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Sheldon Rankins, Alvin Kamara

Getty New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (#41) blows past Sheldon Rankins (#98) and the New York Jets run defense on December 12, 2021.

Heading into the 2022 offseason, there were several potential cut candidates on the New York Jets roster.

As it stands on March 23, however, general manager Joe Douglas has yet to release anyone in an effort to save cap space and quite frankly, he hasn’t needed to. The Jets are doing well financially despite spreading around a large chunk of cheese in free agency once again.

It’s allowed them to hold onto the veteran depth that they have — for now — and one team leader has officially survived free agency: DT Sheldon Rankins.

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Rankins Will Return for Year 2

When the ex-New Orleans Saints’ first-round pick signed with the Jets in 2021, he praised the culture that Robert Saleh was building in New York. It might have been awkward if Gang Green decided to cut Rankins just one year later, but ESPN’s Rich Cimini explained why that’s no longer a possibility.

He tweeted: “A portion of Sheldon Rankins’ 2022 base [salary] ($1.25M of $4.5M) became fully [guaranteed on] the 5th day of the league year. Previously, it was [guaranteed] for injury only. He’s not going anywhere. Solid player, team is thin at DT.”

Douglas had built a clear “out” into Rankins’ two-year deal that would allow NYJ to part ways halfway through and after a lackluster opening act, it was certainly a possibility. The Jets would have saved $5.441 million and change by releasing the vet but decided he was more valuable on the roster.

Rankins will look to bounce back in year two of Saleh’s system, after a rough 2021 with Pro Football Focus grades in the 30s on run defense.

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Void Remains at Defensive Tackle

Although a Rankins’ return helps bolster the defensive tackle position, it still ignores the obvious need for a run-stuffer. Foley Fatukasi walked in free agency and he was the only big-time lane clogger on this D-line.

The others are all pass-rushers at heart, and it showed in 2021 as the Jets got steamrolled by sturdy rushing attacks (Patriots, Colts, Broncos, Saints and more). Rankins was a major culprit against the run, as we mentioned above, but the others weren’t much better.

Here were last year’s PFF run-defense grades for the current interior defensive linemen on the roster:

  • John Franklin-Myers, 75.5 (as an edge rusher).
  • Quinnen Williams, 59.0.
  • Nathan Shepherd, 46.8.
  • Jonathan Marshall, 38.3.
  • Rankins, 34.4.
  • Tanzel Smart, N/A.

Outside of ‘JFM’ — if he moves back inside — these DTs were all horrendous in this area. Whether it was overcommitting on pass rush or missing their gap assignments, this must improve in 2022 if the Jets are going to turn things around on the defensive side.

The popular free-agent candidate was former San Francisco 49ers run-stuffer D.J. Jones, but he signed elsewhere. Some other suggestions have been a minor pickup like Danny Shelton or a blockbuster trade for a player like Grady Jarrett.

Of course, Douglas and Saleh could be planning to draft their next starting nose tackle. The big man on campus is Georgia star Jordan Davis, who would cost a first-round draft pick. You could also target this position in the second or third.

Whatever route the Jets decide to go, this position must be addressed. It is their number one need as we head into April because if you can’t stop the run, you’ll give up a ton of points in this league.

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Source: Heavy

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