There are always a handful of signings that fly under the radar during NFL free agency, signings that often make a major impact on a team's success.
Whether these certain players had a down year in the previous campaign, their skill set is not currently as valuable, or they fall into a multitude of other categories, talented players frequently sign contracts in the NFL that don't represent their full potential.
With the league’s strict salary cap, franchises are always looking for discounts as they make offseason improvements. Teams were even more cap-strapped entering this offseason, with revenue losses related to COVID-19 causing an abnormally low salary cap.
For the Jets, the signing of Tevin Coleman didn't necessarily make headlines, but he could play a key role in helping New York turn its offense around next season.
On March 24, Gang Green signed the six-year veteran and former 49ers running back to a one-year, $2 million deal. After struggling last season due to injuries and a crowded running back room in San Francisco—a campaign in which he saw a 30-percent reduction in snaps—Coleman’s value in free agency diminished dramatically. The Illinois native has consistently produced in limited opportunities during his career, though. He has averaged at least 4.4 yards per carry in three of his six seasons in the NFL and only dropped below four yards per carry last season when he had just 28 total carries.
He will likely get more chances to produce in the Jets' backfield as he enters the year with the most experience on the roster at his position.
Coleman fits excellently into the Jets offensive scheme. New York’s new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur will be bringing the wide-zone system from San Francisco, where Coleman played the last two seasons. The offense is predicated on running outside the numbers and therefore, its success depends on the ability of running backs to bounce outside quickly and hit holes with speed.
Coleman has demonstrated his ability to produce in that type of system consistently, both with the Niners and the Atlanta Falcons earlier in his career. He has seven touchdowns of 30-plus yards in his career. With the Jets running a very similar system under LaFleur, Coleman will fit in nicely.
Additionally, the former third-rounder emerged as a strong red-zone back in San Francisco. In an extremely crowded backfield in 2019, he punched it into the end zone six times.
The 49ers made it clear that they trusted him in short-yardage situations. A running back accustomed to touches in key spots will ease some of the pressure on future Jets quarterback Zach Wilson to convert long drives into seven points.
Gang Green may ultimately elect to draft a top running back like Travis Etienne, but they can count on Coleman to give them reliable production no matter how often he takes the field, as someone familiar with a running back by committee formula.
At the end of the season, $2 million more than likely will look like a bargain.
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