The New York Jets have locked in their lockdown cornerback.
The team announced on Saturday the signing of fourth overall pick Sauce Gardner. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but all first-round rookies receive four-year contracts with a fifth-year team option.
Gardner highlights a highly touted Jets draft class that featured three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Cincinnati product was ranked No. 2 on Daniel Jeremiah's top 150 prospects list.
Known for his size, speed and one-on-one coverage skills, Gardner elevated his status as a prospect with a junior season in which he collected 40 tackles, three sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions. Gardner helped lead the Bearcats to the program's first appearance in the College Football Playoff in 2021 and was the American Athletic Conference's Defensive Player of the Year.
Gardner was a necessary addition for a Jets defense that allowed 29.6 points and 397.6 yards per game last season, finishing last in the NFL in both categories. The 21-year-old will join a revamped Jets secondary that added cornerback D.J. Reed and safety Jordan Whitehead via free agency.
Since landing in New York for rookie minicamp, Gardner said he emulates his game off of former Jets great Darrelle Revis, who stranded opposing receivers on an island for much of his 11 seasons in the NFL.
"I fit great. However they want to use me, I'm willing to be versatile, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to win," Gardner said, via the team's website. "They want to play zone, they want to play man, they want to blitz me, they want to put me at linebacker -- I don't think that's going to happen, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes, however they want to use me."
True lockdown CBs are cherished in today's NFL and Robert Saleh's aggressive defense will only improve as Gardner develops. Gardner, who famously did not allow a receiving touchdown in his three years at Cincinnati, is poised to be its missing piece.