The NY Jets‘ first signing of the free-agency period wasn’t necessarily the player many expected it to be, but linebacker Jarrad Davis has a chance to play an important role in Robert Saleh’s defense.
The former first-round pick spent the first four years of his career with the Detroit Lions, but after struggling through much of his first three seasons, Detroit opted not to pick up his fifth-year option.
Davis responded by putting together the best season of his career in 2020, albeit in a part-time role. He finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 62.1 that ranked 26th out of all linebackers in the NFL.
More notably, Davis actually finished with a very respectable 72.1 coverage grade which was 12th-highest at his position. This was a noticeable change for a player who had struggled mightily in coverage in the past.
Davis had an abysmal 2019 season that saw him finish with an atrocious PFF grade of 38.6 that ranked 87th out of only 90 qualifiers. And his dreadful 30.0 pass-coverage grade was dead-last among all linebackers.
This was the Jarrad Davis that Lions fans saw for the majority of his tenure. But he made important strides in 2020 that led the Jets to believe they could maximize his talents in New York.
How Jarrad Davis fits with the NY Jets
The Jets only signed Davis to a one-year, $5.5 million deal. Essentially, the Jets are gambling that they could harness the potential of a former first-round pick who has the athletic traits to be a standout linebacker in the NFL.
Moreover, he’s exactly the type of linebacker that Robert Saleh covets. He’s fast, rangy, and impressed in coverage a year ago. If he could play at the same level he did in 2020, this will be a quality signing for the Jets.
Davis played primarily middle linebacker with Detroit patrolling the middle of the field as the MIKE linebacker. However, many around the league believed that this was a misuse of Davis’ skill set.
Provided the Jets don’t trade C.J. Mosley, Davis will be asked to play as an outside linebacker, giving him less responsibility. His skill set seems tailor-made for the SAM linebacker role where he could use his speed and coverage ability to line up opposite tight ends.
If all goes according to plan, Davis could be that ideal second linebacker to start alongside Mosley in the nickel defense. If not, he could find himself relegated to early downs if his coverage regresses to its pre-2020 form.
Ultimately, this is a signing based on potential and projection. The Jets are projecting that Davis will be a better fit in their system and that Saleh could maximize his talents.
Will it pay off? That remains to be seen. But linebacker was a position of need, and for $5.5 million, it’s worth the gamble.
Final Grade: C+