The NY Jets’ offseason influx of talent could see these three veterans lose their starting jobs.
In the process, the Jets added an abundance of new talent that will compete for spots in the starting lineup this summer. Competition is a good thing as it often brings out the best in everyone involved.
But for the incumbent starters already on the roster, it could mean the loss of their jobs.
Douglas made sure to adequately address both the offensive line and the wide receiver position. But that’s far from the only positions that were targeted. The defense also featured a few notable additions that could compete for playing time.
But it’s important to note that it’s not only new additions that will be vying for the starting jobs of established veterans. Some young players who stood out last season will be looking to take on an increased role in 2020.
The Jets roster is a good mix of established veterans and promising young talents which should make for some interesting roster battles this summer.
So which veterans should be watching their backs over the coming months? We take a look at three veterans who could lose their starting jobs in 2020.
Next: 3. Brian Winters
3. NY Jets’ offensive guard Brian Winters could lose his starting job
Out of the three players on this list, this is by far the likeliest scenario.
Brian Winters has spent the better part of the last seven seasons as a starting guard in the Jets’ offense. And following the departure of Bilal Powell, Winters is now the longest-tenured member of the roster.
But his time in the starting lineup — and perhaps with the team as a whole — may be coming to an end shortly.
Injuries and inconsistency have plagued Winters’ career over the past few seasons tanking what once looked like a promising career. It’s easy to forget but back in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Winters was one of the better young guards in the NFL.
But the injuries have piled up and Winters is more of a low-tier starting option at this point. The Jets signed former Carolina Panthers lineman Greg Van Roten in the offseason and he’s expected to compete with Winters for the starting right guard job.
Van Roten was a better player than Winters last season and the Jets will likely be eager to get their newest free-agent signing into the starting lineup.
And given the over $7 million they could still save by freeing themselves of Winters contract, there’s no guarantee that he even makes the roster.
There’s still an outside chance that Winters is the Week 1 starter at right guard, but that’s just what it is — an outside chance.
Next: 2. Steve McLendon
2. NY Jets’ nose tackle Steve McLendon could lose his starting job
Steve McLendon continues to defy Father Time and put together arguably the best season of his 10-year career at age 33 last season.
The former undrafted free agent finished with an elite 81.3 Pro Football Focus grade ranking him as the No. 12 interior defensive lineman in the entire league. But while that’s an impressive grade, it wasn’t even the best on the team.
Teammate Folorunso Fatukasi scored an even more impressive 81.5 Pro Football Focus grade which ranked him in the top-10 of all interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Yes, that includes 3-4 defensive ends, 4-3 defensive tackles, and all nose tackles.
Fatukasi and McLendon were both phenomenal in 2019, but one of them undoubtedly has more of a future with the team than the other. The Jets love McLendon because of his leadership and continued excellence on the field.
But he’s 34-years-old. Meanwhile, Fatukasi is nearly a decade younger and will be entering his third NFL season in 2020. McLendon will be entering his 11th.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will undoubtedly be running a rotation on the defensive line. But don’t be surprised if Fatukasi is seeing the bulk of the defensive snaps by the year’s end.
Provided he performs at a similar level in 2020, expert Fatukasi to officially surpass McLendon as the team’s starting nose tackle.
Next: 1. Avery Williamson
1. NY Jets’ linebacker Avery Williamson could lose his starting job
Avery Williamson missed all of last season with a torn ACL suffered in the preseason. But given almost a year to rehab, the hope is that Williamson will return to full strength and once again play a key role in the team’s defense.
But his long-awaited return might not go as smoothly as expected.
The Jets likely have more depth at the inside linebacker position than anywhere else on the roster. Apart from the returning C.J. Mosley, the Jets signed his former position-mate Patrick Onwuasor in free agency, re-signed both Neville Hewitt and James Burgess, and return Blake Cashman to round out the group.
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That’s three players with starting experience who could all push for Williamson’s starting job. Hewitt remains a stout run-stuffer but a liability in coverage while Cashman is raw but athletically-gifted.
However, Williamson’s primary competition will likely come in the form of Onwuasor.
The Jets gave the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker a full-guaranteed $2 million contract in the offseason and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him challenge for a starting role.
Onwuasor was once seen as the heir apparent to Mosley in Baltimore and has started 31 games over the last three seasons. If the Jets feel comfortable rolling with the former Ravens duo at linebacker, Williamson might be on the outside looking in.
The Jets could save $6.5 million if they cut Williamson before the start of the season. Onwuasor brings more versatility as a pass-rusher (8.5 sacks over the last two seasons) and is arguably more accomplished in coverage as well.
Williamson is the favorite, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Onwuasor wrestle the starting job away from him in the preseason.