New kickoff rule makes it imperative NY Jets re-sign these 2 players

The Jets need to re-sign these two players

Justin Hardee
Justin Hardee / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The NY Jets made it a point of emphasis to bring back both of their special-teams standouts this offseason, Thomas Morstead and Greg Zuerlein. Morstead and Zuerlein help form one of the best specialist duos in the NFL, but their dominance is partially a result of some other core pieces as well.

Two of the Jets' other core special-teamers remain free agents at the time of writing, and it's unclear if the Jets will bring them back. We're talking about the likes of Justin Hardee and Ashtyn Davis.

Davis is reportedly exploring his options in free agency as he looks for a potential starting job elsewhere. As for Hardee, it's unclear exactly what the hold-up is, but some have speculated it's financial.

Either way, it's in the Jets' best interest to bring both players back for at least another season in New York. That's especially true following the implementation of the NFL's new kickoff rules.

The NY Jets must re-sign Ashtyn Davis and Justin Hardee following the NFL's new kickoff rules

Starting this upcoming season, the NFL will be implementing a host of new kickoff rules designed to increase not only player safety but the frequency of returns. It's a similar approach to the one taken by the former XFL, and it worked wonders for the independent league.

The XFL saw a return rate of over 90 percent on kickoffs as a result of this rule, and that's expected to carry over into the NFL. You can read about the full rule changes here, but for the sake of this story, all you need to know is that touchbacks on kickoffs should be a thing of the past.

Hardee and Davis are arguably the Jets' two best special-teams players, making it even more crucial they return in 2024 to help the team adapt to these new rules.

Davis led the Jets with 10 special-teams tackles in 2023, finishing fourth in the entire NFL in that category. Hardee missed time due to injury this past season, but he was a 2022 Pro Bowler, finishing third in the league with 14 special-teams tackles.

The Jets only faced eight kick returns all season last year, but they still had the best kick coverage team in football, allowing just 15.4 yards per return. They've ranked inside the top five in fewest yards per kick return in each of the last three seasons.

Hardee and Davis are integral to the Jets' success on special teams. Former undrafted free agent Irv Charles stepped up and filled in for Hardee during his absence last season, and while he did make some impressive plays, he also had twice as many missed tackles on special teams as any other Jets player.

The Jets shouldn't risk messing with a winning formula. They brought back Morstead. They brought back Zuerlein. Now, it's time to do the same with Hardee and Davis.