The New York Jets open training camp in two weeks with high expectations. That’s what happens when you have an elite defense, then go out and add Aaron Rodgers to a revamped, healthy offense that features one of the game’s brightest young stars in Garrett Wilson.
The Jets have not played a single playoff game in 12 seasons. But now they’re a sexy Super Bowl pick by many. That’s quite a leap. Is their roster good enough to make a long playoff run?
— NFL (@NFL) June 19, 2023
The simple answer is no NFL roster is perfect. And the Jets do have one glaring hole that must be addressed before training camp begins.
Dalvin Cook would be a nice addition to take some of the load off of running back Breece Hall, who’s coming back from a torn ACL. But that’s not the biggest need on the Jets roster. Neither is re-signing Kwon Alexander to be their third linebacker, though that, too, would be a solid move.
There’s one perfect move the Jets must make to fill out their roster before training camp begins.
The Jets must sign Quinnen Williams to a contract extension before training camp
This must be the clear-cut priority for Jets general manager Joe Douglas in the next two weeks. There is no way the Jets should open camp with, arguably, their best player holding out. This is too important a season for the organization and Williams is too important a piece to not be there from Day 1.
That this contractual dance has lasted this long is a head-scratcher. One by one, top defensive linemen around the League have either re-upped with their current teams on big-money extensions or signed mega deals in free agency this offseason.
But for as reassuring as Douglas and coach Robert Saleh have been when asked about Williams, the bottom line is that their All-Pro remains without an extension.
"That thing will get done and he'll be here"
– Robert Saleh on Quinnen Williams' contract situation pic.twitter.com/LiHARgrbrb
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) May 23, 2023
Williams already skipped voluntary OTAs and expressed his displeasure with contract talks on social media. He’s prepared to hold out from training camp if that’s what it takes to get his deal done. And while that would be a terrific storyline for Hard Knocks, assuming the Jets are featured on the HBO series this summer, the organization should want nothing to do with a prolonged contractual impasse with its defensive anchor.
Even with Rodgers a Jet, the heart and soul of Saleh’s team is its top-5 defense. Corners Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed are huge parts of why New York’s D is a special group, and linebackers C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams (Quinnen’s big brother) are central figures in its success. Edge rusher Carl Lawson, two years removed from a ruptured Achilles, is looking to break out in a big way.
But at the heart of the Jets defense is Williams. He regularly takes on two blockers, freeing up others to make plays. But he’s a playmaker, too. In fact, he is the Jets' best pass rusher. He had an NFL career-high 12 sacks in 2022 and 52 QB pressures. The 25-year-old had a terrific 84.1 pass-rushing grade, per Pro Football Focus, to go with a solid 77.7 grade against the run. His overall 90.1 grade is about as good as you can get on the defensive line.
Throwback Thursday to Quinnen Williams dominant game against the Packers:
4 Defensive Stops
1 Forced Fumble
1 Blocked Field Goal
— Stefan Stelling (@li_jets) March 2, 2023
Simply, the Jets defense revolves around Williams. Players like him get paid, and lately, they are getting paid. Jeffery Simmons (Titans), Dexter Lawrence (Giants) and Daron Payne (Commanders) are just three linemen to receive big-ticket contracts this offseason.
The market is set for around four years, $21-23 million per season on average, with about $55-$60 million guaranteed.
That’s not chump change. But Williams is no chump player, either. The framework is there, the Jets need to swallow hard and get this deal to the finish line. And do so before training camp starts so that Williams’ absence does not become a major distraction for a Jets team already facing a ton of pressure in the 2023 NFL season.