The New York Jets have a lot of work to do this offseason. One of the biggest challenges general manager Joe Douglas faces is creating enough salary cap space to acquire a veteran quarterback like Aaron Rodgers and sign All-Pro Quinnen Williams to a contract extension. We’ll examine which Jets player could be a surprising cut during the 2023 NFL offseason in order to open up some cap room.

There are several big names that could be on the chopping block. It wouldn’t be a big surprise if, for example, the Jets release wide receiver Corey Davis or veteran tackle Duane Brown. Nor would it be surprising if wide receiver/kick returner Braxton Berrios, punter Braden Mann or backup corner Bryce Hall is cut.

It would be a bigger surprise, though not shocking, if they moved on from edge rusher Carl Lawson since the Jets would create $15.4 million in cap room with such a move. More likely, the Jets will try to extend Lawson’s contract to lower its average annual value and retain a key piece of their No. 5-ranked defense.

After Laken Tomlinson had a largely disappointing first season in New York, the Jets could be inclined to cut the veteran guard. But the large amount of dead cap space makes that a distasteful move.

And the Jets can’t exactly wash their hands with quarterback Zach Wilson and release him, either, because of the penalties they’d face cutting the third-year pro.

That said, let’s look at which Jets player could be a surprising cut during the 2023 NFL offseason.

Jets Roster Cut Candidate: Justin Hardee

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Cutting Hardee is not something the Jets want to do. He is a team leader and special teams captain. He made the Pro Bowl this season after finishing fifth in the NFL with 15 special teams tackles. He has played a big role in helping build a positive culture in the Jets locker room. Simply, coach Robert Saleh, and the players, love him.

Hardee carries a $2.35 million salary cap hit in 2023. That’s not an exorbitant amount considering what he brings to the team, intangibles and all. So, why would the Jets cut Hardee?

The issue here is that Hardee does not play anywhere else except on special teams. He’s a defensive back by trade but never sees the field in that capacity. He’s a specialist, like a kicker and punter. But unlike those two positions, his role could be filled by someone who also contributes on offense or defense.

So, with the Jets in a cap squeeze where every dollar counts, the 29-year-old likely has a target on his back to be cut, a one-dimensional player who’s a luxury at his salary. And the Jets could turn to someone younger, more versatile and less expensive to fill this role.

Releasing Hardee does make financial sense. And some football sense, too. But for a team that’s trying to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, it’s not easy to rationalize cutting one of the most respected players on the roster.

That’s why cutting Justin Hardee would be so surprising if it comes to pass this offseason.