One player who contributed in a variety of roles in 2020 was cornerback Corey Ballentine. He remains with the team for 2021 too. However, the Jets have looked to upgrade all over the place so it now seems likely he won't retain any of those roles and will struggle to make the final roster.
Ballentine played in six games for the Jets after being waived by the Giants in the middle of the season. He didn't see any action on defense but registered four tackles on special teams and averaged over 26 yards per kickoff return to comfortably lead the team.
Let's look first at his return role because he clearly outshone the other candidates for that role from last year's team.
We already wrote about whether the Jets should add a return man before the draft with the conclusion being that Ballentine was probably the best they had and that any of the new additions had limited experience in that area.
Since then, they didn't really add any return options in the draft or undrafted free agency, although both Michael Carters and Elijah Moore each have some limited experience. However, they did make two under-the-radar moves for Matt Cole and Austin Walter, who each have some return game potential and could compete for Ballentine's role.
Whether Ballentine keeps the role might come down to what other value he can add. Surprisingly, despite the fact he only played six games, Ballentine played more snaps (26) at the gunner position than any Jets player and also recorded four tackles, although three of the four were actually when he was covering kickoffs.
The Jets have addressed this position though. This was the main reason they re-signed Justin Hardee, who is regarded as one of the best gunners in the NFL. Cole also has a ton of potential here, as does one of the Carters (the one from Duke). It may therefore be difficult for Ballentine to win this role too.
Finally, we have his role as a cornerback. It seems unlikely Ballentine will be in the mix there when he couldn't get any reps at the tail end of last season, even when there were a series of injuries and some players were playing out of position.
With two career starts and over 400 defensive snaps played, he's actually more experienced than most of the cornerbacks on the roster and brings versatility having played extensively both on the outside and in the slot.
Ballentine made some decent contributions for the Jets last year, although they flew under the radar because the team had fallen out of contention before he even arrived. However, he'll have to impress the new coaching staff to establish himself as worth keeping.
The former sixth round pick is still only 25, but the fact it's going to be so much more difficult to earn a role in 2021 underscores the efforts the Jets have made to fortify their roster across the board.