By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
Leaving no stone unturned in his quest to improve the New York Jets, General Manager Mike Maccagnan has scoured the earth for available talent to add to the roster. Since the season came to an abrupt end against the Bills in Week 17, the team has made several minor moves with the goal of improving their depth and hopefully finding a diamond in the rough.
While most of these bottom-of-the-roster maneuvers do not amount to much more than training camp fodder and practice squad members, there is always a chance that one or more of these players can find a role on the team and make an impact.
The most recent of these acquisitions is the signing of Calgary Stampeders’ star DE/OLB, Freddie Bishop III, who has excelled in the Canadian Football League after having a cup of coffee with the Detroit Lions in the spring of 2013, following a successful college career at Western Michigan University, where he accounted for 15 total sacks and 31.5 tackles for a loss.
Following a modest 2014 season with the Stampeders that saw Bishop record 16 tackles and 3 sacks, Freddie had a breakout year in 2015, which included 44 tackles, 11 sacks and a forced fumble.
After working out for seven NFL teams, the 6’4 265-pound Bishop has landed a spot on the Jets roster. Hoping to get anything close to the production that the Dolphins have gotten from Cameron Wake, who starred for the BC Lions of the CFL prior to being signed by Miami in 2009, the Jets have brought Bishop aboard on a two-year deal.
Wake struck out with the Giants in 2005 after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State. He then moved on to the CFL in 2007, eventually making his way to the Dolphins where he has recorded 70 sacks and 16 forced fumbles in seven seasons with the team.
With the need for speed being a top priority for Gang Green in 2016, the Jets also recently signed RB/KR/WR Dri Archer to a reserve/future contract, giving the speedster a shot at making the team in training camp.
The incredibly versatile 24-year-old, a 3rd round pick by the Steelers in 2014, never really caught on with Pittsburgh, recording just 10 carries for 40 yards along with 7 catches for 23 yards in his rookie season before being used solely as a kick returner in 2015, when he averaged 25 yards per return. He was waived by the Steelers on November 5th, 2015.
Despite the fact that he has not had any significant success on the NFL level to this point, Archer was a highly-touted RB/WR out of Kent State University who ran a 4.26 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2014, the second fastest time ever recorded (Chris Johnson 4.24) since the NFL began electronic timing.
In 2012, his junior season with the Golden Flashes, Archer rushed for 1,429 yards and 16 TD’s, adding 561 yards receiving and 4 TD’s along with 16 kick returns for 591 yards and 3 TD’s. The Jets could sure use the help in the return game, and if he can find a way to fit in to the offense he can be a dangerous weapon in Chan Gailey’s spread system.
Realizing that the halfback position is in question for the 2016 season, given the fact that Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell are set to test the free agent market, the Jets also recently signed Dominique Williams to a reserve/future contract.
The New Jersey native, who went undrafted out of Wagner College in 2014, signed with the Vikings after the draft. He spent most of his time with Minnesota on the practice squad, seeing his only game action in the preseason during his two years in the league.
While at Wagner college, Williams ran for 4,435 yards and 42 TD’s, reaching the 100-yard mark on 26 occasions.
Another area of need for the Jets is the Tight End position. The team’s current crop of TE’s combined for 8 catches and 95 yards with one touchdown on the season, which is a number that needs to improve dramatically in the 2016 season.
In order to attempt to fill that hole on the roster, the Jets signed former Packers Tight End, Brandon Bostick. An undrafted free agent out of Newberry College, Bostick spent the entire 2012 season on Green Bay’s practice squad before recording 9 catches for 123 yards and two scores in the next two seasons.
Best known for misplaying an onside kick against the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game in January of 2015, Bostick was released by the Packers a month later. Last offseason he caught on with the Vikings before being cut in August. Bostick then had two stints on the Cardinals practice squad, prior to being released on December 1, 2015. One week later, the Jets scooped him up and stashed him on their practice squad, with the hopes that he can make the team in 2016.
Always looking to add depth to the offensive line, the Jets brought Lawrence Okoye into the mix On November 13, 2015. The former British track and field athlete, who also had a promising career as a junior rugby union player, is also the British record holder in the discus event, recording a throw of 67.63m at the McCain Jumps & Throws Fest.
Okoye spent a little over two years in San Francisco before he was eventually waived at the start of the 2015 season. He also spent a little over a month on the Cardinals practice squad.
After never playing American football before catching on with the 49ers in 2013, he is an intriguing physical specimen, but also a major project that is not likely to ever see the field for the Jets.
In addition to the above mentioned players, the Jets have added a handful of others to the training camp roster and are sure to add some more as time goes on, especially after the 2016 draft.
Despite the fact that the odds are against many of these names making the final 53-man roster for the 2016 season, Mike Maccagnan has shown that he is not afraid to kick some tires in the hopes of solidifying the roster.
My money is on Dri Archer and Freddie Bishop being the most likely to make the team when all is said and done, but only time will tell.