The New York Jets will have a decision this offseason to make regarding Avery Williamson. But is moving on from the talented linebacker the right decision?
The New York Jets have a few players they could look to move on from in the offseason as they look to clear cap space and reshape their roster. One player whose future will be a major point of discussion is linebacker Avery Williamson.
Williamson was signed by the Jets to a three-year, $22.5 million contract prior to the 2018 season and played fairly well in his first season with the team.
The former Tennessee Titans linebacker would lead the team with 120 tackles while also adding three sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception. Hopes were high that he could continue that same success heading into 2019.
And Jets fans grew even more excited about the prospects of him playing alongside the newly-signed C.J. Mosley giving the team perhaps the most formidable linebacker duo in the NFL.
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Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly what happened.
Williamson tore his ACL in the preseason while Mosley would play just two games all year dealing with a groin injury. In their places, players like Neville Hewitt, Blake Cashman, and James Burgess stepped in and played fairly well.
Mosley will hopefully be back to full strength next season and the same goes for Williamson, but an interesting question must be raised about the latter.
With the Jets looking to invest capital into other, more pressing needs, does Williamson become expendable? It’s certainly a fair question.
Williamson is due to make $8.5 million in the final year of his contract next season, but the Jets have a potential out in his deal that would incur just $2 million in dead cap and save the team $6.5 million.
That $6.5 million might be better allocated elsewhere, but is that the right path to take? In turn, who would replace him?
Cashman is obviously still under contract next season and Burgess will almost certainly be brought back as a restricted free agent. On the other hand, Hewitt is an unrestricted free agent and could receive a sizable market as a special teams ace, spot-starter at linebacker.
The question really comes down to how comfortable the Jets are rolling into next season with Burgess and Cashman competing for a spot. Mosley’s expected return will certainly take some of the load off the young linebackers, but the talent level would obviously be a drop-off from Williamson.
That said, Burgess spent the majority of his 10 starts as the Jets’ defensive signal-caller — a tall task for a guy who was on the practice squad just weeks earlier. That role would shift back to Mosley next season and he should be able to take the lead.
The other question that must be asked is how well Williamson will fair in his first year back from a torn ACL. Since he injured his knee back in August, he will have had a full year to recover by the time the regular season rolls around.
But certain players have lost a step or two in their first year back and it’s fair to question if Avery Williamson will be the same player.
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At the end of the day, Williamson’s fate will likely be determined by the Jets’ other roster moves. If they opt to make other players cap casualties (Brian Winters, Quincy Enunwa, etc.), then Williamson will probably be spared.
But if the Jets decide that those players are worth keeping around and they need extra cap space for an offseason addition, they could see Williamson as expendable.
Perhaps it’s time for the Jets to start prioritizing more important positions like offensive line and edge rusher while spending less money on less-impactful positions like interior defensive line and off-ball linebacker.
If general manager Joe Douglas is committed to reshaping the structure of the team, Williamson could be a goner.
This isn’t an indictment on Avery Williamson as a player and it would be awful to see someone lose their job essentially because of an injury. But football is a business.
And sometimes you have to make the move that’s best for business.