New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan made a trio of summer acquisitions to tweak what many thought to be a talentless roster. To Maccagnan’s credit, all three additions have paid off.
The slew of roster moves began on June 1, when Maccagnan acquired former Jets linebacker Demario Davis in a trade with the Cleveland Browns that sent former Jets first-round pick Calvin Pryor packing. Nearly three months later, Maccagnan turned a division rival’s trash into his team’s treasure when he claimed defensive end Kony Ealy off waivers from the New England Patriots. A few days later, Maccagnan made his boldest move of all, sending defensive end Sheldon Richardson to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a second-round pick and receiver Jermaine Kearse.
Each player has played a significant role in New York’s surprising season, but their futures with the team beyond the 2017 campaign are uncertain. Maccagnan might have some difficult decisions to make regarding the diamonds he extracted from the rough.
What should the Jets do with these three role players during what will be a pivotal 2018 offseason? Here’s a breakdown of each player’s contributions, contract situation and overall value to the team when decision time comes.
Davis is living proof that there’s a change of scenery, and then there’s leaving Cleveland. Davis has found himself after spending the 2016 season with the Browns. He leads the Jets with 92 tackles and 4.5 sacks during his return season and has filled the void left behind by David Harris as the team’s defensive anchor.
The problem is that Davis’ contract expires after this season, which means he will become an unrestricted free agent. Davis will turn 29 years old in January and could command decent value on the open market from teams looking for quality inside linebacker play. The Jets will have plenty of salary cap space to practically outbid anyone, but they might not want to dole out too much money. Davis’ sack numbers might be an anomaly, as he entered the year with only 8.5 combined sacks throughout his first five seasons.
Should the Jets keep Davis? Yes, as long as they aren’t overpaying him. Davis is the team’s new defensive leader and has played well alongside youngster Darron Lee. A four-year deal paying anywhere from $4 million to $6 million annually seems like enough to keep him in town.
Ealy has added much-needed depth and occasional dominance to New York’s defensive line. Ealy has posted one sack, 13 tackles and leads the team with nine pass deflections this season. Ealy might have plenty of room to grow as a player at only 25 years old and has 15 sacks during his four professional seasons. He could be another young piece in New York’s blossoming defense.
Should the Jets keep Ealy? I lean no, as of right now. His status as a former second-round pick will likely draw plenty of attention from teams looking to make a bet on his untapped potential. The Jets already have Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson on the defensive line and can’t allocate many more resources to that position as they look to overhaul the roster. It’s uncertain how much Ealy will command on the open market, but it might be more than the Jets are willing to bargain for.
Kearse is still the team’s leading receiver despite Robby Anderson’s emergence. Kearse has 42 receptions on 66 targets for 520 yards and five touchdowns. He’s a reliable option for Josh McCown and has added some legitimacy to a unit that entered the year as one of the most inexperienced in the league.
Unlike Davis and Ealy, Kearse has one more year on his contract. He’ll be owed $2.2 million in 2018 and the Jets can get out of his entire salary by cutting him before June 1.
Should the Jets keep Kearse? Yes. Kearse’s ceiling might be only as high as a solid No. 2 receiver, but he’s earned another year with what should be a better offense with perhaps better quarterback play. Kearse is on place to achieve career highs in every major receiving category with a 38-year-old journeyman – not Russell Wilson – as his quarterback. He’s worth another look with more help around him.
Who do YOU think the Jets should keep among this group? Vote in our poll on Twitter @NewYorkJetFuel!
Which #Jets veteran rental would you MOST want the team to keep beyond 2017 and why?
— New York Jet Fuel (@NewYorkJetFuel) November 30, 2017