The New York Jets finished the 2012 season with six defensive linemen on the roster and could possibly return everyone next season. The defensive line might not be the strongest unit on the team, but it has the brightest future.
Quinton Coples started off slow but came on strong in the second half to conclude a very good rookie season. Coples was the team’s first-round pick out of North Carolina in the 2012 NFL Draft, and finished his season with 30 tackles and 5.5 sacks. He played in all sixteen games making two starts expect him to be a starter next season.
Mike DeVito is the only free agent on the line, with him being an unrestricted free agent. DeVito has been with the Jets his entire career, and is one of the best run-stuffing linemen in the league. DeVito made $2.5 million dollars this past season where he finished with 52 tackles, and should be brought back because he won’t cost a lot of money. He might not be a starter though, with the emergence of Coples, but he would provide great depth.
Second-year defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis still appears to be a work in progress. Ellis played in 12 games making 18 tackles. He has a lot of potential and size as he stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 246 pounds. He was drafted out of Hampton, so he’s still very raw. I don’t think he’s a starter yet so next season will be very big for him.
Sione Po’uha has been one of the most under-appreciated defensive tackles in the NFL but he didn’t have his best season in 2012. He missed four games and finished with 29 tackles, which was his lowest since 2008. When Po’uha is healthy, the Jets are a very tough team to run the ball against; but, due to his injuries, the Jets struggled all year. The team could save $3.8 million dollars if they cut him this offseason, but I still expect him to return possibly at a lower cap number.
The team hasn’t drafted very well the past few seasons, but they hit a home run with Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson turned out to be one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL this year and could have made the Pro Bowl. He finished with 70 tackles, 5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles, and was by far one of the best Jets this year. He’s signed through 2015, and will be an anchor for the team for years to come.
Damon Harrison made the team as an undrafted free agent from William Penn. He is a huge man standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 350 pounds. He saw limited action in five games as he spent most of the season inactive on game days, and could make his way into the rotation next year if DeVito or Pou’ha is not on the team.