Sheldon Richardson angrily responds to talk of Jets tanking, but front office has other ideas

USA TODAY Sports’ Lindsay H. Jones breaks down the big offseason changes in the AFC East and what to expect in the division for 2017.
(Photo: Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports)

The Jets haven’t even reported to training camp yet and talk has turned to tanking, at least among the fan base and the media.

That’s what offseason moves to rid the roster of veteran after veteran will do.

The trouble with that message – and yes, that message is loud and clear from Jets’ management – is what it says to the 90 players still on the roster. Are they just supposed to play for the 2018 draft position too?

No way, said defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who spoke of his personal anti-tank mentality during the Jets’ minicamp last week.

“I mean, I don’t tank nothing,” Richardson said, according to NJ.com. “We don’t come here – and we’re not going to go through training camp and have 14-hour days – to go tank a season. I’ll be damned.”

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And while Richardson said it was “shocking” to see the Jets release linebacker David Harris and receiver Eric Decker in June, what other attitude could he have right now?

While management can plan a rebuild and begin scouting college quarterbacks, players like Richardson and defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams – the team’s best remaining players – can’t afford to think beyond 2017. NFL careers are too short, injury rates too high, and contracts too easily broken, to even consider playing for anything other than the immediate future.

This is a problem the Jets will face all year, as coaches and management try to talk up the development of younger players and preach patience of building through the draft, while players like Richardson are trying to play their best while in their primes.

The challenge for Richardson (and other similarly-minded teammates) will be that there is little any one player can do to ensure the Jets’ season isn’t a failure. Outside of a handful of elite quarterbacks, one player alone can rarely determine a team’s fate. A defensive tackle surely cannot, even if he says the right things.

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