NY Jets‘ general manager Joe Douglas clearly does his best work at night. After signing the likes of Keelan Cole and Dan Feeney in the early hours of Thursday night, the Jets made one final signing adding former Las Vegas Raiders’ defensive back Lamarcus Joyner.
At one time, Joyner was considered one of the better safeties in football. He parlayed his success with the Los Angeles Rams into a four-year, $42 million contract with the Raiders in the 2019 offseason.
But just two years after receiving that big-money deal, he was released by his new organization.
Now with the Jets, he’s expected to move back to the position where he made his name. And he figures to play an important role in new head coach Robert Saleh’s defense.
How does Lamarcus Joyner fit with the NY Jets?
Joyner found his most success starting at free safety for the Rams from 2016 to 2018. During that time, he developed into one of the better safeties in football with his best season coming in 2017.
That year, Joyner received an elite Pro Football Focus grade of 90.9 that ranked second out of all NFL safeties. This came during a year in which he predominantly played the free safety position.
However, it should be noted that the Rams did line him up elsewhere with the Florida State product frequently shifting down into the box or even over to the slot.
When the Raiders signed him away from Los Angeles in the 2019 offseason, it was seen as a big move for the organization. However, for whatever reason, the team decided to make him a full-time nickel cornerback — a position he had only found marginal success at in the past.
The results weren’t pretty.
Joyner finished with an abysmal 47.5 PFF grade that ranked 110th out of 115 qualified cornerbacks. It was far and away the lowest grade of his career, and it wasn’t a surprise seeing as he was playing out of position.
But instead of moving him back to safety in 2020, the Raiders opted to keep Joyner at cornerback. Needless to say, he struggled again finishing with a 53.8 PFF grade that ranked 89th out of 121 qualifiers.
With the Jets, however, Joyner will have an opportunity to move back to his natural position.
Saleh is notorious for utilizing a lot of three-safety sub packages and that’s where Joyner could make a living. His versatility, combined with the versatility of both Marcus Maye and Ashtyn Davis — as evidenced by their usage in 2020 — gives Saleh plenty of different looks to play around with.
At just 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, Lamarcus Joyner is an undersized but scrappy player. He may be small, but he packs a punch with his hits and is known to be a very aggressive tackler.
Those aggressive tendencies carry over into coverage where he’s feisty and plucky, but tends to get a little handsy and draw flags. That’s partially what held him back with the Raiders, but that was primarily because he was asked to play a lot of man coverage against slot receivers.
That’s not his bread and butter and it never has been. Instead, Joyner thrives when he can sit back and react in zone coverage or when tackling in open space.
It’s on Saleh and the Jets to maximize the talents of a player who not too long ago was one of the best players at his position.
And if they could do that, they may have just found a steal at $4.5 million in free agency.