MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Sitting on a gold mine: Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams has a lot riding on Monday night's Pro Bowl announcement. If selected, it will ensure a pay raise of about $5 million for his fifth-year option (2023). But the overarching question is: Will he get a new contract before then?
Williams, in his third year, is eligible for a new deal as soon as the season is over. That doesn't mean he will get one. As we saw with former Jets safety Jamal Adams, general manager Joe Douglas won't give out a mega-contract just because the fan base is clamoring for a splashy commitment.
My sense on Williams is this: I don't think the Jets will shut the door in 2022, but they're more likely to wait until 2023, when the salary cap is expected to increase significantly because of added TV revenue.
You could make the argument to get it done sooner, rewarding arguably the best player on the team.
The only interior defensive lineman with more sacks than Williams (13) over the past two years is Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald (16). Williams, who turns 24 on Tuesday, has an "old school" mentality, coach Robert Saleh said. He showed it last week by playing through a shoulder injury. Off the field, he's the Jets' nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year. The Jets, who have a history of not paying their best players, could start to change the narrative by taking a proactive approach with Williams.
Of course, they don't have to do anything because Williams is under contract for 2022 ($10.6 million cap) and 2023, assuming they exercise his fifth-year option by May. (They will.) Because he has reached the playing-time threshold for 2019 first-round picks, his fifth-year salary will be the Tier II level -- projected at $10.9 million, according to Jason Fitzgerald of Overthecap.com. He jumps to Tier III if he reaches at least one Pro Bowl in his first three seasons. That would increase his 2023 salary to about $16 million, fully guaranteed, per Fitzgerald.
By doing nothing and using the franchise tag in 2024, the Jets could keep Williams for three years at $35.4 million, a conservative projection based on no Pro Bowl and the 2021 tag amount for defensive tackles ($13.9 million). That would be team-friendly, considering Williams probably could land something in the $20 million-a-year neighborhood right now. Four defensive tackles, led by Donald, make at least $20 million per year.
Assuming it happens, it will be the biggest contract in franchise history (based on average per year), surpassing linebacker C.J. Mosley's ($17 million).
2. Too many voices? After the season, Saleh needs to take a hard look at streamlining the communication in the quarterback room. Zach Wilson has too many voices in his head -- offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, senior offensive assistant Matt Cavanaugh (he runs the quarterback meetings), quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese and recently hired assistant John Beck (formerly Wilson's personal coach).
Even if they're preaching from the same gospel, the message can get distorted because there are so many layers surrounding Wilson. Saleh said, “Anytime there’s too many chefs in the kitchen, it can ugly,” but he doesn’t believe that is the case. He said they work well together, which is what you’d expect him to say during the season. Wilson said he’s comfortable with the arrangement, but he’s a rookie. He likely doesn’t know any better. His performance on the field suggests something isn’t right.
3. Did you know? The Jets hope to snap a 10-game division losing skid, the longest streak by any AFC East team since the league went to the eight-division format in 2002.
4. Draft implications: The Jets, currently sitting in the No. 4 draft slot, still have a chance to climb to No. 2 -- an important spot if they're in the market for an edge rusher. (Who isn't?) The consensus top two players in the 2022 NFL draft are edge rushers, Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon).
The Jets (3-10) have to leapfrog the Houston Texans (2-11) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11), but it could happen because the Texans and Jaguars square off Sunday and the Jets host the Jaguars next week. If the Jaguars fall to the Texans but beat the Jets, and the Jets lose out to finish 3-14, there's a good chance they will be No. 2 based on strength of schedule.
Remember, head-to-head doesn't matter when breaking ties in the draft order; the team that has the easier schedule wins the tiebreaker. The Jets have an ever-so-slight advantage as of now.
Who says there's no reason to scoreboard watch?
5. In need of a reality check: Wide receiver Denzel Mims has a high opinion of himself for someone who has yet to score an NFL touchdown.
"I think I'm a very good player," he said. "I don't think there's too many people like me. It will be shown."
Better question: Where? I don't think it will be with the Jets.
Prediction: After signing a free-agent receiver and drafting one, the team will send him to the Carolina Panthers during the draft, reuniting him with former college coach Matt Rhule. The Panthers were interested in him before the trading deadline.
Clearly, Mims hasn't been embraced by the Jets' coaching staff, which benched him last week after back-to-back penalties. The talent is there, coaches say, but is he willing to pay the price? The NFL isn’t a one-day-a-week job, and Mims still is learning the level of commitment it takes to thrive in the league.
6. Lack of 2020 vision: The Jets like to promote the impressive playing-time totals of their 2021 draft class, but you don't hear much about the 2020 class -- and there's a reason. There's not much there. Only two of the nine picks have exceeded 181 offensive or defensive snaps this season -- fifth-round cornerback Bryce Hall (840) and third-round safety Ashtyn Davis (567). The rest of the group has combined for only 303 snaps.
Hall has solidified himself as a starter, but Davis is playing only because of injuries. Unless he has a fantastic finish, the Jets need to go out and get two safeties in the offseason. Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich gave a lukewarm evaluation.
"There have been moments where he's absolutely showed us what he's capable of becoming, a rangy safety with speed and instinct and ball skills," Ulbrich said. "And then there's times where there are parts of his game that absolutely have to improve." He mentioned tackling and eye discipline. Tackling is kind of an important thing for a safety.
Davis was the 68th pick, acquired in the Leonard Williams trade. That would be a big miss.
7. Tackling machine: Mosley has 30 tackles in the past two games, the best two-game stretch of his career.
8. Miami blues: It's hard to believe, considering how much both teams have struggled in recent years, but the Jets haven't won in Miami since the final game of the 2014 season. Quarterback Geno Smith pitched a perfect game (158.3 passer rating), but it wasn't enough to save coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik, both of whom were fired the next day.
9. Father knows best: Tight end Ryan Griffin said his father keeps a running list of the quarterbacks Griffin has played with in his nine-year career. The list is up to 20 -- 12 with the Texans, eight with the Jets. Griffin called it a "revolving door."
Why keep a list? Griffin said his father is "jealous" because other tight ends have enjoyed quarterback stability, most notably Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce, who was drafted the same year as Griffin (2013).
"I've had nine years of this," noted Griffin, who said he's not complaining.
10. The last word: "He's got an unshakable faith that he's going to turn around the New York Jets. We all believe him." -- Griffin on Saleh