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After their initial wave of signings in the first week of free agency, the Jets continued to add pieces on low cost deals. It can be easy to lose track of these players, so let’s quickly review them and project their potential roles on the 2018 roster.
1 – Terrelle Pryor, WR – Pryor is an outside the numbers, vertical threat who had a breakout season in 2016 for the Cleveland Browns before having an ugly 2017 for the Washington Redskins. The efficiency numbers are not kind to Pryor and his inconsistency has been concerning. Despite the limitations in his game and route tree, the Jets are not asking him to be their “lead” receiver. He is going to be a rotational split end who is a downfield threat that should help take heat off Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. The Jets don’t need Pryor to catch 70 passes to justify this move, they need him to make a few plays in the red-zone and catch some nine routes. Let him be 1998 Dedric Ward and the Jets will have received more than enough value from his 4.5 million dollar contract, while getting necessary depth.
2 – Thomas Rawls, RB – After a breakout rookie season, Rawls has struggled to stay healthy or be anywhere near a productive back the past two seasons (167 carries, 506 yards with 10 missed games). The Jets backfield is somewhat crowded with Bilal Powell, Isiah Crowell and Elijah McGuire but there’s no harm in taking a flier on a back with a 830 yard season on his resume in 2015. As of today, Rawls feels most like a player who gets a ton of preseason carries and then either is traded for a late round pick or released right before the season starts. However, the talent level is there to be an early down rotational back as an inside runner.
3 – Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB – A player most noted for special teams ability in stints with the Seahawks and Chiefs, who stepped into fairly regular defensive work last year. The contract the Jets gave him (2 years, 5.2 million) and recent comments from Todd Bowles indicate the Jets view him as more than a special teamer and depth player. Pierre-Louis is likely to be a passing situation or third down sub for Avery Williamson at inside linebacker and somebody who plays more reps than fans are currently anticipating. Think of him as a Bruce Carter replacement, who can hopefully actually contribute on defense with some consistency.
4 – Travis Swanson, C – An interior depth player with starting experience over the past few years. Lions fans seem to feel similar about Swanson to how Jets fans felt about Wesley Johnson. If Brian Winters has injury problems again, it appears the Jets move would be to swing Spencer Long to guard and then slot Swanson or Jonotthan Harrison in at center, rather than bringing back Dakota Dozier to step in as a primary backup at guard. Hopefully, we aren’t seeing too much, if any, of Swanson next season.
5 – Brandon Copeland, LB – Without Kony Ealy not coming back, Copeland may have a chance of cracking into the rotation as a defensive end/edge hybrid. He missed all of 2017 with a pec injury but prior to that showed potential as a rotational option in the front seven and a special teamer. Considering the Jets depth right now, it would be surprising if he didn’t stick on the roster.
6 – Neville Hewitt, LB – He did not play much last season on defense (only 11 snaps) but did log 115 special teams snaps. Late in 2016, he showed a few flashes and played major reps in Miami’s playoff loss to the Pittsburgh. Hewitt should have an inside track on team’s fourth inside linebacker spot, if they decide to keep that many. Think of him as a Julian Stanford replacement.
7 – Bucky Hodges, TE – An interesting flier who the Jets gave a two year contract. Hodges is yet to play a NFL snap in the regular season but had a couple of moments in the preseason for the Minnesota Vikings. At 6’6, 250+ pounds, Hodges has eye opening athleticism and could be a factor out of the slot in the passing game. Considering the Jets depth chart, he will have a legitimate chance to stick on the roster and potentially knock somebody like Jordan Leggett or Neal Sterling off the team.
8 – Clive Walford, TE – The most experienced tight end currently on the team’s roster, Walford is best known for being good in pass protection and providing a big target in the middle of the field. Walford’s career year was in 2016 when he pulled in 33 receptions and 3 touchdowns for the Raiders. It is hard to see the Jets keeping both him and Eric Tomlinson.
9 – Andre Roberts, KR –This one has flown under the radar a little bit but the Jets did a nice job finding a very capable return man. Roberts has been solid for the Lions and Falcons as both a kick and punt returner over the past few years. He has 3 special teams touchdowns since 2015, which is two more than the entire Jets organizaiton in that time frame. No more JoJo Natson.
10 – Cairo Santos, K – Based on what we’ve seen from Santos pre-injury, there is no reason to think he shouldn’t be at least a lateral move from Chandler Catanzaro and potentially an upgrade.
11 – Jonathan Hankins? – The Jets had him in for a visit yesterday and he would be a nice, needed addition to their defensive front. Hankins has been productive for both the Colts and Giants over the past few years and is only 26 years old. A rotation of Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon, Xavier Cooper, Mike Pennel and Hankins is more than capable upfront.
12 – Who Else? – If the Jets don’t sign Hankins, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them continuing to explore the defensive line market. Depending on how the NFL Draft goes, another body at cornerback could also be useful. Outside of that, it is fairly slim pickings at this point so the Jets may wait until the summer to make any more notable additions.
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