Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
Brian Poole made some headlines this week with a one-handed interception, which he returned 15 yards for his first career touchdown to ice the win over the Raiders.
However, Poole has quietly been one of the Jets' most consistent players all season. The 27-year-old slot cornerback is only on a one-year deal though, so should the Jets be looking ahead to next year and trying to ensure he remains in the fold?
There's no question that Poole has been one of the best offseason moves made by the Jets this year. He was a key contributor for the Falcons over his first three seasons, having joined them as an undrafted free agent. However, they surprisingly let him walk and the Jets were able to pick him up on a one-year contract worth just $3.5 million. That's proven to be a massive bargain.
Having proven himself this season, there is sure to be more of a market for Poole if he is allowed to hit free agency, so the Jets would be smart to lock him up early if they get the chance.
While Poole's interception on Sunday was his first of the year, he's made plenty of other impact plays, including a safety and a forced fumble. He's also broken up five passes, registered three tackles for loss and contributed three quarterback hits as a pass rusher. Poole is also currently second on the team for total tackles.
However, it's been his damage limitation in coverage that's arguably had more of a positive impact than his statistical production. Poole hasn't allowed any slot receivers to have a big game against the Jets this year and hasn't given up any long plays. He's also only been flagged for three penalties and has only been beaten for one touchdown.
NFL contract analysis site OverTheCap.com actually calculates Poole's value based on his performance this year to be over $13 million. While he's unlikely to earn anything close to that in his new deal, he's clearly in line for a significant pay bump from his current $3.5 million.
The obvious comparison for Poole would be his predecessor as the Jets' primary nickelback; Buster Skrine. The veteran, who is now 30, joined the Chicago Bears on a three-year, $17 million deal in the offseason.
With Poole being younger, he might be able to get a longer deal than Skrine, while also having a strong case for a higher annual value. Skrine gave up a handful of touchdowns per year, multiple big plays and an average of eight penalties per season in his four years as a Jet, so Poole has been much more consistent. While Skrine has played well since joining the Bears, Poole has arguably been even better with the Jets this year.
Perhaps a better comparison would be Skrine's predecessor in Chicago; Bryce Callahan. Denver signed Callahan to a three-year deal, but for $21 million, so he is earning just over a million more each year than Skrine. Although he has missed the entire season with a foot injury, Callahan's performances leading up to last year's free agency were better than Skrine's and more in line with how Poole has produced in 2019.
In a bidding war, and with the benefit of inflation, Poole could command even more money than Callahan in free agency because he's likely to be one of the top slot specialists available if he hits the open market.
If the Jets were to lose Poole, that would be a setback to their rebuilding effort. While some of the cornerbacks currently on the roster -- Maurice Canady, Nate Hairston and Arthur Maulet -- have limited experience of playing inside at the NFL level, each of them is probably more comfortable on the boundary and would represent a downgrade if they had to replace him. Letting him walk would therefore needlessly create a hole at a key position.
It would be wise for the Jets to lock Poole up before it gets to this point. He seems to be a good fit with the Jets and might be tempted to re-up with them if he gets a deal somewhere close to that of Callahan. However, if the Jets only offered him the same deal Skrine signed with the Bears, there's a danger he could see that as a low-ball offer and feel compelled to take his chances on the open market.