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What will the New York Jets defensive line look like in 2016? Starting lineup and key backups?
Joe Caporoso – After being given the franchise tag, Mo Wilkerson will be at the center of trade speculation right up through training camp. Ultimately, I think the Jets do not receive an offer that satisfies them, leaving him on the roster for 2016. Their only notable loss will be nose tackle Damon Harrison who will chase a bigger deal in free agency. The process of replacing him will include using a second or third day pick on a nose tackle and bumping last year’s 7th round pick Deon Simon to the active roster. The Jets will also use more fronts that feature Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson on the field together. Leger Douzable will be back as a rotational backup along with Mike Catapano, who showed some flashes last season. Stephen Bowen will not be back.
Dalbin Osorio – The Jets highly touted defensive line is facing some serious questions this offseason. Do you resign Damon Harrison? Will they trade Muhammed Wilkerson? Should they trade Sheldon Richardson before a suspension is levied? The only guarantee is that Leonard Williams will be starting come week one barring injury. Here’s what I think the defensive line will look like come next season:
I think both Muhammed Wilkerson and Damon Harrison are gone. I think the Jets will keep Sheldon Richardson as a full time DE as oppose to having him masquerade as the world’s most unorthodox edge rusher. I think the Jets look to elevate Deon Simon or sign a free agent like Barry Cofield to be their NT. That defensive line, in my opinion, would still be productive against the run and it’s my thought process that should Wilkerson net the Jets a first round pick then they could theoretically draft an edge rusher like Leonard Floyd (depending how high the first they fetch is) and then double back up and take LB Jaylon Smith. This would give you the flexibility to move Williams or Richardson inside with Floyd putting his hand in the dirt. So, in my opinion the defensive line will look like this:
Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson, Deon Simon, Barry Cofield, Leonard Floyd, Leger Douzable, and Mike Catapano.Joe Malfa – The defensive line situation for the Jets basically sums up the uncertainties of NFL roster building — it is indubitably the team’s strength, but no one has any real idea what it may look like at the start of next season. The big names are all there — Wilkerson, Richardson, Harrison, and Williams — but Williams is the only player guaranteed to be back next season. Wilkerson, as Joe Cap mentioned, might be at the center of trade talks. It seems as if Harrison is 50/50 on whether or not he will return or be franchise tagged at this point. Richardson poses interesting trade bait as well because he is going to want big money at the end of his rookie deal, and with his past indiscretions, he may not be worth the risk of a hefty contract. When the dust settles, and this is just a hunch, I believe the Jets will find a way to keep everyone. They will reach a long-term deal with Wilkerson, use the franchise-tag on Harrison, keep Richardson (unless a no-brainer trade package comes along), and emerge as the league’s top defensive line in 2016.
In terms of depth, Catapano, Douzable, and Bowen will be the next three bodies in the rotation, and I would not be surprised if T.J. Barnes, our friend here at TOJ, finds his way back onto the back end of the depth chart as depth. They will also spend an early round pick on an EDGE, making an already formidable defensive front even scarier.
David Aitken – There are big decisions to make with two key players: Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison. I expect Wilkerson will be back on the franchise tag, but Harrison will be playing elsewhere. Expect the major defensive additions this offseason to center around the linebacker core rather than the defensive line, so replacing Harrison at nose tackle will probably come down to a value free agent or a later draft pick competing with Deon Simon. Douzable, another free agent, will probably return as well for depth. To mitigate Harrison’s loss, Bowles will likely get the three of Wilkerson, Williams and Richardson on the field together more often.
Kevin Zielaznicki – Heading into the 2016 NFL Season, I believe that the Jets defensive line will look about the same as it was this past season. I’m confident that Muhammad Wilkerson will be back next season after getting slapped with the franchise tag or coming to a long term agreement with the Jets. But by keeping Wilkerson, starting NT Damon Harrison is likely not resigned and finds a new home somewhere else in the league. That will leave Todd Bowles with Mo Wilk, Sheldon Richardson, and rising star Leonard Williams to play around with in his defensive front. Doesn’t sound to bad to me. I’m hoping Mike Maccagnan watched the Broncos defense win them the Super Bowl and took note of what speed in the front seven can do to opposing offenses. That being said, I’m hopeful that the Jets will finally pickup a player that can turn the edge and supply that long sought after outside pressure.Starters on the Jets defensive line next season: Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams. Backups/Role players: Deon Simon, Leger Douzable, a veteran FA signing similar to Stephen Bowen, and an edge player such as Jaylon Smith, Leonard Floyd, or Shaq Lawson.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com