Johnson played well in spurts for the Jets last season but he was never able to smoothly mesh with Chris Ivory to form the potent one-two punch ex-GM John Idzik was hoping for.
There were a couple of standout games and plays but overall the Chris Johnson experiment produced lackluster results and his presence created a logjam in the backfield, pushing Bilal Powell into an afterthought and failing to make a perfect compliment to Ivory.
Johnson would have been owed a $500,000 roster bonus if he was still on the roster on Monday, by declining the option on Johnson the Jets have freed up another $3.5 million in cap space for the Jets to use in free agency. With Johnson now officially gone, and Powell a free agent, look for the Jets to serious pursue free agent running backs Shane Vereen or C.J. Spiller and possibly consider selecting a running back in this incredibly deep running back draft class.
While the team released Johnson they decided to exercise the options on two of their linebackers, Calvin Pace and Jason Babin.
Bringing back Pace and Babin shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as the Jets need all the linebacker help they can get and while there are a handful of excellent free agent outside linebackers there’s no telling how man of them will actually hit the open market and be open to playing for the Jets. Exercising the options of Babin and Pace gives the Jets backup options incase they can’t sign any of the big name free agents like, Justin Houston (likely to get the franchise tag), Jerry Hughes (likely to stay in Buffalo), Pernell McPhee (will have a long list of suitors), Jason Worilds to name a few.
Both Pace and Babin received $250,000 option bonuses when the Jets picked up their options but neither of their contracts will prevent the Jets from letting them go if the team is able to successfully upgrade the outside linebacker position through free agency.
Of course this year’s draft class is also deep at the outside linebacker/edge rusher position, so the Jets could fill that need in the draft but in that case they would probably like to keep Pace and Babin around for at least one more year to start the season and help bring the rookie(s) along.