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The NY Jets are preparing for what is expected to be an active offseason. And that all begins with what many believe will be a very exciting free-ageny period.
After a quiet run in free agency a year ago, general manager Joe Douglas and the Jets are sure to be more aggressive in their pursuit of some of the top names on the open market.
That includes players like Joe Thuney, Corey Linsley, Kenny Golladay, Carl Lawson, and many others who could find themselves as members of the Jets in the coming days.
But the Jets won’t just be looking to add new players in free agency. They’ll also be analyzing their current roster to determine how many, if any, of their pending free agents they’d like to return next season.
They’ve already locked up standout safety Marcus Maye for at least another year after placing the franchise tag on him. But as for their other 18 unrestricted free agents, the remaining players are all set to hit the open market.
How many of them will be brought back? The short answer is not very many.
The Jets are looking to overhaul a large portion of their roster this offseason after a disastrous 2-14 campaign a year ago. That includes stripping the roster of the vast majority of their pending free agents.
We took a look at three players the Jets were unlikely to re-sign a day ago. And with the legal tampering period set to begin later today, let’s take a look at three more notable players the Jets likely don’t plan to re-sign.
Next: 3. Jordan Jenkins
3. Jordan Jenkins, OLB, NY Jets
At the time of writing, Jordan Jenkins remains the longest-tenured Jets player on the roster. But don’t expect that to last much longer.
The last surviving member of the 2016 NFL Draft class, Jenkins has developed into a quality edge defender for the Jets over the past few years.
Jenkins has started 62 games over the past five seasons, and while he’s never been outstanding, he’s remained a reliable, consistent part of the Jets’ front-seven rotation. That said, don’t count on him returning in 2021.
With the Jets switching to a 4-3 defensive scheme under new head coach Robert Saleh, there really isn’t a role for Jenkins on the roster. He hasn’t played a 4-3 defensive end role since his high school days and he isn’t athletic enough to play as an off-ball linebacker.
Jenkins actually holds the distinction of being one of only a handful of homegrown players that the Jets have given second contracts to in the past half-decade.
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Since the 2013 NFL Draft class, only three Jets players have received second contracts with the organization, excluding Marcus Maye’s franchise tag. Brian Winters, Quincy Enunwa, and Jenkins after he signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract to stay with the team a year ago.
After 15 sacks in his first two seasons, many expected Jenkins to receive some sizable offers in free agency, but that never came to be. And after a dud of a 2020 where he amassed just two sacks, it’s hard to see his market being any more fruitful this year.
Jenkins is a valuable addition to any roster on and off the field, but the Jets will look elsewhere this offseason as the overhaul continues.
Next: 2. Frank Gore
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2. Frank Gore, RB, NY Jets
It goes without saying that Frank Gore isn’t going to be back with the Jets in 2021. But we’re going to say it anyway.
One of the most accomplished running backs in NFL history, Gore was signed to a one-year deal by the Jets last offseason reuniting him with his former coach in Miami, Adam Gase.
At 37-years-old, Gore was never expected to be the guy to lead the Jets’ backfield in 2020, especially given the presence of Le’Veon Bell and rookie running back La’Mical Perine.
Then Bell was released after playing just two games, and Gore stepped in as the lead back for the majority of the season. The five-time Pro Bowler led the way with 653 yards on 187 carries as he took control of the running game.
Those 187 carries were a whopping 40 more than the combined total of the team’s next three leading rushers (excluding non-running backs) in Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams.
It was truly the Frank Gore show in 2020, but after averaging a career-worst 3.5 yards per carry, it’s clear the Jets are going to move on this offseason. The departure of Gase all but assures that.
To Gore’s credit, he’s indicated that he wants to play in 2021 which would make him the oldest running back to ever suit up for an NFL game at the ripe age of 38. But that won’t be with the Jets.
Gang Green will look to upgrade the running back position in the offseason to add to the likes of Perine, Johnson, and Adams. Needless to say, bringing Gore back is not an option.
Next: 1. Neville Hewitt
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
1. Neville Hewitt, LB, NY Jets
Neville Hewitt is another player whose chances of returning took a major hit following the hiring of Robert Saleh. Much like guys like Jordan Jenkins and Tarell Basham, Hewitt just isn’t a good fit for the team’s new defensive scheme.
The former Miami Dolphins’ linebacker is more of a downhill thumper who is best fit as a two-down inside linebacker. Saleh’s defense emphasizes speed and coverage ability in his linebackers and those are two areas that have always held Hewitt back.
This isn’t to say that Hewitt isn’t a valuable player. The 27-year-old started all 16 games for the Jets in 2020, led the team with a whopping 134 tackles, called defensive plays, and played a vital role on special teams.
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There’s certainly a market for players like that. But not with the Jets.
Hewitt is the one player on this list who theoretically has a chance of returning, but only if he were to take minimal money to be strictly a special-teamer. And given that he’s started the last 32 games he’s played, that remains doubtful.
While linebackers like Hewitt are hardly at a premium in today’s NFL, there will likely be a team or two out there that allows him the opportunity to start, or at least compete for a starting role.
Teams will pay more than the Jets to acquire Hewitt’s services, that’s if the Jets even have any interest in re-signing him which is far from a given.
Hewitt was a happy success story coming over from Miami, but his time in New York is likely over after three quality seasons with the organization.