Carl Lawson had about 45 million reasons to sign with the Jets, but he said one of the biggest was the opportunity to play for Robert Saleh.
The Jets' new edge rusher did his own background work on the Jets' new coach. Lawson knew about Saleh, but he also watched YouTube videos of past interviews that Saleh did, and wanted to play for him.
"I just came away like how impressive he was, the message that he was preaching and even in the video I felt like he was talking to me," Lawson said during a Zoom call Thursday. "In the back of my mind, it kind of started there.
"Then seeing he was here and there was availability at the spot, I was like, ‘Wow, thinking about that scheme, that perfectly fits my skill set. Those are the first two things that attracted me here but there’s millions of other things that really attracted me here."
The Jets signed Lawson to a three-year, $45 million contract - $30 million guaranteed - to be a big piece in Saleh’s 4-3 scheme.
Lawson, 25, said it’s "pretty obvious" the money the Jets gave him factored into his decision and how much they wanted him "speaks volumes to me." He also said the Jets appealed to him because his mother is from New Jersey and his father’s family relocated from Jamaica to New York.
Lawson also said that playing with tackle Quinnen Williams was another "attractive option." The Jets are hoping the two of them together will wreak havoc on quarterbacks and running backs.
Lawson didn’t put up big sack numbers during his four seasons with the Bengals – he totaled 20, including 5.5 last season. But he was among the leaders in quarterback pressures, hits and knockdowns last year. His production and effectiveness could improve with Saleh pushing him.
"I think it’s going to do wonders for my career," Lawson said. "I’m excited to play here. I’m excited to be a Jet. I’m coming with all the optimism in the world."
Lawson added, "I could come in here with all the smiles in the world and all the enthusiasm in the world, but at the end of the day there’s business and there’s football and it’s hard to mix those two. When you have a guy that’s that passionate about it, it makes you want to come in here and work each and every day, it makes want you to come in here and help build a culture."
The Jets’ three other free-agent deals to this point also became official on Thursday. Wide receiver Corey Davis signed his three-year, $27.5 million contract, linebacker Jarrad Davis inked his one-year, $5.5 million deal and special teams ace Justin Hardee signed a three-year, $6.75 million pact.
General manager Joe Douglas still has areas to address, most notably cornerback, the offensive line and running back. But edge rusher was a void the Jets needed to fill, and they did so with a rising young player who only wants to get better.
"The biggest strength that I have is the willingness to improve and get better along with my athletic traits," Lawson said. "I have all the athletic traits to be as good as I want to be, but you pair that with the commitment to get better.
"The contract was great but that was more so for establishing myself and being able to take care of my family. Now another thing that comes along with the contract is I get to just worry about my craft. Each and every day I get to worry about just I have the money to go if I want to take care of my body extra, I can use all those resources to propel my career."
Hardee’s all heart
Hardee, the Jets' new gunner, was asked what makes him so good on special teams. He stood up and pointed to his heart and said he didn’t want to disappoint his late mother.
"I won’t back down," Hardee said. "I’m a maniac on the field. I play like I’m trying to feed my son. I play like I told my mother that I was going to play hard. She’s up in the sky watching me. I cannot disappoint her . . . I will not be denied."