Henry Anderson was the first player let go in the New York Jets’ 2021 roster purge. Who might be next as free agency looms?
When the latest offering a playoff drought reaching double figures is a two-win campaign, changes are inevitable. The New York Jets officially got those changes, at least those made in 2021, underway last week with the release of three-year defensive lineman Henry Anderson. This process more or less began with an in-season fire sale that saw the New York careers of Le’Veon Bell, Avery Williamson, and Steve McLendon come to an end, but the future planning began in earnest with Anderson’s departure.
After a career-best seven sacks in 2018, his debut New York season after a trade with the Indianapolis Colts, Anderson failed to duplicate those numbers over two additional seasons. The $8.2 million added to the Jets’ cap space made him an essential candidate to open their transactions. New York now has over $77 million in cap space to work with, still second-best in the NFL behind Jacksonville. Even so, when you’re coming off a two-win season in a perpetual rebuild one can use all the resources they can get to crawl their way out…especially when you’re a team cursued with as many holes as the Jets. Thus, Anderson might not be the only to see his New York career cut short.
As the NFL’s pre-free agency period winds down, a tumultuous week potentially awaits with teams preparing to adjust their roster to drastically reduced salary cap. Who be next on the Jets’ free agency block? ESM investigates…
(all figures via Over the Cap)
WR Jamison Crowder
(Cap Savings: $10.375 million; Dead Money: $1 million)
Save for the uncertainty around the quarterback situation, what the Jets do with Crowder will be one of their most intriguing sags of the offseason. Crowder has established himself as one of the most reliable slot receivers in the NFL during his time in New York. He has been the Jets most potent offensive weapon by far over the last two seasons with 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, a dozen of which went for touchdowns. Those numbers are even handicapped by the fact Crowder was listed as a starter in only 19 games, missing four entirely due to injury.
Crowder has been the Jets’ most potent offensive weapon over the last two seasons…but does that say more about the state of the New York offense than it does about Crowder? No matter who the quarterback is next season, he’s going to need weapons. Should the Jets start completely fresh or perhaps take care of a need by keeping Crowder? With the same saving stipulations involved, another avenue for Crowder could be a trade, as potential dealing partners (Houston/Seattle, anyone?) could use a veteran producer for their weaponry.
Duo call. Give me Braxton Berrios on my team every day of the week. Great hustle here. Le'Veon Bell set up in a one-on-one situation, picks up two. Great job by George Fant. #TakeFlight pic.twitter.com/5kflTarW5X
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) October 16, 2020
T George Fant
(Cap Savings: $7.85 million; Dead Money: $2 million)
General manager Joe Douglas has made efforts to revamp the Jets’ blocking, an admirable cause after the previous regime took a neglectful approach that has proven costly. But another renovation could well underway, as Douglas’ first full-time free agency haul mostly underwhelmed, and that included the former Seahawk Fant.
Last season probably showed that Fant’s long-term future is probably better suited for the role of a reliable backup. While it’s great to have depth, as well as Fant’s veteran leadership, is this worth resisting the additional funds that can be used to plug holes on the offensive line and beyond?
Alex Lewis (LG, 71) maintains a nice hole for Bell to burst through with the help of the moving blockers. Opportunities for Bell like this were very few and far in between. Runs on the left side during this game were usually more successful with the help of Lewis #Jets pic.twitter.com/ehhvLIQW2I
— Sam (@samcrnic) July 7, 2020
G Alex Lewis
(Cap Savings: $5.1 million; Dead Money: $1.6 million)
Lewis is a bit symbolic of Douglas’ admirable yet fruitless efforts to improve the blocking. When he took the general manager position in the latter stages of the 2019 offseason, one of his first moves was a trading a late pick to Baltimore to obtain Lewis, who inked a three-year last March after taking on a larger role in the offense in the Kelechi Osemele aftermath.
But Lewis failed to build on his debut season and spent the latter portions of the season on the reserve/non-football injury list. The Jets have appeared committed to Lewis as a bit of a blocking project of sorts, but his tantalizing cap savings make him a prime option for release.
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) March 22, 2020
G Greg Van Roten
(Cap Savings: $3.4 million; Dead Money: $250,000)
Another yield from the 2020 free agency haul, the Long Island native Van Roten was at least passable, earning a decent pass blocking grade (71.5) on Pro Football Focus and partaking in every offensive snap over the Jets’ first 11 games. It’s possible he could survive another season of the Jets’ rebuild, if only to erase a box on the offseason checklist. There’s also no dead money left on his deal if the Jets were to cut him loose this time next year.
TE Ryan Griffin
(Cap Savings: $1.8 million; Dead Money: $1.4 million)
Time will tell how the Jets’ tight end situation works out, but the top two options, Griffin and Chris Herndon (over $2 million in savings) would provide extra offseason funds. With Herndon starting to show flashes of reverting to his rookie form in the late stages of the last season, not to mention his youth and and potential upside, the Jets would probably be more likely to end the Griffin experiment after he struggled to stay on the field after inking a three-year extension in 2019.
Foley Fatukasi is slowly becoming one of my favorites on this team.
He contributed this week consistently.
— 𝙃𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙅𝙚𝙩𝙨 (@HomeoftheJets1) October 14, 2019
DE Foley Fatukasi
(Cap Savings: $2.1 million; Dead Money: $43,564)
The Jets’ front four, which will take on greater importance in Robert Saleh’s new systems, is an area that, surprisingly, needs little refurbishment. Keeping Fatukasi, who rose to the occasion when granted an extended opportunity after injuries and moves, would be a nice show of faith to a day three draft pick that has made a home for himself in the New York area in more ways than one. Fatukasi was born in Far Rockaway and his brother each star on Rutgers’ football team in Piscataway. After the eldest Fatukasi posted career-best numbers with the Jets, no use in breaking this family reunion.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags