The New York Jets’ decision to let Pro Bowl returner Andre Roberts walk in the offseason was controversial at the time, but it appears they made the right move in hindsight.
After all, the Jets had struggled to find a reliable return man for years before they struck gold with Roberts in 2018. The former Atlanta Falcons returner put together a career year in 2018 leading the league in kick return yards and average yards per punt return.
Roberts’ success led to his first career Pro Bowl nod and a First-Team All-Pro selection — the first by a Jets return man since Leon Washington back in 2008.
Most expected the Jets to do everything to ensure that Roberts was back on the roster and returning kicks in 2019. However, they simply decided to let him go without much of a fight.
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Instead, Roberts signed with the division-rival Buffalo Bills and had some choice words calling the Jets ‘shady’ and indicating that he signed with the Bills with playing the Jets twice a year in mind.
Unfortunately, Roberts was unable to play in either game the two teams faced off as the 32-year-old missed just three games in 2019 — two of which coming in Weeks 1 and 17 when the Jets and Bills met.
But now that the dust has settled and 2019 is in the books, it’s clear that the Jets won’t be losing any sleep over their offseason decision.
Roberts had another solid year this past season, but nothing like his previous campaign. The 10-year NFL veteran finished fourth in the league with a 26.6 yards per kick return average but averaged just seven yards per punt return which ranked seven.
On the contrary, the Jets managed to find themselves a more capable, cheaper punt returner.
Former New England Patriots receiver Braxton Berrios was claimed off waivers shortly after final roster cuts and the short, but shifty wideout quickly took over as the team’s punt returner.
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Berrios finished second in the NFL with11.4 yards per punt return wand held the top spot all the way until the final week. Even more impressive was the fact that his longest return was just 26 yards meaning that there was no long outlier bringing up the average.
Roberts was a good punt returner in 2019, but Berrios was better, cheaper, and younger.
That said, the Bills did receive better production out of their kick returning with Roberts leading the charge. But the Jets still did see some promising production late in the season from Vyncint Smith who averaged nearly 30 yards per return on only 10 returns.
It’s not that Roberts was disappointing in 2019, although he certainly didn’t produce at the same level as he did in 2018. It’s that the Jets got roughly the same production out of younger, cheaper players.
Berrios looks to be a keeper and Smith could very well have a future as a kick returner with the team.
Even if it wasn’t the most popular decision at the time, the New York Jets evidently made the right move with Andre Roberts.