7 of the most underrated Jets of the last 20 years

SNY

Over the last two decades, the Jets have had some very good teams, and some not quite as good.

Overall, Gang Green finished .500 or better in 11 of the last 20 seasons, though the team hasn't finished with a winning record since 2015.

Along the way, the Jets have had plenty of star players don the Green and White, but they've also had some very valuable role players who may not have gotten all the accolades that they deserved during their tenure in New York.

So here's a look at seven of the most underrated Jets of the last 20 years, presented in no particular order, along with a handful of honorable mentions ...

WR Jerricho Cotchery (2004-10)

Cotchery was the Jets' leading receiver for three straight seasons from 2007-2009, but he never seems to really get his fair due. 

The Jets had some strong receivers around him, whether it was Laveranues Coles, Braylon Edwards, or Santonio Holmes. And while those players may have made some flashier plays along the way, Cotchery, initially a fourth-round pick in 2004, had some very, very good seasons with Gang Green.

In seven years as a Jet, Cotchery caught 358 passes for 4,514 yards (which ranks ninth in franchise history) and 18 touchdowns. He went on to play five more seasons in the NFL, three with Pittsburgh and two with Carolina, but his numbers with the Jets were easily the best of his career. 

DT Steve McLendon (2016-present)

McLendon fought his way from an undrafted free agent with Pittsburgh in 2010 to an eventual starter for the Steelers. He then cashed in with the Jets in 2016, signing a three-year, $12 million dollar deal to be the team's starting nose tackle.

During his time as a Jet, McLendon has been as solid as his 6-foot-3, 310-pound frame. He's appeared in 59 games over four seasons, and while he has just 7.5 sacks with Gang Green, getting to the quarterback is not what the Jets want from McLendon. They want him to be their two-gap, run-stuffing nose tackle, and that's exactly what he's been.

From a pure numbers standpoint, McLendon won't blow you away. But he still managed to total 36 tackles last season with 2.5 sacks, and career highs of 10 tackles for loss and seven QB hits. Overall, he's been a very consistent part of Gang Green's defense.

LB Demario Davis (2012-15, 2017)

A third-round pick out of Arkansas State, Davis was a starter at inside linebacker for the Jets by his second NFL season. In three years as a full-time starter, Davis racked up 312 combined tackles with 6.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

The Jets let Davis walk at the end of his rookie contract, and he signed a two-year deal with the Cleveland Browns. But after just one season in Cleveland, and not fitting in with now-Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' scheme, the Browns traded Davis back to the Jets for Calvin Pryor. His 2017 season with the Jets was a very good one, as he started every game and set a new career best with 5.0 sacks.

The Jets and Davis couldn't agree to a new contract before he once again hit the free agency market, and he's now a key piece of the New Orleans Saints defense. But over the course of his five seasons in New York, Davis proved to be an important part of what the Jets were able to achieve on defense.

RB Thomas Jones (2007-09)

The seventh overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2000, Jones' career got off to a very slow start. After flaming out with the Cardinals and then one so-so year in Tampa Bay, Jones rejuvenated his career with the Chicago Bears, rushing for 945+ yards in every season, while helping the Bears reach a Super Bowl.

In March 2007, the Jets swung a trade for Jones, dropping back 26 picks in the second round of the draft in the process.

But the move paid off big time for the Jets. In three seasons with Gang Green, Jones rushed for 1,119, 1,312, and 1,402 yards, and he was a big part of the team's run to the 2009 AFC Championship Game, as he and Shonn Greene provided a dynamic rushing attack for Rex Ryan's offense. 

What's perhaps most impressive is that Jones arrived to the Jets when he was already 29 years old, which is considered ancient by NFL running back standards. He went on to play two more seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, and finished his career 26th all-time in rushing yards with 10,591.

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WR Eric Decker (2014-16)

In Decker's final year with the Denver Broncos, he put up monster numbers in his contract season, catching 87 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Jets then signed him to a five-year deal, and expectations were very high for the former third-round pick.

His time with the Jets was eventually cut short by a shoulder injury that limited him to just three games in 2016, and he was eventually released during the ensuing offseason, but his production with the Jets was strong.

After a 962-yard season in 2014, it was 2015 when Decker had his best season with the Jets, catching 80 passes for 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns while benefiting from playing opposite of Brandon Marshall. 

T Damien Woody (2008-10)

In five seasons with the New England Patriots, Woody, earned one Pro Bowl nod as the team's starting center, and also helped the Pats win two Super Bowls. But after four seasons with the Detroit Lions, the Jets saw Woody as their answer at right tackle, and the move paid off in a big way. 

Signed to a five-year deal, Woody helped bookend one of the better offensive lines in football in from 2008-10. He didn't earn a Pro Bowl nod with the Jets, but he helped them reach the AFC title game two years in a row under head coach Rex Ryan. 

During the 2010 Wild Card game against the Indianapolis Colts, Woody tore his Achilles, which eventually ended his time with the Jets. Woody announced his retirement in the summer of 2011, and he now serves as an analyst for ESPN.

S Jim Leonhard (2009-11)

Leonhard was a bit of a journeyman in his NFL career. Fighting his way into the league as an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin, Leonhard played three seasons with the Bills before a another year in Baltimore. 

Prior to the 2009 season, Leonhard signed a three-year deal with the Jets, reuniting him with Rex Ryan, who was the Ravens' defensive coordinator. Leonhard started all 16 games for the Jets that year, intercepting one pass, forcing one fumble and adding 2.5 sacks. 

In all, Leonhard started 40 games for the Jets over three seasons, picking off three passes while forcing three fumbles. 

After a 10-year NFL career, Leonhard transitioned into coaching, and he now serves as the defensive coordinator at his alma mater, Wisconsin.

Honorable mentions: LT Kelvin Beachum , LB Jordan Jenkins, G Willie Colon, CB Antonio Cromartie, P Steve Weatherford (2009-10, 15)

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