As the New York Jets prepare for a rollercoaster of an offseason, here are the top five players they must cut to not only add more salary cap money to play with but continue rebuilding the right way.
Another offseason is here for the New York Jets as they once again have a lot of work cut out for them to be contenders again. They’re coming off their second straight season of ending the year at 5-11 and are entering their most important offseason to date.
A lot of tough decisions await general manager Mike Maccagnan as he has to address several key areas on the roster. From issues on the Jets offensive line, no certainty at quarterback, lacking quality depth at cornerback, and everything else in between, the Jets have to do whatever it takes to add more salary cap room and make the necessary decisions to bounce back in 2018.
The Jets can have well over $100 million in salary cap money to play with this offseason and can add even more money to the table by making some key player cuts. Let’s face it, if you’re rebuilding the right way, you have to get rid of aging and unproductive players and focus on youth and those that can play at the highest level possible.
Without further ado, here are the top five player cuts that must happen in 2018 if the Jets want to add better players in free agency as well as bolster their culture of working hard, winning, and executing as a team.
Next: 5. Saying goodbye to an ineffective kickoff/punt returner
5. JoJo Natson
Have you ever seen a more ineffective kickoff/punt returner than wide receiver JoJo Natson? Trust me when I say, if you thought others were bad at kickoff and punt returns, Natson might take the award for being one of the worst in recent memory.
The Jets truly need to bring in better talent for their return duties since this season saw a rotating carousel for a position that’s supposed to help with field positioning. From a plethora of fair catches to not being able to average more than 2.4 yards per punt return, Natson is an easy decision when it comes to his future with the Jets.
Cutting Natson is easy since the Jets can find better talent either already on the roster (players like Chad Hansen or even Elijah McGuire come to mind) or simply draft a specialist in this aspect of the game. Remember all those close games the Jets had last season? If they had a better return game from their kickoff/punt returner, it could have resulted in a few extra wins which at the end of the day, is what all of this is about.
Natson is simply not worth a roster spot on the Jets since his stats as a wide receiver (two receptions, 18 yards, zero touchdowns), kickoff returner (16 returns, 325 yards, 20.3 yards per return), and punt returner (16 returns, 38 yards, 2.4 yards per return) leave much to be desired.
Next: 4. A left guard unable to get the job done
One of the biggest areas of need on the Jets is their offensive line. From inconsistency, injuries, and the inability to get the job done for their ground or passing game, expect to see big changes coming to the positional group.
Unfortunately for offensive guard James Carpenter, the writing is on the wall. A big reason why the rushing attack of the Jets lacked any efficiency came down to the offensive line not being able to open up the necessary gaps or lanes to keep those chains moving.
Carpenter regressed tremendously from 2016 as the Jets can add well over $4 million in salary cap space by cutting him this offseason. That’s money that could go back into upgraded the Jets offensive line which is in dire need of younger and better talent.
In the grand scheme of things, Carpenter isn’t worth keeping around since the Jets need someone who can excel and bring a boost to everything they’re trying to execute on when the offense hits the field. A lot of drives ended as three and outs due to quarterbacks getting pressured or running backs being hit behind the line of scrimmage.
Next: 3. A wide receiver that is always hurt
3. Devin Smith
When it comes to wide receiver Devin Smith, it’s an unfortunate situation since he always had an immense amount of talent at Ohio State but it never translated to success in the NFL. Smith has dealt with many injuries that have kept him out of the spotlight and well, it’s time to cut ties with the second-round 2015 NFL Draft pick.
In his tenure with the Jets, Smith has only totaled 10 receptions, 135 receiving yards, and one touchdown. In last year’s draft, the Jets stocked up on new wide receivers and even traded for Jermaine Kearse to bolster the positional group.
One also has to factor in that the Jets will also get wide receiver Quincy Enunwa back in 2018 so this makes Smith the odd man out. It’s a crowded situation at wide receiver for the Jets which makes Smith expendable.
After having two torn ACL injuries, it’s unlikely that Smith will ever find major success in the NFL. The NFL is a cut-throat business as if you can’t be on the field playing well enough to contribute to a team, you will likely never make it. It’s a shame but at the end of the day, this is strictly a business decision that would add a little over $1 million in salary cap space.
Next: 2. A running back past his prime
2. Matt Forte
Running back Matt Forte was once a key threat on offense thanks to his dual-threat ability to effectively run on the ground or be a receiving option out of the backfield. Unfortunately, last season will go down as one that Forte would like to forget.
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Dealing with knee and ankle injuries in 2017, Forte totaled just 381 rushing yards, 103 attempts, and two touchdowns. As a receiving option, Forte totaled 293 yards, 37 receptions, and one touchdown. For a player that was given the majority of starting reps at running back, Forte failed to deliver as Father Time is catching up to him.
At 32-years-old, the Jets would be wise to cut Forte this offseason and finally give running back Bilal Powell starting duties and McGuire a more versatile role on offense thanks to his unique skill-set. The Jets have playmakers at running back in both Powell and McGuire as they should be more than capable of bringing better production from the position.
Cutting Forte would add $3 million to the Jets salary cap and it’s a move that must happen for the Jets to continue rebuilding with better and well, younger talent.
Next: 1. A defensive end that wasted a golden opportunity
When it comes to playing in the NFL, it’s a golden opportunity to not only do something you love but do your best to have your name mentioned among legends. Sadly, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson not only wasted such an opportunity but ended up becoming one of the most distracting players this season on the Jets.
From constantly being late to team meetings to being benched in several games due to disciplinary reasons, Wilkerson totaled his worst season yet as a starter. In 2017, Wilkerson totaled just 26 tackles, 3.6 sacks, and lost any leadership he once had since players undoubtedly saw his actions and realized he wasn’t one to look up to.
The Jets will not only add $11 million to their salary cap but send a great example to their locker room. Gone are the days where overpaid veteran players can get away with not only being lazy on the gridiron but behind the scenes where it matters most. Cutting Wilkerson will prove that the Jets are serious and that they want players that actually will put in the work to become legitimate contenders on a daily basis.
Wilkerson will go down in franchise history as a player that once dominated the scene and ended up leaving a tarnished image on his way out. It’s a shame since Wilkerson had the potential to be one of the top defensive ends in pro football but will ultimately regret making the decisions he did with a franchise that invested $86 million in a contract extension for him to be a cornerstone on defense for years to come.