Shortly after falling to 0-6, the New York Jets finalized a trade Sunday night that sends starting nose tackle Steve McLendon — a captain — to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a source confirmed.
The Jets will receive a 2022 sixth-round draft pick in exchange for McLendon and a 2023 seventh-round pick.
The move was surprising because of the timing. McLendon played 24 out of 56 defensive snaps in the Jets’ 24-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins. About 90 minutes after the game, the Tampa Bay Times reported the trade.
The Bucs had a need for a veteran replacement for 347-pound nose tackle Vita Vea, who suffered a broken ankle last week against the Chicago Bears and is done of the season. Bowles’ defense relies heavily on interior pressure, and Vea would frequently occupy double-teams, allowing blitzers to rush unblocked. Vea also played a key role in the Bucs’ top-rated run defense.
McLendon will be reunited with former Jets coach Todd Bowles, the Bucs’ defensive coordinator. McLendon, 34, is known as a positive locker-room presence and a stout run-stuffer on first and second downs.
McLendon wasn’t a big name for the Jets, but he was one of the most respected players on the team. In less than a week, they have jettisoned two of their most experienced players — McLendon and running back Le’Veon Bell, who was cut and wound up signing with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Jets are in rebuilding mode, and this trade will create playing time for backup Folorunso Fatukasi, who has impressed at times in limited action.
In six games, McLendon recorded 14 tackles for the Jets, who signed him as a free agent in 2016. He spent his first six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, compiling 90 tackles and five sacks.
He signed a one-year contract extension with the Jets late last season, which is paying him $1.25 million in base salary in 2020.
Information from ESPN’s Jenna Laine was used in this report.