With the Jets struggling to regain their ferocious form from 2015, one of their more feared pass rushers is looking toward greener pastures. Just in case.
On any other team, Sheldon Richardson would be the unit's top defensive end, offering a lethal combination of size and speed and a nose for the quarterback. On the Jets' stacked defensive line, he's the third man out. Leonard Williams, who leads the team with six sacks, and Muhammad Wilkerson, who inked a massive five-year deal in the offseason, more often occupy the role of down pass rushers when New York switches to a 3-4 front.
Where does that leave Richardson? Well, at linebacker, both outside and inside.
While Richardson no longer gets to the QB as often as he used to -- he has just 1.5 sacks in seven games -- he claims his diverse skill set and willingness to play in coverage will pay off in the long run.
"I think it'll give me more money. Just to be honest," Richardson said Friday, per the New York Daily News. "My film don't lie. You took a three-technique that was drafted in the first round and put him at outside linebacker and he held his own, that's just building up a resume for that."
In a league in which hybrid players are all the rage -- safety/linebackers, tight end/wideouts, whatever Terrelle Pryor and Kevin Hogan are -- Richardson's ability to not just rush the passer from an OLB position, but also play inside in coverage, as he did when David Harris sat out against the Cardinals, is a valuable asset. That he enjoys being used in various formations and positions doesn't hurt either -- "I actually like covering people. It's fun."
With Williams and Wilkerson under contract until 2019 and 2021, respectively, Richardson will have to make a hard case to management that his unique range of services should be well compensated by the time free agency rolls around following the 2017 season. The Jets have substantial dollars tied up on the defensive line. Is Richardson worth a top-tier contract when his rookie deal expires, especially considering his off-the-field history?
He sure thinks so.
"I'm good at everything, I'm great at three-technique," Richardson added. "I'm gonna just leave it at that. I know where my home is and I know I'm more effective at three-technique, but I hold my own playing anywhere in the box."