3 Jets looking to cash in on contract year
By Jake Spriggs
As we sit and wait for the 2019 NFL season to begin, it’s never to early to look to ahead to the 2020 free agent class. There are 22 New York Jets that will be unrestricted free agents next March and all of them will be looking to get paid. Here are five current Jets players that have the best shot at cashing in on a huge pay-day if they dominate on the field in 2019.
With the shock of NFL free agency and the NFL Draft now behind us, we look forward to the upcoming 2019 season. We have entered a quiet period in the NFL off-season schedule as training camps are still over two months away. There will be some minor moves and loose ends to tie up these next two months but nothing major until training camp begins in late July.
While we sit and wait for training camp to begin, we take a look ahead to the 2020 off-season, especially to free agency in March. The New York Jets have 22 players on their current roster that will become unrestricted free agents after the 2019 season. This means the Jets front office will have more than a couple of major decisions to make at what players to resign.
There are no true “superstars” on the Jets roster but there are plenty of good players that are entering their contract year. Here are three Jets that have the best opportunity to cash in on a huge pay-day in 2020. These players could play the vital role in the Jets continued quest to become the new kings of the AFC East.
Next: 1. Leonard Williams
1. Leonard Williams
If there is only one player this list that we could choose that will cash in on a huge pay-day in 2020, it would have to be Leonard “Big Cat” Williams. The defensive lineman is in the last year of his rookie contract (four years, $18.63 million plus fifth year team option for 2019). Williams salary for the 2019 season is $14.2 million.
Williams hasn’t put up eye-popping stats like Los Angeles Rams defensive linemen Aaron Donald has (20.5 sacks in 2018 compared to just five for Williams), but he has applied plenty of pressure on quarterbacks. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams finished the season with 53 total pressures in 2018 which was tied for the 6th most among interior defensive linemen. While the sack numbers haven’t been there, Williams has become one of the best run-stopping defensive linemen. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams has the third most run stops (116) and tackles for loss (53) since 2015 out of 98 defensive linemen with at least 500 run defense snaps.
Williams is arguably the most valuable defender on this Jets defense, other than Jamal Adams, and could see his production sky-rocket even more in 2019 due to two important factors. The Jets selected arguably the “best overall player” in this year’s NFL Draft in Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams and the Jets also brought in new defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. “Big Cat” recently caught up with the NewYorkJets.com media team and stressed how happy he was to have a coordinator like Williams this season.
“I love guys like that,” Leonard said of Gregg’s trademark high energy coaching and aggressive playcalling. “That was a big reason I went to USC back in the day, for Coach [Ed] Orgeron. I love those high-intensity, get-after-it type of coaches that really know how to push you and get the best out of you. That’s what I see in Gregg Williams. I’m looking forward to playing for him.”
The Jets are hoping Williams can get the most out of “Big Cat” and the rest of the Jets defense in 2019. If Williams is able to help this defense reach the next level, that will mean a big pay-day for “Big Cat” and for a couple other defenders. Leonard Williams has everything he needs now, better coaching and a better supporting cast around him, to record those eye-popping stats and cash in a big pay-day.
Next: 2. Robby Anderson
2. Robby Anderson
The Jets made a couple of upgrades to their offense this off-season, signing free agent running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Jamison Crowder. No doubt, these two players will help make life easier for quarterback Sam Darnold. However, one player that could make life easier for all three is wide receiver Robby Anderson.
Anderson is playing on the one year restricted free agent tender at $3.095 million in 2019. So as you can see, this is truly a “prove it” year for Anderson who had a very quiet start to 2018 but came on strong at the end of the season. According to Pro Football Focus, Anderson was grade as the second-best wide receiver in the NFL from weeks 13-16 at 86.9.
Darnold was out for a few weeks in 2018 with a “foot injury”, but it could have just been a benching by the coaches because of how much Darnold was struggling during a long stretch after the season. What could have been labeled another depressing moment at the time for the Jets, may have turned into a blessing in disguise. Darnold returned from injury in Week 14 and played his best football the last month of the season. Anderson was his go-to guy when Darnold returned, being one of just seven players with over 300 yards and three touchdowns from Weeks 14-17.
Robby Anderson is no sleeper, but in a contract year, could he break through for the Jets? pic.twitter.com/pz8WkOAEVe
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 3, 2019
But back to what we were saying before on how Anderson helps the two new additions on offense in Bell and Crowder. Bell is a top three back in the league when healthy, running and catching the ball out of the backfield. Anderson will help defenses be honest, as they must account for him stretching the field. That will result in less loaded eight-man fronts against Bell. For Crowder who mainly works out of the slot, Anderson’s deep threat presence opens up the middle of the field for Crowder to work and makes for easier passing lanes for Darnold.
It will be very exciting to see what Anderson can do under an offensive minded coach like Adam Gase who will be sure to showcase all of his skills. Prepare for Robby Anderson to take flight in 2019.
Next: 3. Kelvin Beachum
3. Kelvin Beachum
If Darnold is going to have time to stand back in the pocket and scan all of his offensive weapons, he will need the offensive line to protect him. The Jets offensive line was a huge concern in 2018 and was a big reason why the Jets went 4-12.
Although most of the offensive line struggled, tackle Kelvin Beachum held his own. Beachum has started all 32 games since coming over from Jacksonville in 2017. Beachum has been a solid offensive tackle and had one of his best seasons to date in 2018. According to Pro Football Focus, Beachum allowed just 28 total pressures and just sick combined sacks and hits, the second-lowest of his career. Beachum will be 30 in June and is in the last year of his three-year, $24 million deal with the Jets, making $8 million in 2019.
Beachum has added motivation coming into 2019, with the Jets drafting USC offensive tackle Chuma Edoga in the third round. Edoga will be battling for a starting tackle spot in training camp, whether it’s for Beachum’s current spot or to replace Brandon Shell. Beachum is an important part of the Jets line and he has the most important job on the field in protecting Darnold from pass rushers.
If Beachum can build off a solid 2018 season, he should be able to cash in on a big pay-day and provide some stability for an offensive line looking for answers. How the offensive line plays will be the deciding factor in the Jets ending their playoff drought or not.