Carl Lawson, Jets Reportedly Agree to 3-Year, $45M Contract in 2021 Free Agency

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2021

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson (58) warms up before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Aaron Doster/Associated Press

Veteran defensive end Carl Lawson has agreed to a deal with the New York Jets, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

The three-year, $45 million pact reportedly includes $30 million in guarantees.

CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported shortly before news of the contract there was a "strong sense among other teams" that Lawson would wind up back with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ralph Vacchiano @RVacchianoSNY

Jets were going strong after Carl Lawson and Trey Hendrickson all day -- two defensive ends they think will be great fits in Robert Saleh's defense. They land Lawson, whom the Bengals were trying to lure back. Hendrickson remains unsigned, for now.

The 2020 season was the 25-year-old's most productive in the NFL, thanks in part to his making 11 starts (eight more than he had through his first three years). He finished with 36 tackles, 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

From the moment the Bengals selected Lawson in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, he has been an effective pass-rusher. His 8.5 sacks as a rookie were second on the team behind Geno Atkins. A torn ACL ended his second season after seven games, but he returned to register 10.5 sacks between 2019 and 2020.

Pro Football Focus' Ben Linsey wrote in January that the Auburn product would likely be undervalued heading into this offseason:

"There is an argument to be made that Lawson is the best pure pass rusher to hit free agency this offseason. Since entering the league in 2017, his pass-rush grade on true pass-rush sets ranks in the 96th percentile among all edge defenders—firmly in elite territory. Injuries and inconsistent play have limited his opportunities to begin his career, but he finished the 2020 season with a career-high 723 defensive snaps and 84.9 pass-rushing grade. The arrow is pointing up."

Lawson's usage is somewhat telling. He has made 51 appearances, and only on 28 occasions did he see the field for at least 50 percent of the Bengals' defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference.

He isn't a great run defender and provides little in pass coverage. He has not only failed to intercept a pass but also hasn't recorded an official pass defended. Aside from pressuring the quarterback, he won't bring much else to New York's defense based on his Bengals run.

What Lawson does well, though, he does very well. He provides immediate help off the edge for the Jets and should be a steady contributor when attempting to collapse the pocket. If he grows into a more balanced defender, then it will be an added bonus.