The New York Jets cut Jachai Polite 128 days after making him the 68th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. It’s not unusual for players to get cut from NFL rosters but it is unusual for a team to part ways with a third round pick four months after picking him.
Since Polite was cut by the Jets details have emerged that the former Florida Gators edge rusher was fined more than $100,000 dollars for “tardiness and other issues.”
During his three years in Gainesville Polite never had an off the field issue that was reported. He was never arrested nor was he ever suspended for violating team rules. On Wednesday Dan Mullen did admit that, during his one year coaching Polite, tardiness and some other things were an issue but Mullen, in so many words, didn’t think Polite was ready for the NFL Draft and made that stance clear in 2018.
“It’s a business decision. I mean if you’re a top-10 pick you’re getting $30 million dollars. If you’re a 2nd or 3rd rounder you’re getting $4 million dollars. There’s a big difference between those two numbers,” Mullen said when he was asked during the 2018 season if he would advise Polite to stay in school or leave for the NFL. “That’s a lot of money difference. I think guys need to be really educated as to what you’re doing and how it’s going to affect you in the future. One of the things you gotta think is when guys come back to college you’re coming back and you come back and you’re trying to up yourself, improve your status and build a foundation for you to better succeed at the next level. You may have one year to have to do that. If you leave early and you’re not a high draft pack you have to perform for four years, stay healthy for four years before you have the opportunity to get a second contract. If I give you $4 million dollars today or come back and see me a year from now I’ll give you $30 million, which one are you taking?”
Polite ultimately chose to leave school early and enter the draft. That’s when things started going wrong almost immediately. Polite had a historically bad NFL combine. Not only did Polite show up overweight but he ran slow (4.84 40-yard dash) and created headlines when he said teams were “bashing him” during the interview process.
Some have said reading the exchange makes it seem worse than the video shows. I’d agree. pic.twitter.com/DySHyjdAEH
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) March 3, 2019
Polite had an opportunity to redeem himself at Florida’s Pro Day but didn’t. Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham went on record that day saying he had advised Polite to return to school. Grantham insisted it wasn’t for selfish reasons but that he truly believed Polite needed more time to grow as a player and a person.
“Yeah that was my advice,” Grantham said when asked directly if he told Polite to return to school. “only because the guy has first-round, but there’s a lot of factors that go into being a first-round talent because when guys spend millions of dollars on you they’re gonna research you, test you, prod you; they want to know exactly what they’re getting because that’s a large sum of money to invest. So you really need to be prepared fully, both mentally and physically.”
Polite cleared waivers and was signed by the Seattle Seahawks to their practice squad. He’ll still get to keep his $1.1 million dollar signing bonus but the paychecks for practice squad and active roster are vastly different. The minimum salary for a practice squad player is $8,000 a week (players are paid weekly game checks including the bye week). The minimum salary for a rookie on an active roster is $495,000 and Polite signed a 4 year, $4,265,902 contract with the Jets after the draft. If you average that out it is $1,066,476 a year or $66,654.75 a week (16 weeks in a season), significantly more than what he will make now on Seattle’s practice squad.
“I like Jachai, and obviously I’m disappointed, I’m sad for him,” Mullen said. “Everybody has dreams. You dream of making it to the NFL. Hopefully, a learning experience for him and a learning experience for other guys in the program. Obviously, getting to the next level, they’re multiple phases of doing that. Are you talented enough? Are you physically prepared? Are you mentally prepared? How is your work ethic and demeanor on a daily basis? Are you prepared to go perform at that level? It’s a very different deal,