The NY Jets could be looking to clear cap space this offseason by releasing linebacker Avery Williamson. However, that would ultimately be a mistake.
The NY Jets are about to embark on what should be a very eventful offseason with numerous difficult decisions to be made. And one important player the team will need to make a decision on is Avery Williamson.
No, that isn’t because Williamson is set to be one of the Jets’ 21 unrestricted free agents this offseason. His decision comes courtesy of a different kind of numbers game.
Williamson is one of a few players being discussed as possible cap casualties for the Jets in the coming weeks. With around $56 million in cap space projected at the moment, the Jets already have a good chunk of money to play with once free agency starts.
But they could always use more — especially with a ton of needs and some high-profile targets on the open market.
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Williamson is set to make $8.5 million in 2020, a hefty price for a player at a non-impact position coming off a torn ACL. It’s isn’t foolish to ask whether cutting Williamson would be the right move.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in the preseason, but the season prior, Williamson led the team with 120 tackles and also managed three sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception.
Williamson is a well-above-average starter at his position, but it’s a position the Jets have already invested a ton of resources in. C.J. Mosley was signed to a massive contract last offseason and is set to have the highest cap hit on the team next season.
Paying another starter at off-ball linebacker $8.5 million seems unnecessary, especially considering the little capital invested into more crucial positions such as the offensive line, edge rusher, and cornerback.
But this isn’t a situation that we could look at in a bubble. It isn’t as simple as numbers on a paper.
Assuming Williamson is healthy, he’s a very good starter and a critical piece of what was an overachieving Jets defense in 2019. In his place, players like Neville Hewitt, Blake Cashman, and James Burgess stepped into a starting role.
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And whether fans realize it or not, all three were significant downgrades from Williamson. Cashman, in particular, struggled as a run defender while all three were massive liabilities in coverage.
The trio was all graded extremely poorly by Pro Football Focus with none of them earning a grade higher than 55.0 which is still considered very much below-average. In fact, Hewitt’s 40.4 PFF grade ranked him as the worst linebacker in the entire NFL.
There was a steep drop-off in talent level even if that was inherently evident on the box score. Credit the Jets’ dominant defensive line for masking some of the weakness of the linebacker core.
If the Jets don’t opt to cut Williamson, they could always free up more space by releasing players like Trumaine Johnson, Darryl Roberts, Brian Winters, and Quincy Enunwa. Either way, those cuts wouldn’t leave the same roster hole that releasing Williamson would.
Some may feel that Avery Williamson is an easily replaceable player and that his production could be replicated with the current backups on the roster. But that simply isn’t true and the Jets can’t rely on the likes of Hewitt, Cashman, and Burgess as starters.
Keep Williamson and watch him and Mosley flourish in 2020.