Jets News

5 Former Jets UDFAs prospering elsewhere

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 30: John Wolford #9 of the New York Jets passes the ball while Travis Swanson #64 blocks in the second quarter during the preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on August 30, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Jets 10-9. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 30: John Wolford #9 of the New York Jets passes the ball while Travis Swanson #64 blocks in the second quarter during the preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on August 30, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Jets 10-9. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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There’s no legitimate reason for any sports franchise to discover serviceable pros — and then allow them to exit the facility.  But the talent-thin Jets have committed that error in judgment on more than one recent occasion.

Great undrafted free agents of Jets history include Wayne Chrebet. Brandon Moore, and “Snacks” Harrison.  GM Mike Maccagnan brought in Robby Anderson three years ago and ascending Frankie Luvu last season.  This year’s bounty UDFA crop led by Wake Forest WR/PR Greg Dortch could yield up to five developmental players.

It has now become evident that the lack of chemistry between Maccagnan and former coach Todd Bowles was two-fold.  Either the GM brought in players the coaches did not like, or he acceded to the coaches’ wishes — and gave them the very players they wanted, who simply didn’t pan out.  Hopefully, such a chasm will not exist under the new coaching staff.

Every one of the following Jets UDFAs producing elsewhere compares favorably to other players on this current roster, in terms of talent and financial obligations.  Retaining any one of these edge-rushers, D-linemen or tight ends would’ve yielded dividends in terms of the salary cap, free agency decisions, and college draft selections.  A ripple effect, indeed…

Next: John Wolford, QB, Rams

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 30: John Wolford #9 of the New York Jets avoids the sack of Winston Craig #74 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter during the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 30, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Jets 10-9. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 30: John Wolford #9 of the New York Jets avoids the sack of Winston Craig #74 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter during the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 30, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Jets 10-9. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

John Wolford, QB, Rams

Last year’s camp sensation went back to his Wall Street day job and then tore up the AAF ’til they folded.  Now, the nephew of three-time Bills Pro Bowl tackle Will Wolford looks on track to unseat Brandon Allen as the Rams’ third-string QB behind Jared Goff and Blake Bortles.

The GM made the astute move in terms of 2018 third-string practice squad QB.  But don’t be shocked if this Wake Forest legend — or recent Jets camp-body pickup Luke Falk — take their first NFL regular-game snaps before Giants bust Davis Webb.  (It’s incredible to think that Webb was once neck-and-neck with Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes.)

Next: Austin Calitro, LB, Seahawks 

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – NOVEMBER 04: Justin Coleman #28 and Austin Calitro #58 of the Seattle Seahawks react in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at CenturyLink Field on November 04, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – NOVEMBER 04: Justin Coleman #28 and Austin Calitro #58 of the Seattle Seahawks react in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at CenturyLink Field on November 04, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Austin Calitro, LB, Seahawks 

This All-CAA Villanova star signed as a UDFA with the Jets in May 2017 but he nonplussed the staff and got waived ten days later.  The high-motor mad-backer last season stalked the sidelines for the Seahawks at OLB — starting five games and playing all 16 (42 tackles, 29 solo).

So what exactly didn’t Todd Bowles’ staff see that Pete Carroll’s did?  Such whiffs literally cost millions.  Remember that the Jets tried to pay edge-rusher Anthony Barr $15-17 Million per…

Next: Anthony Firkser, TE, Titans

NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 2: Anthony Firkser #86 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by Rashard Robinson #30 of the New York Jets while running with the ball during the fourth quarter at Nissan Stadium on December 2, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 2: Anthony Firkser #86 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by Rashard Robinson #30 of the New York Jets while running with the ball during the fourth quarter at Nissan Stadium on December 2, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Anthony Firkser, TE, Titans

The Jets like to select great athletes and then move them to new positions.  The Florham Park brain-trust projected this Harvard via Manalapan, NJ tight end as a hybrid H-back, meaning he’d block at FB.

But 2017’s one-and-done OC John Morton and his tight ends coach Jimmie Johnson didn’t feel Firkser was large or strong enough to compete, and cut him before the season opener.  Last season, the injury-riddled Titans involved him in a few games (19 catches for 225 yards).  His NFL highlight was a homecoming, game-winning TD over the Jets at MetLife.  Tennessee’s coaching staff love what they’ve seen, and expect big things from A.F. in 2019 and beyond.

Next: Kerry Hyder, DE, Cowboys

CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 11: Bryan Witzmann #78 and Cody Whitehair #65 of the Chicago Bears block Kerry Hyder #61 of the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on November 11, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 34-22. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 11: Bryan Witzmann #78 and Cody Whitehair #65 of the Chicago Bears block Kerry Hyder #61 of the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on November 11, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 34-22. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Kerry Hyder, DE, Cowboys

Idzik’s top UDFA move got lost in the 2015 shuffle of Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams, Muhammad  Wilkerson, and Snacks Harrison.  One of Maccagnan’s first moves was cutting this 2014 practice squadder.

The Texas Tech product exploded for eight sacks with the Lions in 2016 but then tore his Achilles to miss 2017.  Last season Hyder started slow, between injury rehab and being positioned over-center by new HC Mike Paricia.  He just signed with Dallas where there are big expectations.

Next: Jason Vander Laan, TE, Colts

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 16: General view as Indianapolis Colts rookies work out during a minicamp at the team complex on May 16, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 16: General view as Indianapolis Colts rookies work out during a minicamp at the team complex on May 16, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Jason Vander Laan, TE, Colts

The two-time Harlon Hill Trophy-winning QB (who rushed for an astounding 5.953 yards and 81 TDs at DII Ferris State) switched over to TE as a Jets 2016 UDFA.  He spent a few months on their practice squad before a shoulder injury.

He impressed in four games in 2017 with the Colts, and in 2018 for the Panthers — for whom he’s predicted to make their 2019 53-man roster.

Like most converted quaterbacks, JVL has an impeccable nose for the ball.  With soft hands, nice routes and improved blocking, he’s certainly as good as any recent NYJ third-string tight end.

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