How Good Is Justin Hardee?

The New York Jets acquired All-Pro special teams player Justin Hardee from the New Orleans Saints in the offseason leading up to the 2021 NFL season. Hardee was widely regarded as a team captain and top gunner in New Orleans.

In spite of his lackluster defensive contributions, the Jets were so impressed with him that they gave him a three-year, $6.75 million contract. Hardee has appeared on 120 defensive snaps during the course of his first five seasons in the NFL, but he has only participated in two defensive plays with the Jets thus far in 2021.

Hardee had a season that was a bit unpredictable. There’s considerable validity to the idea that he should have been the squad’s de facto leader. This is a quality that is difficult to quantify but crucial nonetheless.

He also had the most special teams tackles (10), five more than Del’Shawn Phillips. Ten tackles put him tied for 13th in the NFL, five behind the league leader J.T. Gray, who was ironically brought in to replace Hardee in New Orleans.

How Good Is Justin Hardee?

On the other hand, Hardee only earned a 74.5 special teams grade, placing him 105th out of 546 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus rankings from last season. Hardee had problems in two different areas.

On special teams, he had the most penalties (five) and missed tackles (five) for the Jets. It may be argued that, as a gunner, he is expected to miss some tackles. However, his 5 missed tackles matched for the third-most in the league. With 5 infractions, he tied for second-most in the league.

Both of those spots require some tidying up. When playing on special teams, it is especially risky to let the opposing team gain yardage.