Our Jets roster countdown now takes a look at reserve offensive lineman Ben Ijalana.
Name: Ben Ijalana
Year with Jets: 6th
Projected Role: Third string offensive lineman(?)
His 2017: After seeing extended playing time for the first time in Jets career in 2016, the team signed Ijalana to an inexplicable 2 year, $10.25 million contract. It was difficult to understand at the time since Ijalana’s skill level is the same as players who sign for the minimum to fill out training camp roster spots. That kind of money suggested the team viewed Ijalana as a supersub on the offensive line.
Once the season arrived, the deal became even more of a head-scratcher. Even though the Jets suffered injuries at center and guard, Ijalana played only 15 offensive snaps in the first 15 games. Perhaps finally realizing how much money they were paying a player to do nothing, the Jets finally threw him in for 41 snaps in the season finale at New England. In those 56 total snaps, PFF blamed Ijalana for a strikingly high 5 QB hurries.
2018 will be a success if: Ijalana actually provides the Jets with quality depth at multiple positions this time. The team declined his contract option for 2018 and then brought him back at a lower rate. With that said, that rate is still high for a backup offensive lineman at around $2.5 million. Then tack on another $1 million in dead money the Jets took to decline that option in the first contract, and you have a backup counting for $3.5 million against the cap. He’d better be a versatile and quality backup.
Odds of making the roster: It really feels like there’s a disconnect between Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles on this player. Maccagnan keeps giving him decent sized contracts, but Bowles is hesitant to play him. Bowles is probably right on merit, but Maccagnan has the say over the roster. With that said, Ijalana has no track record of quality NFL play, no upside, and only an additional $500,000 dead money cost to cut. He could be outplayed in training camp, but for now I think he is More Likely Than Not (50-75%) to make the team.