On Tuesday, the New York Jets trimmed their roster to the maximum 53 players. On Wednesday, they got busy.
The youngest team in the NFL hasn’t been short on moving parts this offseason, so it comes as no surprise that Joe Douglas has been active on the phones in the hours immediately following roster cuts.
An already dwindling number of players that preceded the Joe Douglas era got smaller when the Jets sent Chris Herndon to Minnesota along with a 2022 sixth-round pick in return for a 2022 fourth-rounder. The trade signaled the end of a disappointing tenure in New York for Herndon, who showed promise in his rookie season and was never able to build on it.
For the Jets, cutting Herndon left them with just one tight end on the roster in Tyler Kroft. Acquisitions at the position became imminent.
On Wednesday morning, the Jets got rid of another former Mike Maccagnan draftee when they released Blessuan Austin. A projected starting cornerback for the team less than two weeks from kickoff, Austin was a surprise release by the front office, especially given how thin the Jets are at cornerback. The cornerback room currently is six players deep with a combined two years of NFL experience. Not a single one was drafted higher than the fifth round.
“That was a very difficult decision,” Douglas said. “We made two claims on the defensive side of the ball and ultimately, we drafted young players at the position. Instead of asking Bless to take a reduced role, we’re going to give these young guys an opportunity.”
The two claims Douglas is referring to are Quincy Williams and Tim Ward. Quincy, a linebacker who was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Tuesday, is the brother of Jets’ defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. He’ll help bolster a linebacking corps that is shallower than expected after losing offseason signing Jarrad Davis for multiple months.
Ward, who also signed with the Jets off waivers on Wednesday, is a former Kansas City Chief who appeared in just one game a season ago, recording a sack and five tackles. A 6-foot-6, 250-pound defensive end, the former Old Dominion standout will join newcomer Shaq Lawson in an attempt to reignite a pass rush that fell victim to season-ending injuries in camp.
Ward will take the roster spot of Jabari Zuniga, the Jets’ third-round pick from a year ago who was released on Wednesday following a quiet preseason plagued by injury. Zuniga marked the second pick of Douglas’s draft class from 2020 that was cut this offseason.
“That was another difficult decision,” Douglas said about cutting Zuniga. “He was ready to go and healthy today back in practice and we told him we’re going to make this move, get him through waivers and bring him right back to the practice squad as soon as he clears.”
Zuniga will join 13 other players who were cut by the Jets and then re-signed to the practice squad. Kenny Yeboah, Josh Adams, Vyncint Smith, Josh Johnson, DJ Montgomery, Jimmy Murray, Grant Hermanns, Isaiah Williams, Tanzel Smart, Ronnie Blair, Del’Shawn Phillips, Hamilcar Rashed Jr. and Lamar Jackson will all suit up in green and white for practices. Douglas was particularly excited about getting Johnson and Yeboah back in the building.
“Bringing Josh on and having him in the room, I feel like we’re in a really good place in terms of the chemistry,” Douglas said. “These guys really push each other. Adding a guy like Josh and his experience, he’s a rock that a lot of the guys can lean on and he’s been through a lot of scenarios and seen a lot of things.”
“We feel good about getting Kenny back to the practice squad,” he added.
Yeboah, who caught for 100 yards and two touchdowns in New York’s final preseason game against the Eagles, was one of the several tight ends cut on Tuesday. The thought was that Douglas might look to sign someone off waivers like Jacob Hollister, or pull the trigger on a trade for Zach Ertz. Instead, he re-signed the tight ends he’d cut the day before.
After clearing roster spots through IR moves, the Jets brought back Ryan Griffin and Daniel Brown to accompany Kroft in the tight end room. Additionally, they re-signed Sharrod Neasman to accompany new signing Sheldrick Redwine at safety while Ashtyn Davis rehabs a lingering foot injury.
The remainder of the week leading up to kickoff is bound to include more cuts, signings and maybe even trades, as the Jets look to patch up the holes on the roster and get this incredibly youthful team ready for regular season action.
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