The Jets have given another indication that linebacker Darron Lee doesn’t have a long-term future with the team.
Friday was the deadline to pick up his fifth-year option and the Jets declined, league sources said. This comes as no surprise, as they have tried to trade Lee and are expected to continue to see if they can get something for him.
Lee is under contract for the upcoming season, but he will be a free agent in 2020 now that the Jets have passed on his $9.5 million option. They have needs in the secondary and on the offensive line. If they could flip Lee for a cornerback or center, they certainly would consider it.
Lee hasn’t lived up to expectations after the Jets selected him with the 20th pick in the 2016 draft. He didn’t help himself by being suspended for the final four games of the 2018 season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
His days as a Jet appeared to be numbered after they signed four-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley to a five-year, $85 million deal in free agency. Mosley will be the Jets’ defensive leader and play-caller, with Avery Williamson manning the other inside linebacker position.
“I’m not going to sit here and speculate about players per se, like whether they’re going to be on or off the roster,” general manager Mike Maccagnan said last week. “Darron has played and done some good things for us. We’ll see how this unfolds going forward. I think we have some very good competition at a lot of positions. We have some very good depth at a lot of positions right now. We’ll see how it unfolds going forward.”
It wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. But Lee is only 24, and if the Jets keep him, he likely will have a role under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Lee was deactivated for a game during his second season because he showed up late for practice. He also was involved in an altercation at a music festival, and had to be restrained by Leonard Williams.
The suspension in 2018 came after he was playing the best football of his career. He showed improvement in coverage in 2018 and had three interceptions, including one for a touchdown. He also had 74 tackles, third-best on the team.
The Jets are not necessarily in any rush to trade Lee. They could wait and see if a market develops for him as training camp nears or before the season.