Jets eye ex-Colt Johnathan Hankins for spot on thin defensive line

Only a year ago, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Colts. Shanna Lockwood/USA TODAY Sports

After an ill-fated flirtation with Ndamukong Suh, the New York Jets remain in the market for a starting-caliber defensive lineman. As ESPN's Dan Graziano reported, one such free agent visited their facility on Thursday -- Johnathan Hankins, who started his NFL career in New Jersey.

Hankins, 26, a former second-round pick of the New York Giants, is perhaps the best defensive lineman on the market. In an unexpected move, he was released by the Indianapolis Colts on March 17 -- the same day they swapped draft picks with the Jets. Only one year ago, he signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Colts. Yes, things change quickly in the NFL.

The Colts cut him because they felt he's not fast enough to play in their new 4-3 scheme, which is odd because Hankins thrived in the Giants' 4-3. In fact, he recorded seven sacks in 2014.

Now the question is whether he'd fit in the Jets' 3-4 scheme.

At 6-foot-2, 325 pounds, Hankins is a true interior lineman. In fact, he played 591 of his 660 snaps last season as a defensive tackle and nose tackle, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He doesn't have the body type or athleticism to be a traditional end in their scheme -- i.e. an apples-to-apples replacement for Muhammad Wilkerson. Basically, he's a lot like nose tackle Steve McLendon and Mike Pennel, whom they re-signed. They could utilize Hankins in hybrid fronts or rotate him with McLendon and Pennel.

This much we know: Hankins is a good football player and he's certainly young enough to fit into the Jets' rebuilding movement. Known as a first- and second-down run stuffer, he recorded 44 tackles and two sacks last season for the Colts.