Coming off back-to-back seasons of being arguably the NFL’s top corner, the star of the New York Jets defense is almost certainly Sauce Gardner. And admittedly Sauce leans into it, embracing the stardom with interesting quotes for the media, doing commercials, and even partnering with Buffalo Wild Wings to create a signature wing sauce.
Because of that, Sauce’s star shines bright (and deservingly so). In fact, it shines so bright it can often shine over some players who are fantastic performers in their own right. One of those players is upcoming free agent Michael Carter II who has played slot cornerback for the Jets for the last few years. In the 2022 season, Carter had a legitimate breakout campaign with a PFF grade of 73.5 that ranked 25th among all corners who reached the qualifying stat count. This season? Well, he was arguably even better.
Among nickel cornerbacks*, @mcarter2nd ranks:— New York Jets UK (@NYJetsinUK) January 12, 2024
#⃣1⃣ in total yards allowed (195)
#⃣1⃣ in total receptions allowed (25)
#⃣1⃣ in yards per snap (0.54)
#⃣1⃣ in snaps per reception (14.4)
#⃣1⃣ in PFF coverage grade (83.3)
#⃣1⃣ in penalties allowed (1)
*min. 237 snaps in slot pic.twitter.com/UP8XWJobAu
As shown above, Carter was a certified slot elite cornerback in 2023. The biggest knock on him was that he missed two games due to injury but outside of that there really isn’t much to mention on in terms of negatives.
In years past you could say point out that he plays in the slot as a knock on him, but teams have been more aggressively using the slot in recent years. Highlighting that, the NFL’s leading pass catcher Ceedee Lamb ran 51.8% of his snaps from the slot this season. Years ago, you may have been able to get by with a so-so slot corner. In the modern NFL? Not so easy, so the value placed on that position should rise accordingly.
Really all that’s left to do on the Jets side with Carter is to find a way to keep him given his upcoming free agency. The talent is obvious. The performance is there along with a sustained track record. The question now is whether he and the Jets can align on what a fair market contract looks like. Personally, there isn’t a player that I would be more disappointed to see the Jets lose than Carter. Fingers crossed the two sides can reach a deal before Carter is allowed to talk to other teams on the open market.