The New York Jets bolstered their pass rush and improved their currently shaky depth at outside linebacker by signing former San Diego Charger Antwan Barnes. This has been a long rumored move as Barnes has experience in Rex Ryan’s defense from the 2007 and 2008 season when both were in Baltimore. The Jets had expressed interest in Barnes in previous years but were never able to get the deal done.
Barnes is a situational player who will likely be given an opportunity for the most extensive playing time of his career. His best season came in 2011 for the Chargers when he finished with 11 sacks, highlighted by a 4 sack game in primetime against the Baltimore Ravens. Last year, he missed 5 games due to injury and finished with 3 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. At a minimum, Barnes will provide some needed juice off the edge on third downs and in passing situations. Yet, considering the current depth chart at outside linebacker, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he had a strong chance to start or at least platoon with a player like Garret McIntyre or a draft pick.
Of the current outside linebackers on the team, Barnes is the most accomplished by a mile with 23.5 career sacks. McIntyre is the only other linebacker on the Jets roster besides David Harris (an inside linebacker) who has ever registered a NFL sack with 3.5 for his career.
The signing of Barnes continues a trend by GM John Idzik of being patient on the free agent market and finding potential short-term, low-cost starters. Willie Colon and Antonio Garay were further examples of this and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jets still add another outside linebacker (Victor Butler?) and a safety (Dawan Landry?). They also have rumored interest in former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, a signing that would likely mean Braylon Edwards is not coming back next year.