One of the more divisive debates among New York Jets fans this off-season is the value of keeping safety LaRon Landry, who is reportedly seeking around 6 million dollars per year as a free agent. Landry quickly became a fan favorite last season with his intimidating, physical brand of football. He finished with 99 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, 8 passes defensed and 1 touchdown. Yet, is he worth 6 million per year, particularly for a team with so many salary cap constraints and holes on their roster?
The short answer is no, he isn’t. Our friends from NY Jets Cap outlined Landry’s Pro Football Focus rankings among fellow safeties and while Pro Football Focus is far from gospel, it is a useful resource that in this situation portrays a few accurate points. First off, Landry is an average coverage safety. Despite having terrific athleticism and speed, he does get beat down the field and doesn’t play the football in the air well. Second, while Landry is a vicious hitter he doesn’t always take the best angle to the football in run support, leading to missed tackles and occasional big plays from the opposing offense.
What you see with Landry is a player who is popular because of his style over substance and because he was such a dramatic upgrade over Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith in a starting role. Landry is a good starting safety in Rex Ryan’s system. Is he an elite safety? No. Is he a top ten safety in the NFL? No. His game isn’t complete enough to be considered a player at that level.
You can argue that he brings an element of intimidation to the Jets secondary which limits the effectiveness of certain offenses and players. However, it is worth remembering the following production from opposing players against the Jets in 2012 -
Rob Gronkowski had 6 catches for 78 yards and 2 touchdowns in the only game he played against the Jets this year.
Aaron Hernandez averaged 45 yards receiving in the 2 games he played against the Jets this year.
Owen Daniels – 4 catches, 79 yards, 1 touchdown
James Casey – 4 catches, 53 yards
Antonio Gates – 2 catches, 44 yards, 1 touchdown
Anthony Fasano and Scott Chandler both scored touchdowns against the Jets this season.
Obviously this all doesn’t fall on Landry but it is inaccurate to act like opposing tight ends went into a shell against the Jets secondary.
There is also durability concerns about Landry who prior to this year missed 15 games over the previous two seasons. He played all 16 games on a “show me” contract but investing 6 million per year on him over 4-5 years could be a risky proposition.
Let’s not forget when the Jets invested a boatload of money in Santonio Holmes a few years back after one strong season in a walk year, which conjoined with the abomination of a contract Mark Sanchez received is forcing the Jets to consider trading Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie, along with likely letting Landry and many of their UFAs to walk.
Landry at 6 million per year is poor value. A contract like that is going to make it difficult to resign Muahmmad Wilkeson, who is an elite player at his position, in a couple of years. Nevermind re-up Quinton Coples contract the year after if he continues to develop at the proper rate. If you could get Landry back at around 4 million year, with incentives built in to protect the team from injury, then it is something worth considering.