Diamond in the Huff? Jets hope to start a trend with undrafted rookie

Greeny: 'Sam Darnold is about to become the best QB in the NFL' (1:02)

Mike Greenberg expects Sam Darnold to take a big leap forward this season and become one of the league's top quarterbacks. (1:02)

A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Scouting in Memphis: Some teams crush college free agency. The Jets? Not so much.

Oh, they have uncovered a few undrafted free-agent gems over the years, but they're not regarded among the NFL's elite when it comes to this sort of thing. Jets general manager Joe Douglas hopes to change that perception, starting with his nine-player UDFA class.

The player to watch is former Memphis edge rusher Bryce Huff, who received a $90,000 guarantee in his contract, tops among the Jets' undrafted rookies. This doesn't mean he's a lock to make the team, but it's a relatively big guarantee for a team that typically doesn't splurge in this area. A year ago, the Jets gave undrafted defensive end Kyle Phillips a $30,000 guarantee -- and he turned out to be as productive as top pick Quinnen Williams.

"I don't believe he's an every-down player quite yet, but he'll find a way to make the roster and contribute because he does have a unique enough skill set -- speed to power," Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said of Huff during a phone interview. "That's hard to coach and hard to teach.

"He's got a tremendous amount of speed-to-power, which a lot of teams look for," added Silverfield, a former NFL assistant. "In the NFL, he may not be the biggest or the tallest, but he's quick-twitch enough off the edge and one of our strongest players here at Memphis. He's probably one of our hardest-working guys in the weight room. He's a high-motor guy."

Huff (6-foot-2, 254 pounds) was a three-year starter, finishing with 16 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss over his final two seasons. Outside linebacker might be the Jets' weakest position, so he will get an opportunity. In case you're wondering, former Washington tackle Jared Hilbers and former Alabama defensive back Shyheim Carter, both of whom received $62,000, were next on the Jets' list of biggest UDFA guarantees.

Over the years, the Jets discovered wide receiver Robby Anderson (2016) and nose tackle Damon Harrison (2012) as UDFAs, but they haven't had a consistent pipeline. Conversely, the Baltimore Ravens have gone 16 straight years with an undrafted rookie on their opening-day roster, a streak that started when Douglas was a Ravens scout who coordinated the effort.

"We've made a living getting two or three college free agents a year," former Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome told ESPN in a recent interview. "It started with Joe D and his ability to lay the foundation for that program."

2. Happy Trumaine Johnson Day: Even though they dumped him in March, the Jets have been carrying Johnson's onerous contract on their salary cap -- the full $15 million. That's about to change. By Tuesday, his cap charge will be $4 million. Here's why:

By designating him a "post-June 1 cut," the Jets opted to spread his unamortized bonus money ($12 million) over two years instead of one, with the proviso that the bookkeeping doesn't go into effect until June 1. It gives them more flexibility in 2020. The downside is an $8 million charge in 2021. Yes, he was a costly mistake. But you already knew that.

3. Sign of the times: The Jets still haven't signed any of their nine draft picks. The slow pace is unusual for them, but it's a leaguewide trend this year. As of Friday, only 51 of 255 picks had signed. Without practices and minicamps because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions, teams are taking their time.

4. Half full on Darnold: With a pandemic-induced sports void, we've heard a lot of chatter from talking heads on a variety of air-filling topics, including NFL quarterback rankings. Sam Darnold's name has been mentioned a lot on TV, with a mix of opinions about his potential -- mostly positive, some negative. Allow me to toss two facts into the conversation. From Week 10 through Week 17, when the Jets posted a 6-2 record, Darnold:

  • Ranked 10th in passer rating (93.3), ahead of Seattle's Russell Wilson (90.7) and three former NFL MVPs, Atlanta's Matt Ryan (86.4), Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (84.0) and Tom Brady (80.9), then of New England.

  • Ranked 19th in Total QBR (50.8), slightly ahead of San Francisco's Super Bowl starter, Jimmy Garoppolo (48.3).

Darnold's encouraging finish should fuel optimism for 2020, especially with an improved offensive line. (I still have questions about his wide receivers.) New backup Joe Flacco, during a videoconference with reporters, was asked for his take on Darnold. While acknowledging he hasn't studied him closely, Flacco said:

"My impression is that he's a young guy that has really good athleticism, can move in the pocket, can move out of the pocket, can create things for himself, has the arm strength to do what he wants with the ball both in the pocket and out of the pocket. I would say the biggest thing is to get him to play as fast as possible so he can use all those things he has in his toolbox, all those natural talents he has, just to be able to get out there and play football like he knows how to."

5. Baltimore reunion: One of the most important newcomers is wide receiver Breshad Perriman, the former Ravens first-round disappointment who flashed potential late last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Flacco saw Perriman at his low point when they were teammates; Perriman struggled through injuries and dropped passes from 2015 through 2017. Listening to Flacco, it sounds like Perriman needed to get out of Baltimore to save his career.

"When things don't quite work out with the team that you got drafted by, sometimes it leaves weird feelings in different people's mouths," Flacco said. "For Breshad, I'm sure it was a tough time for him and that may affect you in different ways. I'm glad to see him go out and have success. I'm sure his confidence is up there where it needs to be.

"I honestly think him moving on was probably a good thing for him mentally and everything else. I'm glad to see where he's at. I think he can be an asset for us."

The Jets are hoping Perriman can replace Anderson as their deep threat.

6. Oh-for-Joe: Coach Adam Gase has yet to comment on Flacco, but we can probably put words in his mouth: This guy was a pain in the rear when we played him in Miami.

Flacco was 2-0 (combined score: 78-6) against Gase's Miami Dolphins, with five touchdown passes and one interception. For his career, Flacco is 6-0 versus Miami.

7. One fewer loophole for Belichick: One of the new rules adopted by the NFL competition committee prevents teams from manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running. You might recall Gase got burned in a tit-for-tat with Patriots coach Bill Belichick during the Jets' 33-0 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 7.

Late in the game, Belichick took a delay penalty on a punt to give his punter more room. Gase declined the penalty. Refusing to be outfoxed, Belichick ordered an intentional false start, which Gase also declined. In the process, though, the Patriots burned time off the clock -- a loophole that was addressed by the competition committee.

Belichick got a taste of it in the playoffs when Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel pulled it on him.

8. Enunwa's post-football dream: Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, already ruled out for 2020 because of a neck injury, will have a lot of time on his hands during the season. He hopes to be around the team as much as possible. He also would like to start exploring his second career -- sports-performance therapist.

"Helping guys with their mental health, that's my goal," he said in an interview with ESPN.

Enunwa hasn't given up on the idea of playing again, but that seems unlikely. Kudos to him for recognizing there's life after football. Too many players don't.