Behind the Jets’ decision to overpay for C.J. Mosley

C.J. Mosley has been a Pro Bowler four times. Mosley has been second-team All Pro four times. He has 597 tackles, 8½ sacks, nine interceptions, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in his career.

But those stats are not the only reason the Jets wanted Mosley enough to hand him a five-year, $85 million contract with a franchise-record $51 million guaranteed.

They wanted a leader.

New Jets coach Adam Gase is trying to change the culture in a building that has had one winning season in the last eight years. He needs to breathe life into a locker room that has lost 34 games in the last three years and make it clear that losing should no longer be accepted.

That is why Gase and the Jets pounced when the Ravens did not put the franchise tag on Mosley in March.

“I think we were shocked because originally you start thinking there’s no way he’s going to be out [Baltimore],” Gase said last month. “There’s no way he’s going to be out there. Then when he hit the market it was a full-court press for us.”

You can say the Jets overpaid for Mosley and you would be right. Mosley is now the highest-paid inside linebacker in football. But here’s the thing – the Jets absolutely had to overpay for Mosley. That is how free agency in the NFL works. Free agents get overpaid. In this instance, the Jets had to give him $17 million a year to lure him away from Baltimore, which was offering around $14 million a year.

The Jets believe they signed not only a player who can make plays in the middle of their defense, but one who can have an even bigger impact inside their locker room. Gase realized during his time as Dolphins coach how critical it was to build a winning culture, not just a winning scheme.

“He was a culture-changer,” Gase said. “He was the type of guy that could help lead that charge in the locker room where the team building starts the right way. He’s been in the league five years and has four Pro Bowls. He’s been a part of an organization that all of us would say they’ve done things the right way for a long period of time.”

Gase did his homework on Mosley. He is friends with Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale from their days on the Broncos staff together. Gase has heard Martindale speak glowingly of Mosley and knew what type of player and person he was. Then, former Ravens safety Eric Weddle called the Jets with an endorsement, the NFL Network reported.

The Jets went hard after Mosley as soon as the negotiating period opened for free agency. Less than 24 hours later, he was a Jet. When Mosley spoke to Gase for the first time, he could see what his new coach envisioned for him.

“He was very excited when I talked to him about being the new coach of the team and building a winning culture,” Mosley said. “He wanted me to be the centerpiece of the defense to kind of have a leadership role on and off the field.”

The Jets locker room has had a leadership void for a few years. As part of the rebuild, the Jets saw their leaders of the last decade walk out the door, guys such as David Harris, Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. They had some new veterans that were good leaders like Josh McCown and Matt Forte, but everyone knew they were temporary Jets, not cornerstones. Young stars Jamal Adams and Leonard Williams are still learning how to lead. Mosley can now show them the way.

“He’s a lead by example guy,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a soft-spoken guy but when he speaks they listen. He was on our leadership council last year and had a lot of input. But he’s a lead by example guy. He’s going to go out there and do it. That’s kind of his way.”

Le’Veon Bell was the biggest name the Jets signed this offseason, but Mosley got the biggest money. The Jets believe his leadership will make him worth every cent.

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