Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers will adorn unusual colors next season. Plenty of legends of the game have done the same for the New York Jets.
Tom Brady is (more than likely) a Buccaneer. Phillip Rivers is (more than likely) a Colt. Jason Witten is (more than likely) a Raider.
Brett Favre was a Jet.
The moves of NFL free agency will leave some familiar names in not so familiar colors. Plenty of legends of the game have donned the New York Jets green under forgotten circumstances…
QB: Brett Favre (2008)
Favre’s first of many retirements ended with his New York arrival. Traded from Green Bay in exchange for a fourth-round pick, it looked like Favre hadn’t lost a step. Stellar play from Favre (including a six-touchdown pass game against Arizona and a win over the 10-0 Tennessee Titans) and the defending champion New York Giants had some metropolitan football fans thinking about a “Subway Series” Super Bowl.
However, Favre faltered over the final portions of the season. He threw nine interceptions over the final five games of the season, as an 8-3 record became 9-7 in a hurry. The final insult came during the last weekend in East Rutherford. A Miami Dolphins team overseen by Chad Pennington (whom Favre had supplanted as the Jets’ starter) topped the Jets 24-17 to steal the AFC East crown. Pennington threw the touchdown pass that put the Dolphins ahead for good, while Favre threw three interceptions, the last coming in Miami territory late in the fourth quarter. Favre would venture to Minnesota after the season, leading to the Jets’ drafting of Mark Sanchez.
RB: Chris Johnson (2014)
Released by Tennessee after the 2013 season, Johnson sought redemption with the Jets after running for a career-worst 1,077 yards. The rusher known as “CJ2K” (after earning 2,000 yards as a Titan in 2009) inked a three-year, $27 million deal with the Jets in April 2014, but failed to recapture his spark.
Johnson reached 100 yards only once in a Jets uniform and eventually saw his carries given to the emerging Chris Ivory. He ran for 663 yards and scored only two touchdowns in his lone Jets season, as New York opted out after his single year. Johnson spent three injury-riddled seasons with Arizona before retiring in 2018.
WR: Derrick Mason (2011)
The aging Mason appeared to have something left in the tank, evidenced by several strong seasons in Baltimore. He was one of the Ravens’ casualties after signing of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement but signed with the Jets shortly after in an attempt to find a playmaking receiver for young Sanchez.
Instead, Mason reportedly clashed with Jets coaching staff. He denied the rumored confrontations, but was eventually sent off to the Houston Texans after five games. His Jets career ended with only 115 yards on 13 receptions. Upon retirement, Mason referred to his Jets experienced as “a cluster you-know-what“.
WR: Art Monk (1994)
There was no doubt the Hall of Famer receiver Monk, winner of Super Bowl 26 in Washington, had lost a step or two. At 36, Monk had posted career-lows in nearly every major offensive statistic (41 receptions, 398 yards, 2 touchdowns) and the rebuilding Redskins thus opted to move on.
Monk joined the Jets for a year and actually managed to improve on his numbers (46 receptions, 598 yards, 3 touchdowns). It was in a Jets uniform that Monk managed to score his last NFL touchdown, a 15-yard pass from Boomer Esiason in a loss to New England.
TE: Bubba Franks (2008)
When Favre arrived in New York, the Jets added one of his favorite receivers during the latter stages of his Green Bay career. Franks and Favre had united for 32 touchdowns over eight years at Lambeau but the magic failed to translate in the metropolitan area. Stuck with younger representatives Chris Baker and Dustin Keller, Franks earned only six receptions during his only season with the Jets, all of which came in September.
C: Ryan Kalil (2019)
The offensive line negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era was perhaps best personified by the desperation signing of Kalil. One of Joe Douglas’ first moves upon his mid-summer hiring was to call the five-time Pro Bowler Kalil out of retirement, but things never truly panned out. Injuries limited Kalil to seven games before one final ailment placed him on IR in November. He’s currently a free agent, but his return is anything but guaranteed.
G: Pete Kendall (2004-06)
A former first-rounder better known for his exploits out west in Seattle and Arizona, Kendall was serviceable in three years with the Jets. However, things came to an unceremonious end when a contract clash with the front office went public. He would later be traded to Washington, where he spent the final two seasons of a lengthy career.
G: Alan Faneca (2008-09)
Just because your ultimate glory days didn’t happen in New York doesn’t mean everyone on the list has to be a disappointment. Faneca spent a decade clearing the way for the Pittsburgh Steelers before joining the Jets in 2008 on a four-year, $40 million deal. He was briefly the highest-paid lineman in NFL history before Miami broke that mark with the deal bestowed to top overall pick Jake Long.
Faneca paved the way for Thomas Jones and younger Jets rushers Leon Washington and Shonn Greene. He was also able to continue a streak of nine consecutive Pro Bowls begun in Pittsburgh. The Jets’ selection of Vlad Ducasse in the second round of the 2010 draft led to Fancea’s release, leading him to spend one final season with the Cardinals.
T: Ryan Clady (2016)
Injuries cost Clady a chance to play in the Super Bowl during his final season in Denver. He was traded to the Jets for a late draft pick and played serviceably over a final year before a torn rotator cuff cost him the final seven games of the 2016 season. The Jets would decline a second-year option on Clady, who retire shortly after.
T: Damien Woody (2008-10)
A former Patriot came to the Jets and actually helped the New York cause. He was part of the Jets’ pair of runs to the AFC title game, but the latter portion was stifled by a torn Achilles suffered in the 2010-11 wild card win in Indianapolis. Woody retired shortly after and then went on to become an analyst at ESPN, a role he continues to this day.
DL: Kony Ealy (2017)
Ealy never fulfilled the true potential he flashed in Carolina. After the Panthers traded him to New England, the Jets added him for the 2017 campaign one day after he was waived by the Patriots. Ealy would go on to play the final season of his NFL tenure in New York, the most notable highlight being the second interception of his career earned against Jacksonville. More recently, Ealy was on the roster of the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks before the league suspended its inaugural season earlier this month.
DL: Trevor Pryce (2010)
The lengthy NFL career of Pryce ended in New York. Appropriate, as Pryce was born in Brooklyn. The two-time Super Bowl champion had just four tackles in ten games with the Jets, but one of them was a sack of Carson Palmer earned during the Jets’ 26-10 win over Cincinnati during the Thanksgiving holiday proceedings.
DL: Hugh Douglas (1995-97)
Unlike many on this list, the two-time All-Pro representative Douglas began his career with the Jets, rather than ending it. Douglas, in fact, won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors with the team, joining them as the 16th overall pick of the 1995 draft.
Alas, Douglas seemed to discover his true potential once he donned a different shade of green, that of the Philadelphia Eagles. Douglas was involved in a trade that also involved the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their eventual yield was a quartet of picks that became Dorian Boose, Kevin Williams, Casey Dailey, and Eric Bateman. Douglas, on the other hand, would go on to earn 54.5 sacks over six seasons in Philadelphia, including 15 during the 2000-01 campaign.
DL/LB: Jason Taylor (2010)
It was clear that Taylor’s best days were behind him, but five sacks with the Jets allowed him to climb all the way to eighth on the NFL’s all-time leaderboard. In December, a Taylor safety earned via a tackle on Mewelde Moore helped seal the deal in an upset win over Pittsburgh, one that more or less solidified the Jets’ playoff status.
LB: James Farrior (1997-01)
Another case of what might’ve been, Farrior was the Jets’ top draft choice in 1997. He struggled to gain a regular role in the Jets’ defensive rotation, but his true potential was on full display during the 2001 season, when he earned 142 tackles, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Up for free agency immediately after, Farrior fled to Pittsburgh where he built a length career that caused many to forget all about his New York exploits.
LB: Pepper Johnson (1997-98)
Best known for his exploits with Bill Parcells’ Giants, Johnson’s on-field NFL journey came to an end with New York’s green team, reeled in by the Big Tuna after he took the Jets’ job. Johnson played two final season with the Jets and later became the team’s defensive line coach for two seasons. His most recent coaching tenure took him to the AAF (Memphis Express) and XFL (Los Angeles Wildcats).
LB: Jason Babin (2014)
A two-time Pro Bowler, Babin would probably appear on similar lists for several other teams as well. His penultimate NFL season came with the Jets, one that featured a big stop in the team’s opening weekend win over Oakland. He was one of the Jets’ final training camp cuts the next season and spent his final year between Baltimore and Arizona.
CB: Ty Law (2005, 2008)
After a decade of torturing Jets passers, Law provided the same services for the Jets on two separate occasions. Unlike most castoffs from the New England dynasty, Law managed to maintain the same level of Patriot production, and perhaps even exceed it. In his 2005 stay with the team, Law put up a career-best 10 interceptions and went on to become the only Jet voted to the Pro Bowl that year.
Salary cap reasons forced the Jets to bid Law farewell, but he wound up spending his final season with the team in 2008, his penultimate season in the NFL.
CB: Aaron Beasley (2002-03)
Best known for being a strong secondary prescience in the earliest days of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Beasley played two years with the Jets in the latter stages of his career. He would earn 128 tackles and five interceptions in his couple of seasons.
S: Steve Atwater (1999)
Weeks after helping the Denver Broncos beat the Jets in the 1998-99 AFC title game, Atwater joined the Jets for their next campaign. He would play 12 games in green, earning 36 tackles. Atwater is set to become one of the newest inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.
S: Ronnie Lott (1993-94)
Lott went out the right way, despite his final years not coming in his traditional color of San Francisco 49er red. In his first of two seasons with the Jets, Lott set career-bests in tackles (123) and forced fumbles (4). The penultimate interception of his career was a big one, taking the ball away from old nemesis Phil Simms in what became a 10-6 win for the Jets over the Giants in a battle for the Meadowlands on Halloween.
K: Raul Allegre (1991)
There may be no better, more literal one-game wonder in Jets history than Raul Allegre. Best known for booting the Giants to two Super Bowls, Allegre was in semi-retirement when the Jets called upon him in wake of Pat Leahy’s diagnosis of sciatica. He came up big at the best possible time, kicking three field goals in a victorious regular season finale in Miami. Allegre kicked both the tying and winning field goals, the latter coming in overtime and allowing the Jets to clinch a playoff berth.
P: Dave Jennings (1985-87)
A New York native, Jennings spent the entirety of his career in the metropolitan area. After four Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls with the Giants, Jennings spent the final three years of his service in green. Tragically, Jennings passed away after a battle with Parkinson’s disease at age 61.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags