Let's get one thing straight first — the NY Jets should re-sign Bryce Huff this offseason. This is a franchise that has been searching for a star pass rusher for the better part of the last two decades. In Huff, they seem to have finally found one.
The former undrafted free agent has been one of the most efficient pass rushers in the NFL in each of the last two seasons, and the sack numbers finally followed in 2023. Huff finished with a career-high 10.0 sacks this season, the most by a Jets edge rusher in a decade.
Logic would dictate that the Jets would do everything they can to keep around a star pass rusher who's just 25 years old. Unfortunately, there are other factors at play that lead many to believe Huff will walk in free agency.
Why the NY Jets probably won't re-sign Bryce Huff
Huff is going to be one of the most coveted players on the open market this offseason. Pro Football Focus projects that the former Memphis standout will receive a three-year, $45 million contract — right in line with what the Jets gave Carl Lawson a few years ago.
That's a lot of money for a player the Jets have consistently undervalued. The truth of the matter is that the Jets don't see Huff as a three-down edge rusher. While he's seen an uptick in usage this season, the Jets have long pigeon-holed him into the "situational rusher" archetype.
This is despite the fact that Huff remains one of the most impactful players on the field. Run defense will never be his strong suit, but he's not as significant of a liability in that department as the Jets have made him out to be.
Huff was the only member of the Jets' regular defensive line rotation not to be credited with a missed tackle in 2023. His 5.3 run-stop percentage was higher than the likes of Al Woods and John Franklin-Myers, who have both been lauded for their run defense.
Unfortunately, the Jets don't see him that way. It's hard to imagine they're willing to pay $15 million or more per season to a guy who only played 42 percent of defensive snaps in 2023. There's every reason to believe Huff's playing time could decrease next season as well.
The Jets drafted Jermaine Johnson and Will McDonald in the first round in consecutive years because they never expected to keep Huff around past his rookie contract. Those were moves for the future, and the future is now.
If the Jets were to re-sign Huff this offseason, they would be signing up for McDonald to be a backup for the remainder of his rookie deal. Given that McDonald is already essentially the same age as Huff and Johnson (he was an older rookie), that doesn't seem like an ideal plan.
The Jets believe in Robert Saleh's ability to evaluate and develop defensive talent, and given the work he's done with his team's defense, it's hard to blame them. But their belief in Saleh can only be justified to a certain point.
McDonald played the fewest snaps of any Jets first-round rookie since Vernon Gholston this past season. He'll turn 25 years old in June and is little more than a project at this point — a project who is also a complete liability as a run defender.
The writing is on the wall, however. The Jets aren't giving up on McDonald after one season. They aren't confiding him to a bench role until he's pushing 30.
The Jets have undervalued Bryce Huff throughout his entire career. They've internally decided as an organization that he's a role player — not a three-down starting defensive end.
Soon enough, they might come to regret that evaluation. Huff has "the next Shaquil Barrett" written all over him.