Despite the New York Jets selecting defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round of the NFL Draft and then adding defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis in the third round, it still remains important to bring veteran Shaun Ellis back for the defensive line rotation.
Despite never being a truly great player, Ellis has been a consistently very good defensive end, against both the run and pass for his entire 12 year career with the Jets. We know he still has gas in the tank after the way he dominated the New England Patriots offensive line in the Jets divisional round win last year.
With the NFL having a shortened off-season (and maybe a shortened regular season for that matter), you can’t expect Wilkerson to be ready to step into a starting role from day one. Players like Ropati Pitoitua and Marcus Dixon also haven’t shown enough yet to be considered strong candidates for a starting defensive end spot. It would be beneficial for Wilkerson’s development to spend a year learning from Ellis and coming off the bench before taking over for him full time.
Ellis has spent his entire career with the Jets and is a leader in the locker room. However, that isn’t the primary reason to work something out with him. Ellis is still a productive player at a position the Jets need help at.
You can’t assume a rookie or a player coming off an Achilles injury can start on one of the league’s best defenses, especially after this off-season. Hopefully, Mike Tannenbaum can work out a short term deal with Ellis to ease Wilkerson’s transition to the NFL and give the Jets better depth on their defensive line.