NY Jets general manager Joe Douglas made one of the savviest trades of his tenure with the organization on Thursday, sending a 2024 seventh-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for safety Chuck Clark.
At 27 years old, Clark is a well-established starting safety who hasn't missed a defensive snap in three years (aside from one game in 2021). He was one of the leaders of Baltimore's secondary and should immediately step into a starting role in New York.
Unfortunately, Clark's addition could be bad news for the incumbent Jordan Whitehead. While many assumed that Clark was brought in to replace Lamarcus Joyner, his skill set is very reminiscent of Whitehead's.
Simply put, it seems unlikely that the Jets roll with Whitehead and Clark as their safety duo in 2023, at least to me. What's more likely is that Clark's addition could spell the end of Whitehead's brief tenure in Florham Park.
The NY Jets could cut Jordan Whitehead after the Chuck Clark trade
The Jets signed Whitehead to a two-year, $14.5 million contract last offseason. The hope was that the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers standout would provide a physical, reliable presence in the Jets' secondary.
That didn't exactly happen as Whitehead proved to be one the weaker links of the Jets' defense. Whitehead's 59.4 Pro Football Focus run defense grade ranked 59th out of 82 qualified safeties, while his dreadful 53.9 tackling grade was 11th-worst out of 68 qualifiers.
Whitehead missed a whopping 15.6 percent of his tackle attempts, the fourth-worst rate among safeties to play at least 1,000 defensive snaps. He wasn't quite as bad as his safety partner, Lamarcus Joyner, but he was a liability at times.
Clark has been one of the best-tackling safeties since entering the league, and he projects best as a rover safety/linebacker hybrid. He isn't someone you want dropping back in a deep zone too often.
It would make much more sense for the Jets to release Whitehead, saving $7.25 million in the process, and use that money to find Joyner's replacement in free agency. Players like Jessie Bates and Jimmie Ward immediately spring to mind.
The Jets can theoretically keep both Whitehead and Clark under contract, especially since the latter has a cap hit of just over $4 million in 2023. If the Jets really want to stock up on safety depth, it's a possibility.
Either way, though, I don't think the Jets are done adding to the safety position. They still need someone to replace Joyner — Clark doesn't do that.
He's either going to take snaps away from Whitehead or outright replace him.