Last season, the Jets made several additions to the team, but there was one in particular that nobody seemed to be talking about. That was Keelan Cole, who despite the fact he was coming off a 55-catch season was constantly treated as an afterthought in any discussion of the Jets’ wide receivers.
There was good reason to overlook Cole, as fans were more excited about Elijah Moore and Corey Davis, and the team also had Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios and Denzel Mims expected to make contributions.
As it turned out, Cole’s impact was disappointing, so perhaps we were right to overlook him all along. Nevertheless, he played an important role because he ended up logging the most playing time out of all of the Jets’ wide receivers in 2021.
This year, there’s a handful of players who are being overlooked because of other acquisitions the team has made. One or more of these are likely to end up playing a significant role this season, though.
All five of these players has significant recent starting experience and guaranteed money in their contract, so it would be a surprise if the team didn’t end up using them.
DE Jacob Martin
Martin was signed to a three-year, $13.5 million contract with $6 million guaranteed. This seemed like a smart move, to add a reasonably-priced veteran with potential upside to a group that had to deal with a ton of injuries in 2021.
However, with Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry making their return, the Jets also opted to draft both Jermaine Johnson II and Micheal Clemons. Even though the team has stated that John Franklin-Myers might be used more on the inside in pass rushing situations, it’s suddenly a crowded group, with Bryce Huff also a potential contributor.
Martin shouldn’t be discounted altogether though. He had the best year of his career in 2021, as he started 14 games and recorded four sacks. While he’s certainly best viewed as a rotational option, he’s a consistent player who seems to be on the rise, so it will be interesting to see how he fits in.
OL Nate Herbig
Herbig’s signing went under the radar, which is perhaps not surprising given the fact that the team signed Laken Tomlinson to be the starting left guard and then re-signed Dan Feeney to be the primary interior reserve.
We shouldn’t overlook Herbig altogether though. He’s only 23 and Eagles media and some fans were shocked when the team opted to release him. Herbig had fared well starting 12 games in 2020 and then another five last year, giving them a smart, versatile depth piece with good size and strength.
While Herbig isn’t as good of an athlete as any of the Jets’ starters (or Feeney, for that matter), he’s a dependable player who could be very useful if the team deals with as many injuries as they did last season.
LB Marcell Harris
Harris is unique within this group insofar as he’s not necessarily being overlooked because of who is currently on the team. Instead, some fans are calling for the Jets to sign Kwon Alexander to bolster their linebacker depth.
Alexander and Harris both worked out for the Jets at around the same time, but the team opted to sign Harris, presumably because he was prepared to sign a low-cost deal (although they did guarantee $350K of it). Alexander is the more established player, but Harris has good scheme familiarity having started 13 games in three seasons while in Robert Saleh’s system in San Francisco.
Last season, he started a career high seven games and posted a career-best 44 tackles, along with the first sack and interception of his career. If the Jets’ plan is to mostly be in subpackages again this season, with Quincy Williams and CJ Mosley playing a full-time role, then someone like Harris could be ideal to be that third linebacker who plays a rotational role, whereas Alexander might be keen to be a full-time starter.
WR Braxton Berrios
Berrios is the only player from this group who was re-signed during the offseason but, since signing a team-friendly two-year deal, it still seems like he’s being considered as a depth piece rather than a core contributor.
With Moore on the rise, Davis returning from injury and Garrett Wilson having been drafted in the top-10, there doesn’t seem to be much call for Berrios to be a primary target, especially with Denzel Mims and Jeff Smith each having played well during the spring.
In 2021, Berrios led the Jets in receptions in a team-high five games and also led them in receiving yards five times - tied with Davis for the most on the team. While a lot of this was done as he filled in for other players who were injured, he did develop good chemistry with Zach Wilson and is apparently now his closest friend on the team, so Berrios may yet prove he can be more than just a kick returner.
DL Solomon Thomas
Finally, Thomas was added to a stacked defensive line where fans were more concerned with adding run stuffers than an interior disruptor. Although he’s played on the edge at times in the past, the Jets have a potential logjam there, as we discussed above, so he’ll probably work almost exclusively on the inside.
The former top-three pick hasn’t lived up to his draft status and was the only one of these five not to start any games in 2021. However, he showed he can be a valuable reserve, as he was productive at generating pressure and recorded a career-best 3.5 sacks. The 26-year old could thrive in a similar role with New York.
Thomas has $1.4m of his 2022 salary guaranteed, so he’s definitely going to be on the roster unless he gets injured again. This was apparent anyway based on how Joe Douglas was praising him during the spring. It sounds like Thomas will bring good depth and leadership to the table and will look to make a case to stick around for longer than just the one year he signed for.