The Jets’ latest addition adds to a strength rather than addressing a weakness.
The team agreed to a deal with defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins on Sunday, a source confirmed. It is two-year deal worth up to $17 million, according to a source.
Rankins spent the past five seasons with the Saints, who drafted him No. 12 overall in 2016 out of Louisville. The 6-foot-2, 305-pounder started 33 games in New Orleans, but only one in the past two years. Injuries have been an issue for Rankins. He was on injured reserve in both 2019 and 2020 with ankle and knee injuries.
He has dealt with something called Haglund’s deformity that has put stress on his Achilles tendons. He ruptured his left Achilles in the 2018 playoffs and then had preventative surgery on his right Achilles in 2019. The condition is basically an enlarged bone spur that puts stress on the Achilles tendon. Rankins has said the issue is now resolved.
“The medical term for it is I had a Haglund’s deformity,” Rankins said last year. “It’s like an extra bone growing off the heel and it was essentially slowly but surely pushing my Achilles off the insertion point. So it wasn’t a matter of if I was going to tear it, it was going to be a matter of when.”
The Jets must be betting on Rankins, who turns 27 next month, now being able to stay healthy. He is known as a strong run defender but does not generate much of a pass rush. Pro Football Focus credits him with 43 total pressures in 738 snaps in the past two years. The site ranked him the 65th interior defensive lineman out of 125. He has 17.5 sacks and 44 tackles for loss in his career. His best season was in 2018 when he had eight sacks and 12 TFLs.
Defensive line is one of the Jets’ few strengths. They have a blossoming star there in Quinnen Williams in addition to Folorunso Fatukasi and John Franklin-Myers, who have both shown promise. New coach Robert Saleh’s defense with the 49ers had many good defensive linemen, though, so the Jets saw the chance to give Saleh some more help at the position with Rankins.
Rankins figures to start alongside Williams in Saleh’s 4-3 defense. He has some positional versatility, though, and can move outside. The Jets added defensive end Carl Lawson last week, giving him a three-year, $45 million deal to bolster their pass rush.