The New York Jets hired 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh on Thursday evening, and it was well deserved. Saleh is taking the Niners passing game Mike LaFleur to be his offensive coordinator, but that’s not going to be all Saleh takes with him. We’re going to go over four players who could follow in Saleh’s footsteps to New York.
The 49ers will receive a third-round compensatory pick in 2021 and in 2022. Both of those picks will be toward the end of the round. Even better news from a draft standpoint is that the Jets may overpay for one of San Francisco’s free agents, which increases the likelihood for compensatory picks in 2022.
Edge rusher Kerry Hyder
As soon as the New York Jets hired 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh for their head coaching vacancy, my first thought was, “congrats, Kerry Hyder.”
Hyder had a career year that we reviewed earlier this week. Hyder deserves a raise because he earned it with his play during the 2020 season. Hyder, who will turn 30 in May, is probably in line to make anywhere between $10-$13 million per season. It’d be surprising to see the front office fork out that much money for Hyder.
That’s not Hyder’s fault. We know how hard this team was bitten by the injury bug. Hyder appeared in all 16 games this season and his snap count increased in some games as the 49ers were thin along the defensive line. You’re not going to hear a bad word come out of anyone’s mouth when they’re talking about what Hyder did for San Franciso’s defense this past season.
Factoring in the business side of things and the 49ers' current cap situation, they’re not going to be able to afford Hyder’s services.
CB K’Waun Williams
Saleh said this about K’Waun on New Years Eve:
“The nickel position, in our scheme, we want our guys to go as fast as humanly possible. The faster you go, the faster you clear it up for other people. So, with [Williams] and with all his preparation that he goes through and his instincts and understanding of football, when he makes a decision, there is no gray area in how he reacts. Because of it, it is very easy for players to play off one another. They feel color, they feel him going. He clears up the picture. It’s when players are what we call floating that it just muddies up because you just can’t feel where he is and what he’s about to do.
The reason why everyone loves [Williams] is, especially yours truly, the speed at which he operates and the instincts and the trigger — we call it trigger — and the way he triggers on game day. And within each play, it clears everything up for everybody.”
Saleh named a blitz after Williams. The 49ers slot blitz is called a “shark” blitz because K’Waun’s nickname is “shark.”
As is the case with any free agent, San Francisco isn’t in a position to overpay. Williams is a heck of a player and means so much to this defense. They are noticeably better in all facets when K’Waun is on the field. There’s no denying that.
It’s a business, though. Williams played in eight games this season and hasn’t played a full 16-game season in his six-year career. We should expect the 49ers to make an offer at their price. The Jets currently have over $70 million in salary-cap space and that’s before they make any roster cuts. We talk about all of the other cornerbacks going to New York, but I wouldn’t rule out Williams.
Proximity and where you’re from also matter, and K’Waun is also from Patterson, New Jersey.
RB Jeff Wilson Jr.
This is dependent on what tender the 49ers place on Wilson Jr., who is a restricted free agent. If it’s not a second-round tender the Jets would be a great opportunity for Wilson Jr. to start. The Jets don’t have a running back under a contract that you could name.
New York also needs receivers, but Kendrick Bourne’s comments about fitting in elsewhere made it seem like he’s eager to sign back in the Bay Area. I think it’s naive to think that Saleh would only recruit defensive players.
Wilson Jr. is an ideal runner in a zone scheme and runs as tough as anyone. What player wouldn’t want to start?
Edge Rusher Ronald Blair
Another defensive lineman. This time, it’s Blair. The 27-year-old didn’t play a game in 2020 and had his season cut short in 2019 as well. Blair has been a favorite in the organization from Day 1 based on the way the coaches speak about him.
The Jets two starting edge rushers didn’t combine to have ten sacks this season. That’s an issue. Blair could come in on a deal slightly higher than a one-year minimum since Saleh knows Blair’s background.
Saleh famously said, “If you want to win, bring Ronnie in.” Now, he’ll have his chance.