Will McDonald

Jets Sign Top Two Draft Picks, Wrap Rookie Contracts

The Jets are among the Saints and Packers as the most recent teams to conclude the signing of their 2023 draft classes. Early this morning Connor Hughes of SNY, reported that Iowa State first-round defensive end Will McDonald had officially signed his rookie contract, while ESPN’s Rich Cimini quickly added that Wisconsin second-round center Joe Tippmann was soon to follow, wrapping up New York’s latest rookie class.

While McDonald’s deal underwent the usual scrutiny of a first-round selection, Tippmann was drafted in an area of the draft that has seen some stalls in negotiations. Guarantees authorized for Panthers rookie wide receiver Jonathan Mingo has many rookies selected around similar draft slots pushing for similar contract details.

McDonald left Ames not only as the school’s all-time sack record holder but also the holder for the all-time lead in the Big 12, surpassing Von Miller‘s Texas A&M total of 33.0 sacks by one (coincidentally, the one sack earned in the four games of his redshirted true freshman year won him the record). He earned all those accolades despite the fact that he didn’t play football until his junior year of high school. The inexperience tends to show at times. He has all the tools of a strong NFL pass rusher but has yet to put them all together.

McDonald should get plenty of run in a deep rotation of Jets pass rushers. He might not get to start with Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers currently penciled in for the first-team defense, but McDonald and last year’s first-round pick, Jermaine Johnson, form a dangerous, young pair of backups that could result in an unrelenting barrage for opposing tackles.

In the second round, New York nabbed the draft’s top center prospect in Tippmann. There are two main differences between Tippmann and last year’s top-drafted center, Tyler Linderbaum of the Ravens. While Linderbaum (6-foot-2) was marked for being undersized, Tippmann (6-foot-6) is gigantic for what is normal at the position. Linderbaum had the ability to overcome his issues through effort and leverage. Tippmann, too, will need to utilize body position and balance in matchups with defensive tackles, but his quickness and strength off the ball were enough to help him succeed in his two years as a starter for the Badgers at center.

The other difference is that Tippmann may not project as an immediate starter, since Connor McGovern ranked as a top-ten center according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) last year, but he can certainly push for the job or others around it. While nearly 100 percent of Tippmann’s college snaps came at center, he has practiced at guard and tackle. He has the size and intelligence to make the move to another position, if necessary, but he’s likely only a starting-caliber player at an interior position, right now. This early, he really only slots in as talented, young depth for the interior line with the potential for more when given the opportunity.

With equal focus on offense and defense, the Jets had a sense of where they wanted to improve and added some good value at each draft slot. Here is New York’s 2023 draft class:

Round 1, No. 15 (from Packers): Will McDonald, DE (Iowa State) (signed)
Round 2, No. 43: Joe Tippmann, C (Wisconsin) (signed)
Round 4, No. 120 (from Steelers through Patriots): Carter Warren, OT (Pittsburgh) (signed)
Round 5, No. 143: Israel Abanikanda, RB (Pittsburgh) (signed)
Round 6, No. 184 (from Raiders through Patriots): Zaire Barnes, LB (Western Michigan) (signed)
Round 6, No. 204 (from Cowboys through Raiders): Jarrick Bernard-Converse, CB (LSU) (signed)
Round 7, No. 220 (from Cardinals through Raiders): Zack Kuntz, TE (Old Dominion) (signed)

Jets Rumors: Restructures, Williams, McDonald, Johnson

The Jets were recently able to create an impressive $12.7MM of cap space by reworking defensive end Carl Lawson‘s contract. The team may not be done there, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, as there are a few more veterans with lofty salaries in 2023.

After reducing Lawson’s cap hit for the year, five Jets have cap hits over $10MM for the upcoming season: linebacker C.J. Mosley ($21.48MM), left tackle Duane Brown ($11.28MM), wide receiver Corey Davis ($11.17MM), left guard Laken Tomlinson ($10.88MM), and safety Jordan Whitehead ($10.23MM).

Mosley, Brown, and Davis make the most sense for potential further restructures, not just because they have the highest cap hits, but also because they all have salaries over $9MM next season. Mosley has the highest base salary for 2023 at $17MM, while Davis is at $10.5MM and Brown is at $9MM. The bigger base salary gives them a larger amount that they are able to convert into a signing bonus in order to reduce salary cap numbers.

Here are a few more rumors concerning Gang Green:

  • Another player with a high salary and cap hit, as his fifth-year option gives him an amount for both of $9.59MM, Quinnen Williams has been the source of much stress for New York. While head coach Robert Saleh is fairly unconcerned about the situation, expecting a deal to get done, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN, the drama was only exacerbated with Williams made an adjustment to his Twitter bio earlier this week, writing, “Defensive tackle for ……………….” Many around the league are worried the situation could devolve into one resembling that of Jamal Adams, who general manager Joe Douglas had planned to make a “Jet for life” before trading him to Seattle weeks later.
  • The Jets used a first-round pick on Iowa State outside linebacker Will McDonald back in April. It puzzled some as it looked like the continuation of a number of early draft investments New York has made at pass rusher. Some wondered if they maybe planned to use McDonald as more of a complete linebacker, but according to Cimini, the Jets plan to use McDonald at defensive end. Considered to be arguably the draft’s best pass rushing prospect, McDonald will compete with recent high draft pick Jermaine Johnson and John Franklin-Myers for snaps across from Carl Lawson.
  • It was a bit of a shock last month when New York released running back Ty Johnson with a non-football injury designation just over a month after re-signing him. Johnson took to Instagram today to provide some emotional insight on the situation. According to Johnson, after tearing a pectoral muscle in a workout away from the team, Johnson was told by the Jets’ team doctor to undergo surgery. When he returned to the facility after the procedure, he was told he no longer had a spot on the roster. The Jets return a hopefully fully healthy Breece Hall, Michael Carter, and Zonovan Knight and added Pitt running back Israel Abanikanda in the fourth round of the draft.
  • New York signed former Packer Billy Turner earlier this month to help solidify their depth at offensive tackle. Thanks to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2, we’ve got a few more details on the deal. The one-year contract has a base salary of only $1.35MM with $1MM of it guaranteed. Turner can more than double that amount if he ends up active and playing next year. He’ll receive a per game active roster bonus of $17,647 for a potential season total of $300K. The deal also includes a playing time incentive that will pay him $1.5MM if he plays 75 percent or more of the team’s offensive snaps.
  • Cimini was able to provide us with details on defensive tackle Al Woods‘s recent signing, as well. The one-year deal worth $2.25MM has a base salary of $1.24MM ($500K of it guaranteed) with a $500K signing bonus. Woods will also receive a per game active roster bonus, his worth $30K for a potential season total of $510K.

Jets, Steelers Address First-Round Decisions

While the past two weeks have brought one of the more notable stretches of positive Jets publicity in recent NFL history, their Aaron Rodgers-driven momentum has experienced a speedbump. The pick-swap component of the Rodgers trade is widely believed to have cost the Jets the offensive lineman they coveted.

Robert Saleh attempted to provide a counterstrike against the notion the Steelers’ three-spot trade-up — for Georgia tackle Broderick Jones — cost the Jets their preferred pick. Part of the Rodgers trade involved the Jets swapping first-round picks with the Packers, dropping from No. 13 to No. 15, and the Steelers’ trade-up maneuver ensured the draft’s top tackles were gone by the time the Jets’ pick arrived. Gang Green took edge rusher Will McDonald at No. 15.

The difference between 13 and 15 and the way everything shook out made no difference to us,” Saleh said during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show (video link). … We’re always going to take the best player available when it presents itself. I think what surprised everybody is that you could make an argument the best available wasn’t a need. It doesn’t change what you do, but for the last two years, everybody we drafted seemed to be a need.”

The Jets added McDonald to an edge group that includes Carl Lawson, 2022 first-round pick Jermaine Johnson and versatile veteran John Franklin-Myers. Lawson’s contract expires after this season, potentially positioning the Jets to use Johnson and McDonald as their longer-term edge starters. For 2023, however, McDonald may not be a starter.

Pittsburgh did view New York as eyeing Jones at No. 15, and GM Omar Khan said the team was leery about other teams moving ahead of its No. 17 draft slot for Jones. Assistant Steelers GM Andy Weidl worked with Jets GM Joe Douglas with the Ravens and Eagles, and Khan mentioned pro personnel director Sheldon White‘s contributions when it came time for Steelers brass to determine which teams were threats for Jones.

No, no inside information, but we have Sheldon White, who’s our director of pro, does a really good job of preparing us leading into the draft as to what every team-specific needs are and what he believes their priorities are,” Khan said, via Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. “And it wasn’t just the Jets, but there were teams behind us that we had the same concern that they might come up and had a need for an offensive tackle that might come up and trade up to get Broderick.

“Again, when the opportunity was there, we just didn’t want to take the chance of waiting to see if he was there or not. But we had no inside info that’s who the Jets were gonna take. It’s just a hunch.”

It required only a fourth-round pick for the Steelers to move up three spots, via the Patriots, in Round 1. It took the Eagles a fourth to move up one spot in the first round (for Jalen Carter), and the Bills a fourth to climb two positions (for Dalton Kincaid). Some have labeled the Patriots as being eager to allow a team to leapfrog the Jets for Jones — who received high marks from Gang Green during his “30” visit. Khan said he did not discuss the Jets component during trade talks with the Patriots.

The Steelers, who had made just one first-round trade-up (for Devin Bush, in 2019) over the past 15 drafts, added Jones to likely replace two-year starter Dan Moore at left tackle. Georgia’s 2022 left-side starter, via The Athletic’s Mike DeFabo, is more likely to supplant Moore than right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, who may be a better bet to remain a starter once Jones is up to speed (subscription required). Pro Football Focus rated Moore and Okorafor outside the top 50 at tackle last season. Okorafor has operated as Pittsburgh’s starting right tackle for the past three seasons.

Jets Targeted T Broderick Jones; Latest On Patriots’ Trade Process

The Jets exited draft week with one of the biggest quarterback upgrades in many years, but they paid far more than it took to execute a similar transaction 15 years ago. It cost the Jets a conditional third-round pick to acquire Brett Favre‘s rights in 2008; the Aaron Rodgers trade cost New York a second-rounder, a likely 2024 first and a first-round pick swap this year. The last component here became key to start this draft.

Connected to tackles for weeks leading up to the draft, the Jets saw three of this year’s top four options — Paris Johnson, Darnell Wright, Peter Skoronski — go off the board between Nos. 6-11. With Broderick Jones still available at No. 14, the Steelers traded up one spot in front of the Jets — who moved from No. 13 to 15 in the Rodgers trade — to obtain the former Georgia blocker. This maneuver generated some attention in the days since.

Some around the league believe the Patriots made an effort to help ensure the Jets did not land the tackle they coveted at No. 15, with Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post noting select staffers viewed the Jets’ choice of Iowa State edge rusher Will McDonald as a bit of a panic move. The Jets were reported to have given Jones positive feedback on their “30” visit with the tackle, and La Canfora adds the team was targeting him at No. 15. Several GMs also said (via NBC Sports’ Peter King) they believed the Jets were planning to select Jones at No. 13, but the Rodgers trade gave the Packers that pick (which became Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness).

The Patriots sold the 14th pick to the Steelers, moving down three spots and picking up a fourth-round pick (No. 120) to do so. One GM whose team was monitoring a potential trade-up move with the Pats told La Canfora that Pittsburgh should have needed to fork over a third-rounder to move from 17 to 14 to land its potential long-term left tackle. The Giants gave up more than that — a fourth and a seventh — to move up from No. 25 to No. 24 later Thursday night. Rival execs viewed the Pats as giving the Steelers a friendly route to leapfrog the Jets, given the AFC East rivalry in play and Bill Belichick‘s checkered history (the 2000 hiring snafu and the 2007 Spygate whistle-blowing incident) with the organization.

Scouts Inc. rated McDonald 25th on its big board. Even if this was a perceived reach, far worse stretches have occurred in modern draft history. The undersized pass rusher joins a Jets team rostering Carl Lawson, Jermaine Johnson and John Franklin-Myers. Lawson’s contract expires after this season. At tackle, the Jets face more uncertainty.

Left tackle Duane Brown‘s two-year contract runs through 2023, but the veteran will turn 38 this year and is coming off surgery. The team declined Mekhi Becton‘s fifth-year option, and the once-promising left tackle has played one game over the past two seasons. Becton has lost more than 40 pounds and is on track to compete for the right tackle job again in training camp, but he cannot exactly be relied upon to anchor that spot. The team signed ex-Nathaniel Hackett Broncos and Packers charge Billy Turner on Monday; Turner missed nine games last season. Jones would have offered Gang Green a high-ceiling option, and if the one-year Georgia starter develops in Pittsburgh, the Jets’ 2023 draft plan will encounter more scrutiny.

The Patriots ended up with Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez at No. 17. Scouts Inc.’s No. 8 overall prospect, Gonzalez was not expected to fall that far. It is worth wondering what the Patriots’ tackle plan will be, seeing as Trent Brown is an annual injury risk and UFA pickup Riley Reiff is 34 and did not begin last season as the Bears’ right-side starter. But the Pats passed on Jones and loaded up on interior O-linemen on Day 3.

Belichick’s well-earned reputation for trading down aside, Pats director of player personnel Matt Groh said (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss) a move up was in play. The team placed Gonzalez in a cluster of players with similar value, per SI.com’s Albert Breer, who adds second-round Pats pick Keion White was in that cluster. The Pats not viewing the Jets as likely to draft a corner contributed to the team’s decision to resume talks about trading down with the Steelers, Breer adds. Belichick hired ex-Steelers O-line coach Adrian Klemm to the same position. Klemm spent last season at Oregon, helping with Gonzalez intel. The Pats had not drafted a pure corner in Round 1 during Belichick’s previous 23 years at the helm.

The Pats attempted to move back into Round 1 later Thursday night, with Reiss indicating the team engaged multiple clubs in those talks. New England’s actual trade, depending on who you believe, may have left the Jets scrambling. Jones’ Pittsburgh path could make for an interesting “what if?” for the Jets, who may need to make another tackle investment as Rodgers readies for his New York debut.

Jets Select Edge Will McDonald At No. 15

The Jets were believed to be looking to add an offensive lineman with the pick they acquired in the Aaron Rodgers trade. With all of their options off the board, the organization has pivoted to a defensive lineman. The Jets have used pick No. 15 on Iowa State defensive end Will McDonald.

Widely connected to tackles going into the draft, the Jets saw the Steelers hop in front of them — via a Patriots trade — to nab Broderick Jones. With a bit of a gulf between the top four O-linemen in this year’s class and the field, the Jets instead bolstered their pass rush by adding Iowa State’s all-time sack leader.

McDonald finished his Cyclones career with 34 sacks. All but one of those came over the past four seasons. The ex-Big 12 standout recorded two double-digit sacks seasons, showing impressive bend from his edge-rushing post. The Jets will be prepared to play him alongside the likes of Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers and 2022 first-rounder Jermaine Johnson.

This did not profile as a red-alert issue for the Jets, though Lawson’s three-year contract does expire after the 2023 season. The team’s more pressing tackle deficiency remains.

Mekhi Becton has played one game over the past two seasons, and Duane Brown is coming off surgery ahead of his age-38 season. Max Mitchell, a 2022 fourth-round pick, is coming off a season-ending blood-clot problem. While Mitchell is back in the fold, the Jets do not have surefire Rodgers protectors on either side. Three-year starter George Fant remains a free agent, and while the team could circle back to the veteran option — potentially after the May deadline for signings to count against the compensatory formula — the Jets will enter Day 2 of the draft with a glaring need.

Draft Rumors: Carter, Wilson, Bills, Dolphins

Jalen Carter visited all six teams holding a pick between Nos. 5 and 10. That sextet continues to be connected to the higher-risk prospect ahead of the draft. The Bears and Eagles are believed to be on board with the former Georgia dynamo, but the Seahawks (No. 5) and Falcons (No. 8) — barring another team’s trade-up maneuver or Carter going in the top four — would have first dibs.

Seattle is believed to be split on Carter, per ProFootballNetwork.com’s Tony Pauline. Although a report earlier this week indicated Pete Carroll is ready to pull the trigger, the Seahawks are not certain to do so. The prospect of Carter playing in Atlanta, which is near Athens, has emerged as a Falcons red flag, per Pauline, who adds Carter having left the scene of the accident that killed two members of Georgia’s program has injected more doubt from teams. Carter reached a plea deal and will not serve any jail time in connection with the two misdemeanor charges he faced. While some teams are believed to have taken the top-flight talent off their draft boards, Carter said some of his visits did not include questioning about the January night in which he was at the scene of the aforementioned fatal car accident.

Here is the latest from the draft:

  • One of the few players who may be drafted ahead of Carter, Tyree Wilson has generated some concern regarding his injury past. The former Texas Tech edge rusher is coming off a Lisfranc fracture, and Pauline adds he underwent a second surgery this offseason. Some teams, including the Cardinals and Texans, have passed Wilson on a physical. Not all did, and Pauline adds teams have looked into the back trouble he experienced last season as well. Wilson remains on track to be a top-10 pick, but his health will be worth monitoring as he begins his NFL career.
  • Staying on the topic of edge defenders, Pauline adds the Bills have done some late work on Iowa State prospect Will McDonald. Scouts Inc.’s No. 25 overall prospect, McDonald may be in range for the Bills, who hold the No. 27 pick. The Bills have been calling coaches on Iowa State’s staff to gather more intel leading up to the draft. McDonald finished as the Cyclones’ all-time sack leader (34). The Bills have taken defensive ends in two of the past three first rounds, choosing Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham. Von Miller is also coming off an ACL tear and not a lock to be ready for Week 1. Buffalo’s pass rush also struggled without the future Hall of Famer last season.
  • Closely tied to this year’s top wide receivers, the Giants may have a receiver-cornerback hierarchy going into the draft. Mentioned as preferring Jordan Addison and Zay Flowers, the Giants could pivot to corner if both are off the board at No. 25. But a corner is likely the Giants’ Plan B in Round 1, per Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano (on Twitter). The Giants have Adoree’ Jackson going into a contract year, and the team is unlikely to extend him before next year, and Aaron Robinson is coming off a season-ending injury. Big Blue did sign ex-Lion Amani Oruwariye to a low-cost deal, but this is one of the team’s neediest areas. The Giants are fans of Michigan corner DJ Turner, per Pauline, but he would not appear to represent Round 1 value. Scouts Inc. grades Turner 56th overall.
  • The Dolphins have looked into Dalvin Cook and may still be in the mix for a player not certain to be with the Vikings much longer, but the team is in on this rookie running back crop. The Dolphins have spent a lot of time with Texas A&M’s Devon Achane — he of a 4.32-second 40-yard dash — over the past two weeks, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. The Dolphins do not have a pick until No. 51; Scouts Inc. grades Achane 78th overall and fifth among this class’ backs. The consensus second-best back in the draft — Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs — also interests the Dolphins, per NBC Sports’ Peter King, but a major trade-up would likely be necessary for Gibbs.

Giants To Host WRs Jordan Addison, Jalin Hyatt; Team High On Jaxon Smith-Njigba?

Although the Giants made a surprising voyage to the divisional round last season, they are still a team featuring some clear needs heading into the draft. A No. 1-caliber wide receiver is one of them.

The Giants have done their homework on this year’s wide receiver crop leading up to pre-draft visit season, spending time with each of this year’s top-rated wideouts previously. But they will continue to exhaust resources to gauge pass catchers’ viability. USC’s Jordan Addison will meet with the Giants next week, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt is also headed to New York for a Wednesday visit, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

One of the fastest receivers in this year’s class, Hyatt said his hamstring tightened up before he ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash time at the Combine. He did not run at Tennessee’s pro day. While both NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah and ESPN’s Scouts Inc. have Hyatt outside the top 40, ESPN.com’s Matt Miller views the 176-pound burner as a potential top-25 selection. The Bills, Cowboys and Saints have met with Hyatt as well.

Hyatt broke through for a stunning performance against Alabama — in Tennessee’s October win — with a 207-yard, five-touchdown display. Hyatt rode that outing to the Biletnikoff award. Last year represented Hyatt’s only notable run of production with the Volunteers; prior to his 1,267-yard season, the 6-foot target did not top 300 receiving yards in 2020 or ’21.

The Giants, who hold the No. 25 pick, dined with Jaxon Smith-Njigba ahead of the Ohio State alum’s pro day last month. While they are looking into Addison, Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano adds Smith-Njigba is the receiver the Giants most likely view as this class’ top prize. A hamstring injury nagged Smith-Njigba throughout last season, but his 2021 — when the slot player’s 1,606 receiving yards dwarfed the totals of first-rounders Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave — still has his stock high. Smith-Njigba might not be available when the Giants pick, and his skillset might not be ideal for a team hoarding slot types already (Sterling Shepard, Parris Campbell, Jamison Crowder to go with Wan’Dale Robinson). A number of teams are looking into the latest draft-eligible Buckeyes receiver talent.

New York is also doing work on front-seven prospects. Defensive lineman Bryan Bresee and edge rusher Will McDonald are on the radar, with SI.com’s Albert Breer indicating (via Twitter) the Iowa State edge visited Monday while the Clemson interior defender is in town today.

Once a top-five national recruit, Bresee bounced back from an injury-plagued 2021. Grading as Jeremiah’s No. 37 prospect, the 298-pound D-tackle could profile as a late-first-round prospect. McDonald saw action in five Cyclones seasons and finished two of them (2020, 2021) in double digits for sacks. The 6-foot-4 edge combined for 26 tackles for loss in that span as well. Both Scouts Inc. and Jeremiah slot McDonald — the Cyclones’ all-time sack leader (34) — 26th in this class.

The Giants are fairly well-invested on both their defensive line and at outside linebacker. They used the No. 5 overall pick on Kayvon Thibodeaux last year and have former second-rounder Azeez Ojulari going into his third season. Up front, the team has Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence. Both players are going into contract years, though Lawrence extension talks have begun. A Williams extension also would reduce his mammoth 2023 cap number ($32.26MM).