NFL free agency may begin on March 16 but the New York Jets still have decisions to make before then.
On January 10, Joe Douglas and the Jets signed 10 players to reserve/future contracts. These agreements are generally for practice squad players that the organization would like to hold onto heading into the new calendar year.
The others are set free once their contracts “expire” and in 2022, those moves became official on January 17, as NFL insider Tom Pelissero explained on Twitter. Any player not offered a reserve/future deal or an active roster spot joins the league’s free-agent pool.
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Jets Allow 8 Contracts to Expire
According to the NFL’s transaction wire, eight Jets reserves became free agents today.
Those players were tight ends Daniel Brown and Joshua Perkins, wide receiver Vyncint Smith, defensive linemen Ronald Blair and Freedom Akinmoladun, linebacker Noah Dawkins, and defensive backs Lamar Jackson and Ken Webster.
Of this group, the headliners were easily Smith and Blair. Ever since Gang Green signed the wide receiver in 2019, he was advertised as a burner with untapped potential, but his lack of hands and route-running ability always held him back in his development.
Smith did register 17 receptions for 225 yards and 11 first downs during his first campaign with the Jets but he’s done virtually nothing since. This year in Mike LaFleur’s system, the speedster was beaten out by Jeff Smith and Braxton Berrios in training camp. He was eventually elevated for one game, but he failed to record a catch.
Blair on the other hand had much more of an impact in 2021. The former Robert Saleh disciple was brought in to be a locker room leader who was comfortable in the new scheme.
Although he was injured to start the season, Blair came on strong down the stretch, outperforming players like Shaq Lawson and Sheldon Rankins. The lineman typically plays defensive end but he’s got the size and versatility to play inside.
The five-year veteran finished with one sack and 28 tackles in eight appearances (three starts). Pro Football Focus graded him at a 69.9 on run defense — an area the Jets struggled in the first half — and a 62.3 overall. He accumulated nine quarterback pressures and 14 defensive stops and I could definitely see the coach’s favorite return in 2022.
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Detailing Jets Expirations
There were no other major surprises here but these players deserve a proper send-off either way if this ends up being the last we see of them.
Dan Brown, TE
The third and sometimes fourth-string tight end never factored much on offense but he was one of Brant Boyer’s favorites on special teams. That ended up keeping him around longer than expected. Of course, you might remember Brown as the player traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for starting RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, only to re-sign with the Jets a couple of weeks later.
Joshua Perkins, TE
The veteran tight end never took the field for the Green & White. He was brought in after the position group was decimated by injuries but in the end, the Jets managed without him.
Freedom Akinmoladun, DL
The former undrafted defensive lineman appeared in one game for Gang Green, accumulating two tackles off 21 snaps.
Noah Dawkins, LB
Dawkins has bounced on and off the Jets roster the past two seasons. He managed to overcome a coaching change so there’s a chance he latches on in the future on special teams. In seven appearances, the linebacker only managed three NFL tackles.
Lamar Jackson, CB
The UDFA had a promising start to his career, starting six games as a rookie for Gregg Williams’ defense in 2020. However, all that potential soured on the infamous Henry Ruggs cover-zero Hail Mary that burnt Jackson in press coverage. This play definitely wasn’t on the cornerback entirely but either way, his tenure has gone downhill since.
Ken Webster, DB
A recent pickup that had Saleh ties. He did not play a game for the Jets.
Around the League
I happened to notice some former Jets that saw their contracts expire around the league after failing to make an impression and figured I would list them below. These ex-NYJ players are now free agents once again.
- Adrian Colbert, safety (Cleveland Browns).
- Tristen Hoge, guard (Denver Broncos).
- Brian Poole, nickelback (Indianapolis Colts).
- Bradley McDougald, safety (Jacksonville Jaguars).
- Jonotthan Harrison, center (New York Giants).
- Edmond Robinson, linebacker (Seattle Seahawks).