clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2019 Jets Free Agency Profile: A Pair of Pass Rushing Smiths

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Wild Card Round - San Diego Chargers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Welcome to the 2019 Jets Free Agency Profile series! Up until the start of the 2019 free agency period in March, I’ll be running through a bunch of names the Jets could potentially bring in with their hoard of cap space. Let’s get into it!

Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith are two of the second-tier options poised to be available on the edge defender market. Let’s take a quick look at both.

Name: Preston Smith

Birthday/Age: November 17th, 1992 (will turn 27 mid-season)

Height/Weight: 6’5, 265

FA type: Unrestricted

College: Mississippi State (drafted 38th overall by the Redskins in the second round of the 2015 draft)

Team(s): Redskins (2015-18)

Position/usage: 3-4 outside linebacker

2018 stats: 16 games, 53 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 16 QB hits, 3 passes defended, one fumble recovery (TD), one interception

Career stats: 64 games, 164 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 24.5 sacks, 59 QB hits, 13 passes defended, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles forced, 3 fumble recoveries (one TD)

Previous salary: Signed a 4 year, $5,779,354 rookie contract. $1.8M cap hit in 2018

Spotrac Market Value: $11.1M (would currently be 8th highest among 3-4 outside linebackers)

Jets connections: None notable

Measurables (via

Preston Smith primarily played 3-4 outside linebacker for Washington, but his athleticism allowed him to offer a lot of versatility. Here he picks up a sack on Dak Prescott off of pure speed, lined up out wide with his hand in the turf.

He ranked 24th among edge defenders in pressures this past season.

Preston’s durability is perhaps the biggest plus that he offers. He’s never missed a game in his four year NFL career.

Name: Za’Darius Smith

Birthday/Age: September 8th, 1992 (will turn 27 near the start of the year)

Height/Weight: 6’4, 272

FA type: Unrestricted

College: Kentucky (drafted 122nd overall by the Ravens in the fourth round of the 2015 draft)

Team(s): Ravens (2015-18)

Position/usage: 3-4 defensive end / outside linebacker

2018 stats: 16 games, 45 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 25 QB hits, 2 passes defended, one fumble recovery

Career stats: 58 games, 119 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks, 52 QB hits, 5 passes defended, 3 fumbles forced

Previous salary: Signed a 4 year, $2,763,152 rookie contract. $2.0M cap hit in 2018

Jets connections: Kentucky teammate of Avery Williamson

Measurables (via

Like Preston, Za’Darius offered unique versatility with his ability to rush the passer both as a stand-up outside linebacker or with his fingers in the ground. The 272-pound Smith was even able to get it done frequently on the interior. Here, lined up over the right tackle’s inside shoulder, he is able to swipe away the right guard’s punch to slip through and get a sack on Philip Rivers.

Za’Darius isn’t necessarily the best athlete (as shown by his spider graph), but he has a good motor and is a fundamentally sound pass rusher.

He had a breakout 2018 with a career-best 8.5 sacks and 61 pressures, which ranked 19th among edge defenders.

Za’Darius Smith’s market value estimate isn’t available yet, but I would assume he’ll be in the same double-digit per year neighborhood as Preston Smith.

The Jets will be going into the free agency period crossing their fingers in hopes that they can land an upper-tier star on the edge, but it’s going to be a tough task. There aren’t a lot of those players to go around, and those who do become available are going to have no shortage of pursuers.

Mike Maccagnan could easily find himself relegated to the second tiers and beyond at this position.

Are the Smiths good enough to be among the most sought-after consolation prizes, worthy of eight figures annually? Or would the smarter fallback plan simply be to skip over the second tier and move on to the bargain bin?

I do like these two players. They’re both versatile and offer solid pass rushing production.

With that said, neither Smith has produced at a level substantially better than the mediocrity the Jets already have with Jordan Jenkins, Brandon Copeland and the like. $10-12M per year could be a bit rich for a slight upgrade.

Both Preston and Za’Darius Smith are solid players who would certainly upgrade the Jets’ talent level on the edge, but I would have to leave it up to the Jets themselves to decide if they’re worthy of being big-ticket guys. Would the team envision a role for them where their abilities would be maximized?

Nobody outside of Florham Park knows for sure yet what kind of defense the Jets will run, with reports on the defensive philosophy all over the place, so it’s hard for us to judge the potential fit quality of the more scheme-dependent defensive players.

The Jets have oodles (I like that word) of money to spend and should absolutely be aggressive with it - but only to an extent. Lines still need to be drawn. It’s up to the team to decide whether a free agent target would be an overpay for a slight upgrade, or a smart investment on a player who fits their timeline and philosophies.

What do you think? Should the Jets be in on Preston Smith or Za’Darius Smith as fallback options?


Do you like Za’Darius or Preston Smith as a fallback option for the Jets on the edge?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Yes, either one is a great fallback
    (136 votes)
  • 20%
    Yes, I like Preston, not so much Za’Darius
    (84 votes)
  • 19%
    Yes, I like Za’Darius, not so much Preston
    (83 votes)
  • 21%
    No - if the Jets don’t land a star they should skip straight to the bargain bin
    (88 votes)
  • 6%
    No - the Jets should pursue an eight-figure, second-tier fallback, but someone else, neither of the Smiths
    (27 votes)
418 votes total Vote Now