NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Friday that Jets linebacker Avery Williamson had suffered a torn ACL during the team’s preseason game against the Falcons on Thursday. The injury happened with 3:52 left in the second quarter, at which point every defensive starter except for Williamson had been subbed out of the game. On a pass to Atlanta running back Brian Hill, Jets cornerback Tevaughn Campbell made a questionable decision to dive after a ball he likely wasn’t going to reach, and collided into Williamson’s knee.
The decision to leave Williamson out on the field during that play was rather inexplicable—insofar as anything that a side under Gregg Williams can really be explained—and Adam Gase didn’t exactly instill confidence in his staff’s ability to not make dumb mistakes with his explanation.
“Everybody’s slotted for a different amount of snaps,” head coach Adam Gase explained Thursday night. “Some guys we’re trying to get with certain packages and you’re a 1 in this group, a 2 in this group. The last two weeks, he’s kind of stayed in there a little longer.”
Of course, nothing Gase could have said would change the reality that the team’s defensive leader is out for the year. While it certainly sucks for a team that expected an inside linebacker duo of Williamson and C.J. Mosley to wreak havoc this season, it’s most certainly even worse for the guy who actually got injured.
This isn’t to say a torn ACL is the end of Williamson’s career—the linebacker is only 27 years old and he reportedly left the locker room on Thursday thinking the knock was minor—but it may be the end of his time with the Jets. The contract he signed with the team in March 2018 was for three years and worth $22.5 million, but with only $16 million guaranteed. It’s that last part that really puts Williamson in a shitty situation. The guaranteed money is scheduled to run out at the end of this season, and then the Jets have choose between either keeping him on the roster for an $8.5 million cap hit, or cutting him for a $2 million hit in dead cap. Given that team executives are already apprehensive when it comes to paying players who are actually healthy, the team will probably choose the latter.
While it’s highly likely that Williamson would find a spot on an NFL roster again, any attempt at a comeback will probably be done at a discount considering how those at the bargaining table will likely weigh the linebacker’s injury very heavily in negotiations.
So basically, a talented player could lose out on millions because of his coach’s boneheaded decision to let him play with a bunch of second-string scrubs in a preseason game. No wonder others were so quick to spurn the Jets this offseason.