PHOENIX -- When the Jets signed linebacker C.J. Mosley in free agency, it looked like there was no room left on the team for Darron Lee.
And Jets GM Mike Maccagnan did little to stop that speculation when he spoke to the media at the NFL owners meetings on Monday afternoon.
Asked if Lee, the Jets' 2016 first-round pick, still had a place on the Jets, the best Maccagnan could say was, "I think it will work itself out over time." Asked directly if he planned to shop Lee and try to trade him, Maccagnan said only that he's "happy with where the roster is right now."
That's hardly a ringing endorsement of the 24-year-old linebacker, who doesn't appear to have a place in the Jets' starting lineup anymore. Mosley clearly took his spot the moment he signed a five-year, $85 million contract with $43 million guaranteed. And Lee can't even move over to the other inside linebacker spot, because that's held by Avery Williamson, who signed a three-year, $22.5 million contract with $16 million guaranteed just one year ago.
Cutting Lee would make no sense, since he's only due a salary of $1.8 million this season and his cap number is very affordable at $3.1 million. But he clearly has no long-term future with the Jets, and they seem very unlikely to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, which they'd have to do by May 2.
So what will they do with him?
"Quite frankly, Darron's contract is not a very big contract," Maccagnan said. "So it just gives us a lot of pieces there right now and we'll figure it out as we go forward."
Ironically, Lee is seemingly being pushed aside after what had been shaping up as his finest season with the Jets. He was actually becoming something of a force on the Jets' defense and was dramatically improved in pass coverage, where he had three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
But Lee's season ultimately ended on a negative note when he was suspended for the final four games of the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. That was just the latest misstep in his career. He was also benched for a game in 2017 after he was reportedly late for a practice. And in June of that year, a video surfaced showing Leonard Williams pulling him away from what a witness described as an "aggressive" argument with a woman at a music festival.
The NFL investigated and eventually cleared him of any wrongdoing, but it was still a terrible look.
It's unclear how much any of that factored in to the Jets' decision to replace him. But it's clear they have, and that his future in New York is very much in doubt.