Breaking down the role Solomon Thomas will play with the NY Jets

NY Jets, Solomon Thomas
NY Jets, Solomon Thomas / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The NY Jets signed former top-three draft pick Solomon Thomas on Monday reuniting the former San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman with Robert Saleh.

Primarily a depth move, Thomas will likely be asked to play a part-time role in Saleh's rotation-heavy defensive line. The Jets were looking to bolster their defensive line depth and Thomas does just that.

The former Stanford standout fell well short of expectations in San Francisco lasting just four seasons and never being able to lock down a consistent role.

His experience with Saleh, however, should at least help him fit in on the Jets' defense, and maybe, just maybe, he can rehab his career in New York.

Solomon Thomas is an intriguing reclamation project for the NY Jets

Thomas was seen as one of the best players in the 2017 NFL Draft. Scouts praised his high athletic ceiling and physical traits with many believing that his ever-present motor and drive to improve would help him reach his potential.

Unfortunately, the promise Thomas showed at Stanford just never translated into on-field success. He showed some potential as a rookie racking up three sacks while primarily playing on the outside.

It was an odd fit for Thomas, though, and the 49ers soon decided to move him inside to more of a tweener defensive tackle role. There were moments where Thomas looked like the player he was at Stanford, but those moments were far too infrequent.

On top of his on-field struggles, Thomas also battled adversity off the field. The tragic death of his sister in 2018 took a toll on Thomas' mental health and he's since spoken about the challenges he faced playing in the months and years following her passing.

His 49ers career came to an abrupt end when he suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of 2020, coincidentally in a game against the Jets. That would be the last time he stepped on the field in a 49ers uniform.

Thomas spent last season in Las Vegas where he served an important role as a reliable rotational piece. That's likely the role he will play with the Jets.

Thomas projects most similarly to a player like John Franklin-Myers. At 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, Thomas has a very similar build to Franklin-Myers and could serve as his primary backup. In a pinch, he could fill that same role as an edge/interior tweener.

The 26-year-old Thomas graded out very poorly as a run defender last season finishing with a PFF run-defense grade of 28.0 that ranked dead last out of a whopping 136 qualified interior linemen.

That said, he's primarily been a stronger run-defender than pass rusher throughout his career, and perhaps he could find similar success playing in a system he's used to.

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Solomon Thomas will likely never be the player he was drafted to be, but that doesn't mean he can't still provide value to a Jets' defensive line that is still rather thin.

Here's to hoping Robert Saleh can unlock some of the potential he once showed in San Francisco.