By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
There is no doubt in the minds of anyone who follows the New York Jets that they are in need of a pass rusher at the outside linebacker position. They have been searching for an answer at the position for many years, and now that they have a dominant defensive line, adding a threat on the outside could truly bring this defense to the next level.
Even in the event that they bring back unrestricted free agent Calvin Pace for a ninth season with the team, they are going to need to focus on the present as well as the future at the position.
Pace is a solid veteran but he no longer poses a legitimate threat to opposing teams’ quarterbacks. He could certainly come back as a veteran leader and role player, helping the younger guys learn the game on the NFL level, but it is time to pass the baton to the next starter at the position.
Currently on the Jets roster at the position for 2016 is Lorenzo Mauldin, Trevor Reilly and Josh Martin, Deion Barnes and Freddie Bishop III.
Mauldin, who is entering his second year in the league, has shown flashes of excellence and has the inside track for one of the two starting spots. Reilly figures to be nothing more than a special teams ace and a part-time role player. Barnes and Martin have a long way to go in their development and do not appear ready to take on a starting role. Freddie Bishop, who has excelled in the CFL, is still a virtual unknown on the Jets roster.
Although there are a number of fascinating possibilities available in the upcoming draft, it is imperative to go into the selection process with the smallest amount of holes on the roster possible. For this reason, the Jets would be wise to scour the free agent market for a solution prior to the draft.
One rather interesting option for the Jets in 2016 is Green Bay Packers free agent, Nick Perry. Chosen with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2012 draft, the former USC Trojan has yet to live up to the lofty expectations of the Packers.
However, he has proven to be a solid player in his four years with the team, and at the age of 26, still has room to improve on the way to reaching his full potential. At the very least, he would be an affordable young veteran with upside, who could fill a starting spot on the team. This way Maccagnan does not have to reach in the draft just for the sake of filling a need.
During his college career with the Trojans, two years of which he served as a starting defensive end, Perry accumulated 103 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and 21.5 sacks. In his senior season with USC, he had 54 tackles with 13 for loss as well as 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, catapulting him to his first round status in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Making the switch from college defensive end to 3-4 OLB in the NFL has not been without its ups and downs for Perry. Most of his playing time over his four years with the Packers has been in a rotational role, and he has only served as a starter in 16 of his 46 games with the team. Nick has also missed 18 regular season games due to foot, ankle, knee and shoulder injuries, although most of them were in his first two years in the league.
The good news about his limited playing time and early career injury history is that he should be an affordable option at the OLB position, which is exactly what the Jets need being that they are not too far under the salary cap. On top of that, Perry still has the capacity to grow as a player. In his limited playing time with the Packers, he has posted 99 tackles, 16.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and five forced fumbles.
Known mostly as a pass rushing specialist coming out of college, Perry has worked diligently on his run defense and his ability to play in space over the past four seasons, and is poised to break out if given the proper opportunity.
While he is still somewhat of a question mark as a full-time starter, the Jets would provide him with a chance to win a starting job. Being that Nick is still far south of 30, and he should be available at a reasonable price, it would be prudent for the Jets to at least kick the tires.
You can read my article from 1/30/16 about the possibility of bringing back Pace for one more year and some other options at OLB by clicking below:
You can read my article from 2/13/16 on a possibility at OLB in the NFL Draft by clicking the following link: