Jets Begin Offseason Cuts: Former First-Round Pick, Veteran Safety Axed

Shaq Lawson

Getty The New York Jets have released veteran defensive end Shaq Lawson.

At 4:05 p.m. on Saturday, January 8, the New York Jets announced their first cuts of the offseason — even if they’ll take place before Week 18.

“We’ve released DL Shaq Lawson and S Sharrod Neasman,” New York Jets Twitter wrote. “WR Tarik Black, DL Ronnie Blair and OL Ross Pierschbacher have been elevated [for the final game].”

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Professional Courtesy From Joe Douglas?

Neither of these cuts was all that surprising. Lawson was almost a guarantee to be released because of his contract.

ESPN’s Rich Cimini summed up the move: “It was only a matter of time for Lawson. With a $9 [million] cap charge in 2022, his release was inevitable. They gave up a sixth-round pick for the former No. [19] pick, hoping he’d replace [Carl] Lawson. Was a healthy scratch twice, minimal production. But he did have that great [interception] vs [Cincinnati].”

Yes, the Jets gave up a sixth-rounder for Shaq Lawson but it was the pick they received for backup edge rusher Jordan Willis, so no harm no foul. The former first-round selection of the Buffalo Bills was always going to be a rental for Gang Green. Someone to fill in for Carl Lawson during his injury absence.

The Neasman move makes sense as well. As a former Atlanta Falcon, the veteran safety came over because of his ties to DC Jeff Ulbrich but he never proved to be more than a reserve option.

With Ashtyn Davis, Elijah Riley, Jason Pinnock, Will Parks and Kai Nacua all working in at safety ahead of the 30-year-old Neasman in recent weeks, there wasn’t much reason to keep him around heading into the spring.

What’s important to note here is that this could be some professional courtesy from Joe Douglas. NFL insider Tom Pelissero pointed out: “Starting with players cut today, all waiver claims are deferred until after the Super Bowl. So, any player claimed is ineligible to play in the postseason. However, if a player clears waivers, he can sign with any team and play. This happened last year with RB Devonta Freeman.”

In other words, if Lawson and Neasman clear waivers — both should — they can theoretically latch on with a playoff team. This may have been Douglas’ way of saying thank you for your service, being that neither would make it on the roster past March.

The Jets coaches would prefer to see younger players receive snaps in Week 18 anyway and the two veterans are free to try and begin their next chapter in the NFL.

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Elevations Against Bills

After noting the cuts, the Jets reported three practice squad elevations that will journey with the franchise to Buffalo.

The headliner is Blair, who has been stealing reps from Lawson down the stretch. The ex-San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman is a favorite of Robert Saleh and he’s been a bright spot in a rotational role as a run-stuffer.

Pro Football Focus has graded Blair’s run defense at a 69.3 so far in 2021, with 12 “stops.” He’s also provided nine quarterback pressures and one sack as a pass-rusher, with 24 total tackles and 62.2 marks overall.

As for Black and Pierschbacher, both will act as injury insurance. The Jets are extremely banged up at wide receiver and they lost center Connor McGovern to the injured reserve.

The Alabama product will slot in behind starter Dan Feeney. Pierschbacher is also an option for the Jets at guard in a pinch.

Black, an undrafted free agent out of Texas, will get an opportunity as Zach Wilson’s fifth wide-out after Braxton Berrios was placed on IR and Elijah Moore was not activated. He’ll join a rag-tag crew in Week 18 — Jamison Crowder, Keelan Cole, Jeff Smith and Denzel Mims.

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