3. Carl Lawson, DE, NY Jets
The Jets had the opportunity to release Carl Lawson last offseason and save $15 million in cap space in the process. The move would've cost the Jets $0 in dead cap and given the team extra flexibility in the free-agent market.
Instead, the Jets opted to restructure Lawson's contract, push dead money into the future, and keep him on the roster in 2023. The thought process, while controversial, was sound at the time.
Lawson had played in all 17 games the year prior, and with another year removed from his torn Achilles, the Jets hoped that they would finally see the healthy version of Lawson they signed to a massive three-year, $45 million contract in the spring of 2021.
The Jets banked on Lawson staying healthy and returning to form, with the hope that he could be a key part of their defense. Instead, Lawson played just six games all year.
His absence wasn't injury-related, however — at least not in the traditional sense. Lawson injured his back in the summer and never quite looked healthy in 2023. He wasn't listed on most injury reports, but it was clear that he wasn't himself.
Now turning 29 years old in June, Lawson's days as one of the most efficient pass rushers in the NFL have long passed him by. Is there a chance he could ever return to his pre-injury form? It's possible, but that's not a risk the Jets should or will be willing to take again next season.
The Jets have an abundance of pass-rush depth, especially if they manage to re-sign Bryce Huff. Lawson isn't a part of the future.