The NY Jets boasted one of the best defensive units in football last season. From Sauce Gardner to Quinnen Williams, the team's defense was one of the only reasons they remained competitive in some games throughout the year.
Of course, a remarkable streak of good health certainly contributed to their success, but this Jets' defense is still supremely talented. And there's every reason to believe the defense will be even better in 2023.
The Jets essentially swapped out Lamarcus Joyner for Adrian Amos. They added extra defensive tackle depth in the form of both Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods. They used the 15th overall pick on Iowa State pass rusher Will McDonald.
The Jets have high expectations for their defense once again in 2023, but there's one piece of the puzzle that remains to be solved. We still don't know who the Jets' third starting linebacker is going to be.
The NY Jets could complete their defense by re-signing Kwon Alexander
It's easy to overlook that third linebacker spot in today's NFL, but it should be noted that Kwon Alexander, the team's starting SAM linebacker last season, played 49 percent of the team's defensive snaps.
Alexander played a key role in the Jets' defensive success last season and was arguably their second-best linebacker behind C.J. Mosley. The former Pro Bowler remains a free agent, and it's far from a guarantee that the Jets bring him back.
If they don't, former fifth-round pick Jamien Sherwood is the favorite to assume the starting role. Sherwood has flashed in limited action thus far, but he's obviously unproven. The Jets' linebacker depth behind Sherwood isn't inspiring, either.
The Jets are one injury to Mosley or Quincy Williams away from starting someone like Hamsah Nasirildeen, Zaire Barnes, or Chazz Surratt alongside Sherwood. For a team looking to compete for a Super Bowl in 2023, that's far from ideal.
The issue is made even more significant following the loss of Chuck Clark due to injury. The Jets could have used Clark in somewhat of a hybrid linebacker role on passing downs, limiting the snaps the team needed to fill with their current linebackers. That can't happen now.
The Jets have been keeping tabs on Alexander since before the draft, and it's still possible that he does return. The sticking point appears to be his asking price. The Jets aren't looking to pay Alexander much more than the veteran's minimum — similar to the deal he took last summer.
They seem content with rolling with Sherwood and the other young linebackers on their roster if Alexander doesn't drop his asking price. That would be a mistake.
Even if the Jets believe in Sherwood as a starter, it would be foolish to enter the 2023 season with the team's current linebacker depth. That's far too big of a risk to take on when they could simply sign a proven starter who has experience in the system for relatively cheap.
Alexander has seemingly made it very clear that he would be very open to returning this offseason. The Jets should make re-signing him a priority. Get this deal done and complete the defense.