The New York Jets are finally fixing their weak pass rush, after signing free-agent linebacker Antwan Barnes. Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News reported the details of Barnes' signing. Frankly it is a bargain deal for Gang Green, paying him only $900,000 initially and then $1.2 million each of the next two years.
For a modest sum, head coach Rex Ryan is getting the kind of pure pass-rusher his defense has lacked for too long. Since Ryan arrived in New York in 2009, the Jets have failed to exceed 40 sacks in a season and no one defender has posted double-digits in quarterback takedowns.
Whether he has operated a 3-4, 4-3 or a hybrid blend of both fronts, Ryan hasn't been able to produce a standout pass-rush threat. He hasn't had the right athletes at the edges of his defense.
Barnes has the potential to emerge as the outside rush ace Ryan needs to make his schemes more effective. He is a natural rush linebacker with the initial quickness and agility to routinely collapse the edges of a pass-pocket.
Barnes combines his off-the-snap speed with solid power and is particularly dangerous when dipping underneath overmatched offensive tackles. He has most often been used as a situational pass-rusher, usually as part of nickel packages.
He has been quite prolific in this role and registered 11 sacks for the San Diego Chargers in 2011. The Jets need this kind of pure pass-rusher.
Ryan still excels at designing intricate blitzes that can create free paths to the quarterback for cat-quick rush ends like Barnes. He knows how to use him, having coached Barnes as defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens in 2007 and 2008.
Ryan can utilize Barnes in several ways across his various fronts. He could deploy him as the wide-angled rush end on the open-side of his '46' alignment. Obviously, when the Jets show a 3-4 look, Barnes would act as a standup rusher.
Ryan will be able to move him all over a formation and create mismatches in offensive protection schemes. Because of his familiarity with Ryan's multiple schemes, along with his own natural knack for getting to the quarterback, Barnes should quickly become a key player for the Jets.
If Ryan channels Barnes' very specific set of skills the right way, this could prove to be one of the best bargain signings of this free agency period.