free Agency

After losing both Rankins and Shepherd to double-digit guarantees of $10 million-plus, it was important that the Jets locked down some affordable depth on the interior.

Douglas knew he couldn’t enter training camp with just Tanzel Smart, Isaiah Mack and Marquiss Spencer as the backup DTs, and Thomas does provide some reliability and experience in head coach Robert Saleh’s system — even if he was underwhelming in 2022.

Don’t get me wrong, the Jets still need to target a foolproof starter to team with Quinnen Williams — and potentially draft another rotational piece as well — but Thomas should do the job as a DT3 or DT4 considering his price tag. “Up to $3.9 million” generally means, if he hits on his incentives.

The former San Francisco 49ers No. 3 overall pick had a similar type of contract last year with the Jets, and he ended up earning $2.25 million on the season. He was originally only guaranteed $1.91 million for that one-year deal, but his cap hit ended up matching the amount he earned according to Over the Cap.

Bottom line: This signing won’t break the bank and the Jets will hope for a bounce back campaign from Thomas in 2023. With the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021, the disruptor accumulated 3.5 sacks and 12 QB hits (per Pro Football Reference). Outside of his three tackles for a loss as a Raider compared to his 10 TFLs during his rookie campaign, it was a career-year for Thomas in Vegas.

With the Jets, the Niners draft bust dropped back down to earth, however, registering just one half-sack and two TFLs. He also had four QB hits and was credited with 11 QB pressures on Pro Football Focus.

In terms of snap count, Thomas was fourth in the DT rotation behind Williams, Rankins and Shepherd, but did get slightly more usage than edge rushers like Jermaine Johnson II, Micheal Clemons, Bryce Huff and Vinny Curry. Expect a similar role for the veteran scheme fit in 2023.

Jets Outbid Eagles for Former All-Pro DT Fletcher Cox

In other news, the Jets were indeed in on Philadelphia Eagles superstar Fletcher Cox according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini among others, but the former All-Pro ended up staying in Philly on a one-year, $10 million deal — per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

After the signing was announced, NFL Network insider Mike Garafolo added that “ the Jets were willing to go higher, but Cox wanted to stay in Philly for another season.”

News like this is bittersweet, because while the Jets failed to entice Cox — a former Super Bowl champion with 65 career sacks and 85 career TFLs, plus a seven-sack campaign in 2022 — at least this tells you that Douglas and Saleh are not content.

It also tells you that the NYJ GM may feel he has more money and cap space to play around with than many fans believe. Cox ended up signing on a very similar deal as Rankins, so apparently, the Jets were willing to let him walk if they offered the Eagles veteran an even greater amount than Philadelphia did.

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