The NY Jets have a number of players who have outperformed their current salaries.
The NY Jets haven’t had the most impressive recent draft history. From failed early-round picks to a lack of mid-round depth, the Jets have struggled more than most teams to adequately build through the draft.
And the effects of such are felt on the current roster today.
While improvements have been made in recent years, far too much of the roster has been constructed through free agency or other avenues — and that’s never a recipe for success.
The best teams are ones that build through the draft and take advantage of those players’ team-friendly rookie contracts. Putting together a roster is like constructing a puzzle and the more young players on affordable players you have, the easier it is to make all the puzzle pieces fit.
Fortunately, while they haven’t been incredibly successful at employing that strategy in recent years, the Jets still have a number of players who fit that bill.
Some were early-round picks who lived up to the hype and are due new contracts in the near future. Others are late-round steals whose play has vastly exceeded their current salaries.
Either way, these players are certainly underpaid.
Let’s take a look at the four most underpaid players on the Jets’ current roster.
Next: 4. Chris Herndon
4. Chris Herndon, TE, NY Jets
Chris Herndon burst on to the scene in his rookie year and, despite a slow start, finished the season as arguably the most productive rookie tight end in his draft class.
Herndon led all rookie tight ends in receptions with 39 and touchdowns with four, trailing just Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens in yards. The future looked bright for Herndon as the former fourth-round pick seemed poised to put together a breakout 2019 campaign.
But while Andrews soured to the heights most expected Herndon to reach, the Jets’ tight end couldn’t even stay on the field.
A suspension rendered the first four games of his season meaningless and two subsequent injuries would knock him out for essentially the rest of the year — save for a quarter of action in Week 10.
Still, hopes are high for Herndon going into 2020 with many expecting him to pick up where he left off two years ago. And if he can do that, he might be able to establish himself as a top-10 tight end in the NFL by season’s end.
Herndon is set to make under $1 million in 2020 which, given what we saw in 2018, is certainly under what his true value is. So even though he missed basically all of last season, it’s safe to say that he is still underpaid.
And he could further establish that notion with a return to prominence this season.
Next: 3. Marcus Maye
3. Marcus Maye, S, NY Jets
Marcus Maye has flown a little under the radar in his NFL career, mostly because he’s largely played second-fiddle to Jamal Adams in the Jets’ defensive backfield. But Maye is undoubtedly an accomplished player in his own right.
And he’s due for a substantial pay raise in the near future.
A second-round pick back in 2017, Maye is set to play the 2020 season on the final year of his rookie contract while making just over $2 million. And give his performance over the last three years, it’s safe to say that he’s underpaid.
Maye has developed into one of the better free safeties in the NFL earning a very solid 74.5 Pro Football Focus grade that ranked him 17th in the league at his position. His 77.4 coverage grade also ranked towards the top at his position as well.
Maye is quietly one of the more important pieces of the Jets’ defense and whether or not he has a future in New York, he’s sure to receive a significant boost in salary next offseason.
The Jets did draft Cal safety Ashtyn Davis in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, seemingly as a potential replacement for Maye. But at least for this upcoming season, Maye’s near $2 million salary is a bargain considering his quality of play.
And for that reason, he’s certainly underpaid.
Next: 2. Jamal Adams
2. Jamal Adams, S, NY Jets
From one safety to another, Jamal Adams’ projected salary in 2020 is larger than any other player on this list. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still well below his market value.
Adams is set to make just $7.12 million this season which given his All-Pro status last season is absolutely a massive underpay. In fact, that’s been the impetus behind much of the offseason drama surrounding the star safety.
Adams knows that he’s underpaid and he’s determined to receive a new extension this offseason to compensate him for his incredible play over the last couple of seasons.
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The No. 6 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Adams has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons and was named first-team All-Pro for his incredible 2019 campaign.
He can cover (top-seven coverage grade last season per PFF), defend the run, and rush the passer at an elite level. He’s the complete package and if he’s forced to play the 2020 season on his current salary, it will undoubtedly be one of the most team-friendly contracts in the NFL.
In what shouldn’t be news to anyone, Jamal Adams is tremendously underpaid.
Next: 1. Folorunso Fatukasi
1. Folorunso Fatukasi, DL, NY Jets
While the offseason focus has been on Adams and his underpaid status, there remains one player on the Jets roster who should claim to be the most underpaid player on the team.
And that player is defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi.
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A sixth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Fatukasi was seen as a roster-bubble player heading into the 2019 season. After playing in just one game in his rookie season, few expected anything from the former UConn standout.
But out of seemingly nowhere, Fatukasi didn’t just make the roster, but he became a regular fixture in the defensive line rotation. And soon, he emerged as one of the best front-seven defenders on the team.
Fatukasi finished the 2019 season with an incredible 81.6 PFF grade which ranked him as a top-10 interior defensive lineman in the entire NFL. That includes 3-4 defensive ends, 4-3 defensive tackles, and all nose tackles.
Combine that with his dominant 87.6 run-defense grade that ranked fifth at his position and it’s clear that Fatukasi was nothing short of elite last season.
Yet despite his incredible play, he’s set to make a mealy $793,000 in 2020.
Adams has a legitimate claim to being underpaid and so too do Maye and Herndon. But if anyone should be clamoring for a pay raise in the near future, it’s Fatukasi.
And if he could repeat his 2019 success this season, he’ll surely be in-line for one in the near future.