With the Jets drafting Quinnen Williams third overall back in April, it was apparent he would be the team's next nose tackle. But the Jets still brought back 33-year-old Steve McLendon on a one-year, $2.5 million deal with a $750,000 signing bonus.
McLendon may not see the same amount of playing time he was used to in the past with the Jets, but he is still a vital part of the Jets' identity. A great locker room presence, McLendon's veteran leadership on and off the field is something the team cherishes, and couldn't let go of.
A perfect example of that leadership was shown during his media availability this week during Jets OTAs. McLendon talked about how he makes it a point to preach to the younger players, ones like Williams who are in the early stages of their career.
He shared one of his NFL life lessons with reporters on Wednesday.
"One thing I tell every young guy in this locker room is that we never look on the other side of this dream," McLendon said. "We've been chasing this dream all our lives. I've been living this dream for the past 11 years; this is my 11th year in the NFL. For this offseason, to go through the free agency process for the first time, I had to start looking at it from the other side for when this dream comes to an end. Just like every road has a stop sign or a stop light, it comes to an end, but another one begins."
That is some deep stuff from McLendon, but he knows what it takes to make it in the league. Going undrafted out of Troy University, he landed with the Steelers and worked his way up from there. Any undrafted rookie will attest to the grind needed to make a name for themselves in the league.
Williams' path is on the other side of the spectrum. He was a prolific force in the trenches at Alabama, and has already been labeled by some to be an NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate before taking a snap.
But McLendon's wise words won't be falling on deaf ears. Williams has already said he wants to learn as much as he can from his new teammates, and he likely learned very fast how much they respect McLendon's leadership.
With a new coaching staff in place, new faces in the locker room, and a new GM coming in soon, team chemistry is a top priority. Players like McLendon help build those bonds that go a long way when the season is in full swing. It's why he tried to convince RB Le'Veon Bell to come to OTAs, as he wants to have him build that chemistry as much as he can before things ramp up.
At the end of the day, it's a brotherhood that he wants to see flourish.
"Do not make this locker room or this team be like crabs in a barrel," McLendon said confidently. "Help one another. Push one another. Encourage one another. Uplift one another and have so much fun because this is a brotherhood. Once you're done, you're done."