Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
There was bad news for the Alliance of American Football this week, as it was revealed that the fledgling spring league was suspending operations with just two weeks remaining in the regular season. With the future of the league in serious doubt, it will be interesting to see whether any of the standout performers will make it back to the NFL.
With the Jets still on the lookout to bolster their overall depth and create some competition in camp, could they be in the market for any of the players who've been playing in the AAF over the past couple of months? Let's consider who might be sought after.
A potential reunion with some former Jets?
Several Jets players, including some former draft picks, took part in the AAF. While Christian Hackenberg's struggles received the most attention, some other former Jets were among the league's most productive players.
Quarterback John Wolford, who played for the Jets in preseason last year, led the league with 14 touchdown passes. Wide receiver Charles Johnson, who almost made last year's roster out of training camp, comfortably led the league in receptions (45) and receiving yardage (687). Former Jets Zac Stacy and Jalin Marshall were in the top 10 for rushing and receiving yards, respectively. Also, former draft picks Trevor Reilly and Dylan Donahue made an impression on defense with Donahue racking up three sacks in the last four games.
These were players the Jets once saw some potential in but cut ties with for a variety of reasons, so could their success in the spring league earn them a second look?
Standouts from around the league
Looking beyond the players who have already been in the organization, you can expect a few teams to be in the market for some of the league's other top performers. Could any of these players interest the Jets?
Rashad Ross is a 29-year old with only nine catches at the NFL level, but he was sixth in the NFL in kick return yardage in 2015. He made an impression as a receiver in the AAF with a league-leading seven touchdown receptions. He also showed his big play capabilities, as his 16.7 yards per catch average was the fourth-highest for anyone with more than 10 catches.
There were no kickoffs in the AAF but Greg Ward Jr. and Ron Brooks impressed on punt returns. Each had a touchdown return and were in the top five in punt return average, with the 23-year old Ward leading the league at 15 yards per return. Ward, a converted quarterback, impressed in camp with the Eagles over the past few years, but didn't make their roster. He had 22 catches in AAF action this spring. Brooks is 30 and has started eight games at safety in the NFL, including five with the Eagles in 2016.
Edge rusher Jayrone Elliott led the league with 7.5 sacks. The 27-year old had four sacks in his first three seasons after being undrafted out of Toledo in 2014. However, he has only played in one NFL game since 2016.
Nick Truesdell was the league's outstanding tight end, having led the league with 24 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns. The 29-year old has never played in the NFL, although he has spent time with the Colts and Vikings. His is a story of perseverance as he's been with nine different professional franchises, including some in the Arena Football League and the Indoor Football League. The Jets were reportedly one of nine teams to offer him a contract two years ago.
Linebacker Beniquez Brown, 25, was out of the NFL in 2017 and 2018 having been released in final cuts during his rookie season. He was everywhere on defense in the AAF, as he was second in the league in tackles, adding three sacks, a fumble recovery and four passes defensed. He was also tied for the league lead with five special teams tackles.
On the defensive interior, Mike Purcell was singled out as one of the league's most dominant players against the run, while also adding three sacks. The 27-year old has been on six NFL teams and was most recently with the Chiefs before being cut in September.
Finally, in the secondary, Keith Reaser was one of the top performers at cornerback, while safety Derron Smith had the highest grade in the entire league according to Pro Football Focus. Both Reaser and Smith are 27-year old former late round draft picks and each intercepted three passes in AAF action.
The AAF was valuable to these players, some of whom would have struggled to get another look from NFL teams. Have any of them done enough to earn another shot with a team like the Jets, though?