One of the NY Jets' worst-kept secrets this season has been the emergence of Bryce Huff. Despite constant moves from the front office addressing the defensive end position, Huff has established himself as not only the best edge rusher on the team but arguably the best pass rusher in the entire NFL.
As an undrafted rookie in 2020, Huff impressed that regime with his motor and was able to hang around the team, but Joe Douglas invested heavily in other options — signing Carl Lawson to the most lucrative deal of the Jets' 2021 offseason and drafting an edge rusher in the first round of each of the last two drafts (Jermaine Johnson, Will McDonald).
Last year, Bryce Huff was considered more of a 'situational pass-rusher' who, while he had impressively high pressure-per-snaps played numbers, was perceived as someone with holes in their game (hence the constant investments elsewhere). Perhaps the coaching staff felt that if they increased Huff's playing time, those holes would be exposed.
Well, all of that is for naught because more playing time has meant (much) more production out of Huff. He has continued his stellar pressure-per-snaps numbers from last year and has actually ascended to the best in the league in that statistic. He is one of the best edge rushers, period, which now puts the Jets' front office in a tough situation.
Edge rusher is a premium position in the NFL — it can be argued that it is the most coveted position for an organization, right after the infamous QB position. As long as there are quarterbacks, organizations will be eager to shell out the big bucks to those who can get to quarterbacks.
Four of the top 10 highest-paid non-QBs in the NFL are edge rushers, including the highest-paid non-QB in NFL history, Nick Bosa. His extension pays him a staggering $34 million annually for the next five years.
Will the Jets want to pay this much to Huff, especially after extending Quinnen Williams, who places 13th on the list, to an extension that pays him $24 million annually?
The price for Bryce Huff just went up
That is the big question for Joe Douglas and the Jets' front office. While they mull the decision, the Packers wasted no time extending their 25-year-old pass rusher Rashan Gary for $24 million annually for the next four years. Gary has 28 pressures, 4.5 sacks, and five QB hits this season, compared to Huff's 37 pressures, 3.5 sacks, and eight QB hits.
When you consider Gary has played 187 snaps to Huff's 166, it becomes quite clear that Huff is the far superior 25-year-old pass rusher. So, do they pay him more than Gary?
That would make him the highest-paid player on the team. Can they afford to let him walk? Elite pass rushers don't grow on trees, and as an unrestricted free agent, the Jets don't have any rights on his contract beyond a franchise tag.
So what gives? Will the famously frugal Joe Douglas scoff at the idea of handing out yet another lengthy extension and hope that the other options (Jermaine Johnson, Will McDonald, Micheal Clemons) develop into players with similar impact?
Does he shell out the big extension to ensure that the most important aspect of Robert Saleh's defensive scheme remains intact for a few seasons?
One thing also worth considering is that a lot of players will be due for extensions in 2025 and 2026. I'm sure Douglas would prefer to be as financially flexible as possible as he tries to navigate the contract situations of foundational pieces Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, Breece, Hall, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and more.
Michael Carter II, Jermaine Johnson, and potentially even Zach Wilson are other seemingly key cogs that will cost a pretty penny to extend. Something tells me Douglas would prefer to wait until all of these guys above are looking for deals before he starts throwing money around.
This doesn't even include any potential external pieces he may add, such as Davante Adams or a top-tier offensive lineman in free agency.
So, all in all, I don't think it looks great for Bryce Huff to get a Rashan Gary-type extension. I believe Douglas's 'Plan A' is to have Huff sign a very team-friendly discount to keep him in the system he's thrived in and preserve the continuity of the team's most successful unit.
If not, I'd imagine they could have more success convincing a talented veteran from a bad team to sign a team-friendly deal with the sales pitch of chasing a ring with the great Aaron Rodgers.
This is something that may work for Carolina's Brian Burns or Jacksonville's Josh Allen, who both have experienced significantly more losses than wins in their careers thus far.
If that doesn't work, then I'd imagine 'Plan C' is to just have Saleh maximize the juice from the squeeze out of Jermaine Johnson, John Franklin-Myers, and the rest of the defensive ends that'll still be on the roster. Time will tell.