The NY Jets have been searching for a true star pass-rusher for nearly two decades now. But on Monday, they may have landed their most talented edge rusher since the days of John Abraham in the form of Carl Lawson.
Lawson was unanimously viewed as one of the best pass-rushers on the market and the Jets paid him as such, inking him to a three-year, $45 million contract late Monday night.
After a slow start to free agency, the Jets picked things up signing both wide receiver Corey Davis and Lawson as the night set in. In total, the Jets made three signings on the first day of free agency.
But Lawson has the potential to be their most impactful move of the offseason.
A fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2017 NFL Draft, Lawson burst on to the scene in his rookie season racking up 8.5 sacks despite playing a part-time role as a situational pass-rusher.
Hopes were high that Lawson would continue his ascent as one of the league’s best pass-rushers in 2018, but a torn ACL wiped out over half his season. He returned in 2019, but clearly wasn’t the same player he was in his rookie season.
But in 2020, he put together the most dominant season of his career finishing with 5.5 sacks, a whopping 64 pressures, and 32 QB hits. He led the NFL in QB knock-downs with 27 and his 64 pressures ranked fourth among all edge defenders.
He was one of the best pass-rushers in football in 2020, and the Jets paid him as such.
How Carl Lawson fits with the NY Jets
The hiring of Robert Saleh meant that the Jets were set to overhaul their edge-rush rotation in the offseason. The need for true 4-3 defensive ends was real, and Lawson certainly fits the bill.
At 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, Lawson has thrived as a 4-3 defensive end where he’s played for the majority of his time in Cincinnati. And that’s the role he’ll fill with the Jets.
It’s exciting to think about the possibility of Lawson playing alongside the likes of Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers who were two of the more productive pass-rushers at their positions a year ago.
Combine that with the Robert Saleh system which has a history of maximizing the pass-rush talents of his defensive linemen and the sky is the limit for Lawson.
Ignore the sack numbers with him. As most fans should be aware of at this point, sacks are oftentimes a “luck” statistic and rarely do they fully encapsulate how productive a pass-rusher is.
Lawson’s 64 pressures and league-high QB knock-downs paint a different picture. As does his elite 84.9 Pro Football Focus pass-rush grade that ranked eighth at his position in 2020.
The sacks will come, but anyone who watched the Bengals played last year knows that he was likely the most disruptive player on that entire team.
The price tag is hefty, but at just 25-years-old, Carl Lawson was one of the best free agents on the market. This signing was well worth it.
The Jets finally have a pass-rusher. Big things could be in store for the front-four.
Final Grade: A