The recent acquisition of C.J. Mosley in free agency has left linebacker Darron Lee’s future with the New York Jets up in the air.
Darron Lee has already been through quite the rollercoaster of a career in his three seasons with the New York Jets. The 2016 first-round pick has already been hailed a draft bust, a budding star, and really everything in between.
Unfortunately, he may soon be given the title of “former member of the Jets” before long.
The Jets made one of the biggest splashes of the free agency period when they signed four-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley to a massive five-year, $85 million contract in the offseason. Mosley is expected to immediately step in and be the team’s leader in the middle of the defense alongside last year’s free agent acquisition Avery Williamson.
Mosley and Williamson could combine for one of the better — and most expensive — linebacker duos in the league which could give the Jets a true point of strength on defense. But this defensive plan leaves little room for Lee on the team.
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Lee has spent the last three seasons as one of the Jets two starting inside linebackers and while he oftentimes looked lost and overmatched during his first two seasons, he was able to turn a corner in his third NFL season. The Ohio State product put together the best year of his career turning in the best Pro Football Focus grade of his career with a solid 72.4 rating that ranked him the No. 24 linebacker in the league.
On top of that, Lee tallied the first three interceptions of his career and recorded the most pass deflections (5) that he had in a season. His coverage skills were vastly improved, a clear point of emphasis for the young defender in the offseason.
However, Lee’s season was cut short when he was suspended for the final four games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Unfortunately, that may have been the final nail in the coffin for a player that has shown promise in the past, but ultimately never seemed to be able to put it all together.
If anything, his suspension was a microcosm of his career to this point. Lee showed flashes of greatness but once it looked like he was finally ready to break through, his inconsistency came back to haunt him.
This doesn’t mean that Lee can’t still be a very good player for some team. If he is able to harness his athleticism and continue to grow as a player then the sky’s the limit for the former high school quarterback.
It just doesn’t look like that team will be the Jets.
The team has a logjam at the inside linebacker spot and Lee should not be expected to shift outside and play an edge rusher role. He has a hard enough time shedding blocks defending the run, let alone expecting him to shed blocks on a regular basis rushing the passer.
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Rumors have begun to swirl around potential trade partners if the Jets were to deal Lee and some of the names that keep popping up are the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Each of these teams are logical destinations as they each have holes at the linebacker position and could use a young player like Lee to develop.
For a former first-round pick coming off his best NFL season, the Jets could actually get something of substance back for him. Expect the team to receive compensation somewhere around a fifth-round pick if they were to deal Lee.
Another interesting scenario that has been floated around would be a player-for-player scenario where the Jets would swap Lee for Cleveland Browns edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah. This would fill needs for both teams and with both players being on the trade block, it would make a ton of sense and is a very feasible option.
As disappointing as it may be, it seems that Lee’s tenure with the New York Jets is all but over at this point. Perhaps both sides just need a change of scenery and could flourish without one another in 2019 and beyond.
But it does appear that a divorce is set to occur, and expect it to commence sooner rather than later.