NY Jets: Analyzing linebacker situation heading into 2016

Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris (52) tackles Buffalo Bills running back Karlos Williams (29) as he runs the ball during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris (52) tackles Buffalo Bills running back Karlos Williams (29) as he runs the ball during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

The NY Jets have some big decisions to make heading into the off season about their current situation at linebacker.

The Jets have work to do at the linebacker position this off-season, make no mistake about it. Head coach Todd Bowles likes to have speed at the position in his defensive schemes and the group he had this year doesn’t fit the bill. The off season is likely to bring some changes at the position, so let’s take a look at our current group.

David Harris is the Jet leader at the position. Harris is a seasoned nine-year veteran, he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft and has played his entire career with the team. Harris has been a tackling machine for the Jets and has been the key cog in their run stoppage games for years. Harris will be 32 years of age next season and is due to make $7.5 million in 2016. His entire salary would be counted as dead money if the Jets chose to let him go in 2016, so he’s likely to be back again next season. Harris is under contract through 2017.

Demario Davis is a 26 year old linebacker for the Jets who just completed his fourth season with the team. Taken by the Jets in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he was hyped by then head coach Rex Ryan as the “next great Jet linebacker.” Unfortunately for the Jets and Davis, that hasn’t happened.

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Davis saw his role reduced by the new coaching staff as his tackles dropped from 117 combined tackles in 2014 to just 90 this season. Davis possesses decent speed but has never really learned to play fast.

He’s considered a liability in coverage and tends to get lost in the middle against the run. Davis is free agent eligible this year and likely won’t be offered a new contract from the Jets to return based on his reduced role he played in 2015.

Calvin Pace is a 35 year old linebacker who just finished playing in his thirteenth season. Pace was drafted in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He joined the Jets in 2008 and was a mainstay in the Jets’ linebacker corps until recent years when his role has primarily been a pass rusher. Pace has had a brilliant NFL career and a Jet career as well, but he will be 36 next season and is currently free agent eligible. Pace has slowed and as a result won’t be back for the Jets in 2016.

Erin Henderson was brought in by general manager Mike Maccagnan this year to provide some depth at the linebacker position. Henderson was taken by the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2008 NFL Draft and played six years with the Vikings. Henderson was out of football in 2014 and was used infrequently by the Jets in the early part of the year.

Henderson’s role increased as the season progressed and he recorded 46 tackles, one forced fumble and a pass attempt in 2015. Henderson will be 30 years old in 2016 and is also free agent eligible. The Jets will need to decide if Henderson plays a part in their future at the position. Henderson could be back next season as a depth player as his contract is likely to be a lesser deal.

Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) runs after a catch as New York Jets linebacker Erin Henderson (58) pursues during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Taiwan Jones is a rookie linebacker that brought in as an undrafted rookie free agent after this year’s draft. Jones spent most of the 2015 campaign on the Jets’ practice squad before being activated to the roster on December 18th. Jones played fairly well in camp last summer and drew the attention of the coaching staff. Jones returns in 2016 with a chance to break into the active roster with hopes of a strong enough training camp and preseason football.

Jamari Lattimore is a five year veteran of the NFL and was initially signed as an undrafted free agent by the Green Bay Packers after the 2011 NFL Draft. Lattimore played in four seasons for the Packers before coming over to the Jets this year. Lattimore saw limited time this year for the team, he played in fifteen games for the Jets, mostly in spot duties and recorded 13 combined tackles on the season.

Lattimore signed a one-year deal with the Jets and is free agent eligible this year. Based on his playtime this year, Lattimore isn’t likely going to return next season, but like Erin Henderson, his salary requirements may be attractive to the organization.

Josh Martin is a three year veteran of the league. Martin was initially signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft. Martin was signed to the Jets’ active roster off of the practice squad of the Indianapolis Colts. Martin has bounced around in his first three seasons, spending time with the Chiefs, Bucaneers and Colts.  Martin is under contract for 2016, and his $675k salary makes him a pretty good bet to return next season. Martin recorded no stats for the Jets this year.

Lorenzo Mauldin was a name Jet fans heard frequently this season. Mauldin was signed by Maccagnan as his third-round pick in this year’s draft. Mauldin was slowly infused into the Jets’ linebacker rotation as the season progressed this year, and fans couldn’t be happier with the development he showed.

Mauldin fits the Bowles’ mold at linebacker, he’s an intelligent football player and plays the game fast. Coming from his outside linebacker position, Mauldin showed he can bring heat to opposing quarterbacks. In his rookie campaign, he recorded four sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Mauldin’s development this year was welcome news for Jet fans and they are hoping he’s not done yet. Mauldin will be back next season to compete for a starting role in 2016.

Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (55) hits Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) In the 2nd half at MetLife Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Reilly is a second year player for the Jets. Taken in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft by John Idzik, Reilly has been a steady contributor to the Jets’ special teams game. Playing part time with the defense this year, Reilly recorded sixteen tackles, a forced fumble and a sack.

Reilly’s future is likely going to be as a special teams player, but if he can show development, he might earn himself more playing time with the defense next season. Reilly has an upside, he’s fairly quick and Bowles will give him his opportunity next year in training camp.  Reilly will be back for the Jets next season.

The Jets also have former Penn State linebacker Deion Barnes and a former Wagner College graduate Julian Stanford on their practice squad. Both will be back next season to compete.

More jets: Jets' 2015 Report Card for Special Teams

The Jets’ linebacker position is in need of an infusion of youth and speed. The position was a weakness on this team in 2015 and we can expect Maccagnan to address it in the off season. How drastically he changes the faces on this group have yet to be determined, but it’s safe to say things will look different at the position in 2016. The upcoming draft has a lot to offer at the outside linebacker position and it will likely to be high priority to upgrade this unit for the Jets.

There’s the current Jet roster at linebacker. Your time to play general manager for the Jets. Who should go? Who should stay? Do you have a plan to rebuild the Jets’ linebacker position? We value our readers opinions here at The Jet Press. We want to know what you are thinking so please, leave us a comment below and help us Talk Jet Football!!