Jets give Carl Lawson huge contract in free agency. Is he team's long-awaited edge rusher?
The New York Jets have been searching for an edge rusher for most of the past two decades.
The search might be over.
The Jets and former Bengals defensive lineman Carl Lawson agreed to terms on a contract Monday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. NFL Network, which first reported the agreement, reports Lawson will $45 million over three years, with $30 million in guarantees and a maximum value of more than $47 million.
It's a huge deal. But one that could transform the Jets' defense.
Lawson, who turns 26 in June, hasn't put up big sack numbers in recent years. But that's because his role with the Bengals wasn't to get to the quarterback. He as more of an edge-setter, the kind of player who kept the offensive line occupied long enough to free up opportunities for his teammates.
Even so, Lawson still had 5.5 sacks in 2020 with 32 quarterback hits, more than any other edge rusher in the league. He also had one of the top pressure rates from the outside. At 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, Lawson has the combination of speed, strength and agility to make life very difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
But what should be even more exciting for Jets fans is the idea of pairing him with Quinnen Williams. This is going to give opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks plenty to worry about, as Williams was beginning to find ways to get to the quarterback more and more at the end of last season. Playing alongside William has the chance to make Lawson better, but it should help out Williams and everyone else on the Jets defensive line.
If there's any reason for concern with Lawson, it's that he hasn't yet to have a breakout seas. After 8.5 sacks as a rookie in 2017, the fourth-round pick out of Auburn has only 11.5 sacks total in the next three seasons. But he passes the eye test, he's won over the analytics crowd and he gets to opposing quarterbacks more often than anyone.
The $15 million annual value on Lawson's contract is $2 million per year more than the Raiders committed to Yannick Ngakoue, who has been more productive over his career, and $3 million less than the Bucs gave to Shaquil Barrett, who struggled early in his career but had a breakthrough once joining the Bucs.
The Jets hope that Lawson will have a similar breakthrough, and perhaps for the first time since 2015 -- when Muhammad Wilkerson had 12 sacks -- they'll have a player finish with more than 8.5 sacks.
Andy Vasquez is the Jets beat writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Jets analysis, news, trades and more, please subscribe today and download our app.