Jets Quarter Century Team 1996-2020: Safeties

Will Parkinson provides his Jets quarter-century team at safety.

This is part 2 of the Jets best players over the past 25 years. We will be going position group by position group in addition to front office, owner, coaching staff and even stadium and training camp locations.. There have been lots of ups and downs over the past 25 years but this will highlight the great players as well as the fan favorites and best moves. This week we will be going through the safeties. An exciting group to say the least.

Starting Safeties:

Jamal Adams – Jamal Adams is one of the most polarizing players the Jets have ever had. He was certainly the most talented and accomplished safety even in his short 3 years with Gang Green. Adams fell to the Jets at 6th overall in the 2017 draft. He was widely considered to be the best and most talented player in that draft but, as a Safety, fell to the Jets. Adams’ trash talk and bravado instantly won over the fan base, and that coupled with his hard hitting made him a star. Adams shined through the lackluster Jets team play and was someone who fans thought would be one of the cornerstone pieces to turn them into winners. Adams, who was a huge talker, backed up his play on the field, whether it was blowing up Gronk multiple times, his sack, forced fumble, touchdown against the Giants, it was all coming together. Things declined at the end of the 2019 season with head coach Adam Gase and with Joe Douglas not willing to pay Adams high contract demands he was moved to Seattle for a haul of picks. While it didn’t end well here, Adams was still one of the best Jets safeties ever and certainly in the last 25 years.

Stats: 3 Seasons: Regular Season – 46 Games, 210 Tackles, 12 Sacks, 2 INTs, 6 FFs, 4 FRs, 28 TFLs, 23 QB Hits, 25 PD, 2 TDs

Awards – 2 Pro Bowls (2018,2019) 1st Team All Pro 2019, 2018 2nd Team All Pro, 2019 Week 10 Defensive Player of the Week.

Kerry Rhodes – Kerry Rhodes was an incredibly productive and important Jets Safety from 2005 through 2009. Rhodes was a 4th round pick out of Louisville and stepped right into a starting role as a rookie roaming secondary. In 2006, he had a breakout season helping lead a Jets defense that would take them to the playoffs. Rhodes continued to excel and before the 2009 season signed a massive 5-year extension. He was known as a ball hawk who could both create turnovers and turn them into big plays. Rhodes was an integral part of that 2009 defense that lead the league, including a huge hit on Phillip Rivers in the playoffs. Rex Ryan and Kerry clashed about some off the field things around his sexuality and was dealt to Arizona in 2010 where he played at an all pro level. Rhodes even in his 5 years as a Jet was the best Free Safety since 1996 and one of the best in franchise history.

Stats: 5 Seasons: Regular Season – 80 Games, 328 Tackles, 9 Sacks, 15 INTs, 23 TFLS, 6 FFs, 5 FRs, 48 PD, 23 QB Hits, 1 TD.

Playoffs: 4 Games – 19 Tackles, 1 Sack, 3 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR

Awards: 2005 All Rookie Team, 2006 Defensive Player of the Week, 2006 1st Team All Pro.

Best Homegrown Talent:

Marcus Maye: While this one may seem premature to some; Maye has been a really good player for the Jet and someone who is in line to earn a second contract with the team. Him and Eric Coleman were the two guys who got massive consideration for this spot. Maye was a 2nd round pick in 2017 in the infamous back to back Safety draft with Jamal Adams. Maybe it’s the way the Adams tenure ended that makes Maye look better, but he’s been very productive and a calm, but influential leader in the locker room. He has also shown a good ability to be flexible playing both center field and box/blitzing safety. He is a player that has potential to be a lifelong Jet with his contract this offseason. Here is to hoping that happens.

Honorable Mention: Eric Coleman

Stats: 4 Seasons: Regular Season – 54 Games, 266 Tackles, 6 INTs, 2.5 Sacks, 5 TFLs, 4 FFs, 1 FR, 2 QB Hits, NFL Season High 104 Yards INT Return.

Best Trade/Signing:

Victor Green – Green signed for the Jets in 1993 as an undrafted Free Agent. Green spent 9 of his 11 professional seasons with the Jets including being a league leader in tackles as a small bright spot on the 1996 team. He then was able to go full turn around with the team and be a main part of the 1998 defense that was a second half away from the Super Bowl and probably the best Jets team since 1969. Green was able to be a tackling machine, but also create turnovers and be a leader of the defense. Being apart of multiple Jets playoff teams and someone who went from undrafted free agent to almost a decade long starter can’t be undervalued.

Stats: 9 Seasons: 139 Games, 859 Tackles, 7 Sacks, 24 INTs, 2 TDs, 27 PD, 7 FF, 14 FRs, 8 TFLs.

Postseason: 3 Games, 15 Tackles

Fan Favorite:

Jim Leonard – Jim Leonard was one of Mike Tanenbaum’s most under the radar great signings during the Jets 2009-2011 teams. Leonard was brought in on a 3 year 6-million-dollar deal to help Rex Ryan implement his zone blitz scheme. He also was brought in to ensure ball security from a Punt Return perspective. While Leonard may have been undersized, he had the heart of a lion and was able to be incredibly productive especially in 2009, and 2010. He saved his best production for that 2009 playoff run. While he ended up getting injured during a disappointing 2011, he was still a great Jet. He was a leader and quality contributor to the best two Jets teams since the 90s and will also be a fan favorite especially at the safety position.

Stats: 3 Seasons: 40 Games, 184 Tackles, 2.5 Sacks, 3 INTs, 3 FFs, 2 FR, 11 TFLs, 7 QB Hits, 15 PD

Playoffs: 3 Games, 12 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 INT, 2 FF, 2 PD, 2 QB Hits, 1 TFL

Under the Radar Great Jet:

Laron Landry – Landry who was one of the most physically gifted safeties in NFL history and while his career generally was underwhelming with his inability to stay healthy, he enjoyed the best season of his career in 2012 with the Jets. He was a Pro Bowler in 2012 and although the Jets struggled mightily in 2012, he was a great pickup and had a fantastic season giving Jets fans something to root for. Landry had some of the biggest arms I’ve personally ever seen on any player let alone a safety and was a similar player to Jamal Adams in his short time here. The Jets haven’t had many Pro Bowlers this decade so would be wrong not to highlight Landry.

Stats: 1 Seasons: 16 Games, 100 Tackles, 2 INTs, 4 FFs, 4 TFLs, 3 QB Hits, 3 PD, 1 TD

Awards: 1 Pro Bowl (2012)

Best Jets Safety Jersey I Own

Jamal Adams-  Sadly, Safety is a position I have not wanted to buy many Jerseys, especially with the constant turnover at the position. While I did buy a Jamal Jersey in the new “Gotham Black” he was traded 12 months later… Safe to say I am going to shy away from Safety jerseys with the Jets for a while.

Best That Never Was –

Calvin Pryor: Pryor aka the “Louisville Slugger” was one of the most hyped up yet incredibly underwhelming 1st round picks of the last decade. The 18th overall pick in the 2014 draft out of Louisville was deemed by Jets fans and coaches to be one of the next superstar big hitting safeties in the NFL. Sadly for the Jets, 1990 box hard hitting safeties were becoming a thing of the past and Pryor’s inability to consistently cover and undisciplined game led to him spending 3 years with the team before being traded to Cleveland in a deal the Jets got back stud Linebacker Demario Davis (Before stupidly letting him go again where he’s been an all pro for the Saints year after Year). Pryor’s career was over by 2017 and was one of the biggest busts of the decade.

Stats: 3 Seasons: 44 Games, 192 Tackles, 2 INTs, .5 Sacks, 7 TFLs, 2 FFs, 14 PD.