New York Jets: The case for (and against) a Sheldon Richardson reunion

Former first-round draft pick Sheldon Richardson is back on the open market. Should the New York Jets stage a reunion?

As the New York Jets inch toward their future, a remnant of their not-so-distant past is seeking a new opportunity.

Sheldon Richardson, part of the last draft where the Jets had multiple first-round picks prior to next Thursday’s proceedings (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/NFL Network), hit the free agent market last Friday, released by the Cleveland Browns after two seasons. Richardson, 30, has spent the past four years in Seattle, Minnesota, and Cleveland after his Jets career ended with a trade to the Pacific Northwest prior to the 2017 campaign.

Should the Jets stage a reunion, allowing fans to break out their old No. 91 jerseys? ESM investigates…

Why They Should

Though Richardson never reached the heights he hit in New York, he still proved to be serviceable, especially in terms of pressure. His 12 quarterback hits (including two in Cleveland’s AFC Wild Card win in Pittsburgh) earned last season would’ve been the third-best tally on the 2020 Jets, behind Quinnen Williams and a tie between John Franklin-Myers and the departed Tarell Basham. Richardson also came up big during Cleveland’s crucial December win over Tennessee, picking up a game-changing fourth-and-one stop and later forcing a fumble from Derrick Henry. Both takedowns led to Browns touchdowns.

His continued contributions were no surprise to All-Pro Myles Garrett.

“He is a big-time player. That’s why he is here,” Garrett said of Richardson following a dominant defensive win over the Giants in December, per team video. “We see him do it time and time again, and I expect nothing less out of him.”

The Jets have been inspired by the play of their young front seven, particularly through Williams’ 2020 breakout. But with yearly dates with mobile threats Josh Allen looming indefinitely, they can use all the help they can get when it comes to invading the pocket.

New York management could also be interested in a Richardson reunion because of his recent endeavors in the 4-3. They haven’t run it as a primary defensive set since the Herm Edwards day but are expected to make a transition with previous practitioners Roberts Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich at the helm. Richardson struggled when the Jets employed the set during his earlier days (his 2014 Pro Bowl appearance came through his work in the 3-technique) but appeared to gain a new appreciation for it in Cleveland under defensive coordinator Joe Woods.

“The main part is being in the right place at the right time, and you’ll get all the production you’ll need,” Richardson said of Woods’ philosophies, per team reporter Anthony Poisal. “It’s D-line friendly. Everybody has an opportunity on the D-line to make plays without being wrong.”

Why They Shouldn’t

The Jets are currently $24 million under the cap, the third-highest in the NFL (behind Jacksonville and Denver). While some of their neglected needs (offensive line) can be somewhat satisfied in the draft, they still need some veteran renovations. Picking up a veteran backup quarterback to both guide the incoming rookie and relieve him in case of an emergency should be on their spring checklist. The Jets could also use some veteran assistance in the secondary, which may be headlined by young projects Bless Austin and Bryce Hall.

One could argue that Richardson provides veteran mentorship to players like Williams, but the Jets have already brought in some experienced front seven options like Sheldon Rankins, Jarrad Davis, and Carl Lawson. The Jets have enough pressing needs as is. Do they really need to bring in a defender that’s already in his 30s? They already welcomed 32-year-old Vinny Curry to the fold. If they do wish to further remodel their front seven, their remaining offseason funds are perhaps better spent on younger projects.

Richardson’s price tag could also scare some teams away. One of the primary factors behind Richardson’s release was the creation of cap room ($11 million) to afford Jadeveon Clowney. With so many other pressing needs to fill, it would perhaps be wiser for the Jets to look elsewhere.

One also has to wonder if Richardson would even seek out a developing team like the Jets. He has plenty of talent left and could well be the “missing piece” for a team on the cusp of contention. Cleveland’s pair of playoff games in January were the first of Richardson’s NFL career. Granted a taste of postseason action, it’s certain he’s hungry for more. The Jets may have improved, but it wouldn’t be fair to anyone…even the Jets themselves…to call them playoff contenders just yet.

Verdict

Any potential discussion around bringing Richardson in may soon be rendered null. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski remarked that he “hope(s) that there’s a scenario” to bring Richardson back (per Browns Wire’s Jeff Risdon). Richardson also remarked in an Instagram post bearing the bad news that Cleveland was “starting to feel like home” after single-season stints in Seattle and Minnesota.

From a Jets standpoint, getting Richardson back at an affordable price would be one of the more subtly effective moves of the offseason. From a Jets standpoint, however, there is a case to bring Richardson back. The run defense got a lot better with the additions of Rankins and Lawson and could reach potentially elite levels if Richardson arrived with the same power he had in 2020.

But, for better or worse, the Jets can’t afford to make Richardson a priority right. There are too many scary voids on this roster, ones that can’t fully be solved at the draft next weekend. If they can get Richardson back, maybe on a “hometown” discount of sorts, they should. But the more likely scenario probably has Richardson moving on to another contender.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: A history of multiple first round picks

New York Jets, Joe Namath

Barring any shocking trades, the New York Jets will have multiple first-round picks for the ninth time in franchise history.

For the ninth time in franchise history, the New York Jets fill out at least two draft cards during first-round action at the NFL Draft…barring any unforeseen developments, of course. New York holds the second overall pick in this year’s draft (one all but confirmed to be used on their next franchise quarterback), while they also hold the 23rd overall choice obtained from Seattle in last offseason’s Jamal Adams deal. The process is currently on pace to repeat itself next year.

How did the Jets and those picks of years gone by fare? ESM takes a trip down draft memory lane…

1965 (AFL)

  • QB Joe Namath, Alabama (1st)
  • RB Tom Nowatzke, Indiana (4th)

Namath was the subject of an AFL-NFL bidding war and was drafted by both leagues in November 1964. True to his larger-than-life form, Namath made some high-roller requests from his NFL employers, the St. Louis Cardinals (who chose him 12th overall). When the Cardinals made a request of their own (asking him to sign immediately, which would render Namath ineligible for the upcoming Orange Bowl against Texas), Namath turned them down and joined the Jets. He’d take his revenge against the NFL in the most iconic way possible, the legendary Super Bowl III triumph that changed the course of professional football.

The Jets had Denver’s pick in that same draft and took Nowatzke, a Big Ten rushing champion out of Bloomington. Nowatzke was the opposite of Namath, turning down the AFL to play in the NFL, chosen 11th by the Detroit Lions. He moved onto the Baltimore Colts, the Jets’ Super Bowl victims, in 1970 and wound up scoring the team’s lone touchdown in their Big Game triumph over Dallas two years after Namath’s guarantee.

1972

  • WR/TE Jerome Barkum, Jackson State (9th)
  • LB Mike Taylor, Michigan (20th)

Barkum quietly built one of the longest and successful receiving tenures in Jets history as both a receiver and a tight end. He reached a Pro Bowl in his second NFL season and stands as one of only four Jets to catch at least 40 touchdowns in green (Don Maynard, Wesley Walker, and Wayne Chrebet are the others). Barkum also ranks eighth in team history in career yardage (4,789) and ninth in receptions (326).

Taylor’s tenure wasn’t so prosperous. The consensus All-American lasted only two seasons in the NFL, opting to join the short-lived World Football League’s Detroit Wings after that.

1984

  • CB Russell Carter, SMU (10th)
  • DE Ron Faurot, Arkansas (15th)

Carter, another All-American nominee, had a strong start to his NFL career, earning four interceptions in his debut year. He notably earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors during Week 15 action in December through two sacks and an interception in a win over Buffalo. Alas, Carter never earned another NFL interception and lasted only four seasons in New York before partaking in two years with the Los Angeles Raiders to end his career. Making the Carter dropout all the more painful was the fact that Wilbur Marshall went to Chicago at No. 11. Marshall would join the Jets for his final season in 1995…after reaching three Pro Bowls and earning both a Super Bowl title and the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Year title.

Meanwhile, Faurot, acquired with a pick from New Orleans in exchange for former franchise quarterback Richard Todd, saw his career derailed by injuries and was released before the midway mark of his sophomore season.

1995

  • TE Kyle Brady, Penn State (9th)
  • DE Hugh Douglas, Central State (16th)

It’s probably not officially draft day until the networks roll the clip of horrified Jets fans booing the choice of Brady, who was chosen three picks before Warren Sapp (and Sapp’s fellow future Pro Bowlers Mark Fields and Ruben Brown) with their regularly scheduled first-round choice. Brady was serviceable over a 13-year NFL career spent mostly with Jacksonville, but New Yorkers never got over the rejection of Sapp.

The Jets later used the 16th pick acquired from Arizona (for receiver Rob Moore) to take NAIA standout Douglas. He burst onto the scene with 10 sacks and Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, but the Jets nonetheless dealt him to Philadelphia in a process that netted them three picks after his sack total dropped to 4.5 by his third season. A separate deal with Pittsburgh made it four picks gained from the Douglas trade. That quartet eventually became Dorian Boose, Kevin Williams, Eric Bateman, and Casey Dailey…none of whom left a sizable New York impact. Douglas apparently took the deal personally and put up two All-Pro seasons in a different shade of green, notably leading the league in tackles for a loss twice.

2000

  • DE Shaun Ellis, Tennessee (12th)
  • LB John Abraham, South Carolina (13th)
  • QB Chad Pennington, Marshall (18th)
  • TE Anthony Becht, Virginia (27th)

The cost was great…namely losing future Super Bowl champions Bill Belichick and Keyshawn Johnson…but the Jets managed to get four consistent contributors that set them up for a solid decade. Ellis and Abraham united for 126 sacks with a green oval on their helmet, while Pennington took over the franchise quarterback role by 2002, working with a reliable red zone target in Becht.

Between 2000 and 2005 (when Abraham departed for Atlanta through a trade we’ll get to in a minute), the Jets earned four winning seasons and won a pair of playoff games. Ellis became a franchise staple through 2010 and reached two Pro Bowls as a Jet. On the other side of the ball, Pennington earned the league’s Comeback Player of the Year honor in 2006, helping the Jets get back to the playoffs after missing a majority of the prior campaign with an injury. When the Jets moved on from Pennington in 2008 in favor of Brett Favre, he dealt revenge in the most painful way possible: a division title with the Dolphins with the finishing touches dealt at Giants Stadium.

2006

  • T D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia (4th)
  • C Nick Mangold, Ohio State (29th)

By far the most collaboratively productive of the multi-first round classes, Ferguson and Mangold became cornerstones of the Jets’ offense, paving the way for the consecutive visits to the AFC title game in 2010-11.

The idea of Jets fans booing D’Brickashaw Ferguson seems downright absurd today, but it was a reality upon his drafting in 2006. Supporters desperate to see USC legend Matt Leinart come out to the east coast gave Ferguson a not-so-friendly welcome, but the Freeport native was able to silence his doubters 160 consecutive starts, three Pro Bowls, and a single missed snap later.

Meanwhile, Mangold arrived through a trade that sent Abraham down south and more than made up for the defender’s departure. His blocking intensity was matched only by his personality, one that continues to show itself through appearances at local sports events, namely New York Rangers games at Madison Square Garden.

2008

  • DE Vernon Gholston, Ohio State (6th)
  • TE Dustin Keller, Purdue (30th)

Blessed with another multi-pick first round two years later, the Jets again attempted to mine talent out of Columbus but came up horrendously short with Gholston. He was supposed to make a major difference in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 set, namely through his edge-rushing abilities. Gholston, unfortunately, failed to record a single sack over three seasons in green before he was unceremoniously released in 2011. Among the Pro Bowlers passed in favor of Gholston were Jerod Mayo, Ryan Clady (who played his final season with the Jets in 2016), and Jonathan Stewart.

A pick obtained from the Packers (sending over their second and fourth-round picks) was far more lucrative, even if his NFL time was unfortunately cut short. Keller was a reliable target and for four seasons before injuries took over his career.

2013

  • CB Dee Milliner, Alabama (9th)
  • DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (13th)

After a rocky rookie season, Milliner seemed to have some momentum going into his sophomore campaign with three interceptions over his final pair of games. Alas, he became another victim of the injury bug and wound up playing only eight more NFL games over the next two seasons.

The Jets didn’t miss out on much between Milliner and their pick obtained from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Darelle Revis, with Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, and D.J Hayden going in that span. Richardson was the eventual honoree in the 13th slot and enjoyed some good gridiron memories before legal issues caused the Jets to seek out a trade. He narrowly beat out Buffalo’s Kiko Alonso for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and also stands as the only defender in Jets history to earn two rushing scores (briefly lining up as a fullback in goal-line situations). Richardson was traded to Seattle in 2017 and is currently a free agent after wrapping up a two-year stint in Cleveland.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Giants’ offensive line needs to bounce back against Myles Garrett & the Browns

The New York Giants‘ offensive line put together a pitiful performance last week. The Giants’ linemen allowed eight total sacks last Sunday, costing New York’s offense 64 total yards. This week, the Giants have another tall task as they prepare to defend against Myles Garrett and the Cleveland Browns’ strong defensive line.

The Cleveland Browns’ defensive line has racked up 34 sacks this season. 10.5 of those sacks have come from elite pass-rusher Myles Garrett alone. Andrew Thomas and the Giants’ offensive line will have their hands full as they try to bounce back from a horrible Week 14 performance.

Myles Garrett and the Browns defensive line

In Week 15, the Giants will defend against a Browns’ defensive line that has been consistently getting after the quarterback this season. Myles Garrett, in particular, has been an absolute game-wrecking in 2020.

Myles Garrett was the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Since then, he has been one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL on a year-by-year basis. He had a career-year in 2018, totaling a career-high 13.5 sacks that season. In 2019, though, Garrett was primed to surpass that sack total before being given a lengthy suspension that ended his season. In 10 games last year Garrett racked up 10 sacks.

2020 has seen Garrett put together another elite season. He has 10.5 sacks on the year through 13 games and a career-high 4 forced fumbles. Myles has been a nightmare for opposing offense this season. He leads the NFL in forced turnovers pressures (7 total) and has the second-highest pass-rushing grade in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.

Myles’s 10.5 sacks are tied for the third-most in the NFL this season. He has been applying a tremendous amount of pressure to quarterbacks, totaling 41 pressures this season (eighth-most) with a 12.4% pressure rate (ninth-best).

Myles Garrett has been a dominant force on the Browns’ defense this season. But he is not the only talented pass-rusher on Cleveland’s underrated defense. Former Giants’ pass-rusher Olivier Vernon is having an excellent season as a member of the Browns this year and is coming off of a 2-sack performance in Week 14. Vernon has 7 sacks on the season and will help Garrett apply pressure to Colt McCoy this Sunday night.

The Giants’ offensive line will have their hands full against Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, and Sheldon Richardson (who has earned 4.5 sacks as well). A better performance than what the Giants’ offensive line put together last week is a necessity for New York’s offense to achieve success against the Cleveland Browns.