Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
While the Le'Veon Bell signing received the most attention, the biggest financial outlay for the Jets this offseason was the C.J. Mosley deal. The former Baltimore Ravens linebacker signed a five-year contract worth up to $85 million. Will it prove to be worth it though?
There's no doubting Mosley's talent, as he's been a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro in four of his five seasons. The Ravens went to the postseason twice in those five years with Mosley anchoring their defense, including an AFC North division title win in 2018. He has nine interceptions, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in his career, so he should provide some impact plays.
The Jets are most likely to employ Mosley as the middle linebacker in Gregg Williams' new system. In fact, there's a good chance Williams may have identified Mosley as an ideal central cog to install his scheme around. Ideally, he would have had Anthony Barr as well, but that move obviously fell apart at the 11th hour. Another clue as to how important the Jets saw having a player of Mosley's caliber on the team comes from the size of his contract.
That contract, which pays Mosely a guaranteed $51 million over the first three years, is the largest ever for an inside linebacker and looks likely to reset the market at that position. Carolina's Luke Kuechly - widely regarded as the league's best inside linebacker - was signed to the previous largest back in 2015 but will presumably re-up for a sum that exceeds Mosley's deal in a year or two. Of course, the cap has risen a lot since 2015 and, according to Over The Cap, Kuechly's contract was worth 8.6 percent of the cap based on average annual value when signed, while Mosley's is only just ahead of that at 9.0 percent.
Kuechly's recent history underlines one of the major concerns with a deal of this size for someone who plays this position. He missed 10 starts between 2015 and 2017 due to multiple concussions and a torn labrum. It's a risk to give such a high amount to a player who could miss significant time through injury, and some believe that inside linebacker is a position where injuries are inevitable. However, Mosley has started 80 of 83 regular season or postseason games, so maybe his durability is just better than Kuechly.
It's arguably telling that nobody at that position has received a deal bigger than Kuechly's in each of the last three free agency cycles. However, perhaps that has more to do with the fact that no other linebacker due for a new deal has come close to challenging Kuechly's status as the best in the league. Maybe Williams believes Mosley could make a case for himself over the next few years.
When you have as much cap space as the Jets entered the offseason with, you can afford the luxury of overpaying someone to ensure their services. This is justifiable if they play a crucial role or you have a massive need at the position. It can prove to be worth it, as was the case in 2009 when many experts thought the Jets had overpaid Bart Scott on the first day of free agency. Scott ultimately eased the transition into Rex Ryan's system, helped change the culture and proved to be worth every dollar as he helped the Jets reach two AFC title games.
While Mosley provides them with an obvious upgrade, it's not like the Jets had a gaping hole at inside linebacker with Avery Williamson having performed well in his first year as a Jet and Darron Lee posting easily the best season of his career so far in 2018. In order to justify the expenditure, that means Mosley's role is probably viewed as critical to the success of the defense.
Williams is a coordinator who places a lot of trust into his middle linebacker to call his defense and may have identified that Williamson had issues with this role last season. Following a loss to New England in November, Williamson conceded that he needed to be clearer in communicating adjustments to his teammates and admitted he set the front wrong a few times. There were also multiple examples throughout the season of blown coverages in the secondary that seemed to be caused by communication breakdowns.
Mosley has fantastic instincts, is quick to diagnose plays and his Ravens teammates and coaches lauded his leadership and communication. If Mosley can improve this aspect of the Jets' defense, this could prove to be the kind of move that benefits the whole defense in addition to providing an upgrade at one position. However, if Mosley proves unreliable or gets hurt, that becomes extra costly.