Rankins, 26, was a first-round pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2016 and looked poised to become one of the better interior defensive linemen in football after posting eight sacks in 2018. But an Achilles tear and other injuries limited him to just 22 games the past two seasons, costing him a starting job in New Orleans.
A healthy Rankins back in top form, however, would give the Jets a dynamic interior duo alongside Quinnen Williams.
Jason B. Hirschhorn @by_JBH
Sheldon Rankins is an intriguing buy-low. Since his 2018 Achilles tear, he has just 43 pressures on 489 rushes (8.8% pressure rate). However, he had 46 pressures on 446 rushes (10.3%) in 2018 (before injury). Maybe that guy is gone, but the Jets aren't paying much to find out.
The Jets have been busy this offseason, adding upgrades to the defense via free agency:
- Defensive back Lamarcus Joyner: One year, $3 million
- Middle linebacker Jarrad Davis: One year, $5.5 million
- Defensive end Carl Lawson: Three years, $45 million
- Cornerback and special teamer Justin Hardee: Three years, $6.8 million
The trio of a healthy Rankins, Williams and Lawson could be a real terror for opposing teams if they hit their collective potential. That would be huge for a Jets team that gave up 275.6 passing yards per game (28th in the NFL) last year, posted 31 sacks (tied 20th) and had just 19 takeaways (tied 22nd).
The ability to generate pressure with just the front four remains wildly valuable in the modern, pass-heavy NFL. The Jets are putting the pieces in place to do just that in 2021.