NY Jets New Year's Resolution No. 3: The Jets need to retain their best veteran players
There's a huge emphasis, and rightfully so, on the youth of the Jets roster. The team is building from the draft and taking the approach of growing from within. But one of the ways to continue the latter is retaining veteran players who have earned their keep and proven their value to the franchise.
It's been a never-ending cycle of the Jets letting go of or undervaluing their best contributors. The truth is that it's very likely that we could see the same outcome with the likes of Marcus Maye and Jamison Crowder — two quality Jets veteran players who are pending free agents.
Both players are of high character, but the time may have come for them to part ways with Gang Green this offseason.
This season, another veteran player who has gone above the call of duty has been linebacker C.J. Mosley. It hasn't always been pretty for him or the Jets' inexperienced and injury-plagued defense, but Mosley has been one of, if not the Jets' most consistent performers in 2021.
And perhaps, without question, the team's best leader. It would be tough to watch the Jets move on from Mosley, who was voted a Pro Bowl alternate by his peers, coaches, and fans. But it's possible that Mosley could be playing his last days with the green and white because of his age and salary.
Setting aside the obvious of the team eventually extending Quinnen Williams to a long-term deal, two specific veteran Jets players have earned the right to remain with the franchise for years to come.
Braxton Berrios, a fan favorite, is a free agent that could find a market for himself this spring. The versatile playmaker is one of the Jets' most reliable role players, and Joe Douglas needs to re-sign him to a long-term deal.
Players like Berrios bring value to not only offense and special teams, but to the team's locker room. The Jets have made a mistake in the past of undervaluing special teams' stars. Douglas can't afford to repeat the franchise's pattern of devaluing the role and assuming that it can be easily replaced.
It's time for the Jets to start rewarding some of their best in-house players. It sends a positive message to not only the fan base but, more importantly, the locker room.
Creating a culture that everyone wants to be a part of is establishing an environment where players who perform well are rewarded, recognized, and appreciated. If you are a free agent, why would you want to join a team that doesn't take care of its own players?
Call me convinced on offensive tackle George Fant. He has always been a solid pro, but Fant has been an elite performer this year. You could argue that he has been the Jets' best overall player in 2021.
No one on the Jets offense has played at a more consistent or higher level than Fant has this season. Always a plus athlete for his position, Fant has been a natural fit in the Jets' new offensive scheme, which emphasizes movement skills.
Fant has been a savior for the Jets at the crucial left tackle spot since Mekhi Becton went down. Fant has been so good on the blindside that some people are actually suggesting that Becton move over to the right tackle spot next season to keep Fant where he is currently excelling.
Joe Douglas and his moves in free agency have not exactly panned out as planned to this point. Some of it has had to do with misfortune, like the long-term injuries with Carl Lawson and Corey Davis. But you could argue that Douglas' best signing has been George Fant.
A lot has flipped in the last year, but Fant and even Connor McGovern look like better acquisitions now than they did at the end of 2020. The change in the scheme has certainly helped, but players like Fant have shown their value on the field and off.
This past week against Jacksonville, not only did Fant turn in another stellar performance keeping the pocket clean, but he displayed his great effort level and athleticism on a crucial play in the victory, where he hustled and dove to break up a potentially game-changing interception.
It's that type of effort play from players you want in your building long term.
Fant is under contract for the 2022 season and will be 31-years-old when he eventually enters free agency in 2023. So it's possible that the Jets brass will not budge and wait out next season to see if he can match what he did in 2021.
But you could argue that Fant has earned a long-term extension with the team. Not only would it be a gesture of good faith by rewarding him for his quality of play and leadership, but the Jets can actually free up some cap room by extending Fant now. He carries a large cap hit of over $10 million in 2022.
The NFL is not a charity system, and the players know that. Franchises always do what is in the best interest of themselves first. But in the case of George Fant, he's earning the right to be a Jet for much longer than just another season.
The Jets organization should strive for a culture where players like Fant and Berrios get rewarded for their character and level of play, rather than ignored and discarded.