Solomon Thomas on return to Jets in 2023: ‘coming back was a no-brainer for me’

Solomon Thomas is back with the Jets
New York Jets

FLORHAM PARK — It hasn’t been the easiest of roads for Solomon Thomas since he came to the NFL as the third overall pick out of Stanford in 2017.

The former 49er and now member of the New York Jets hasn’t recorded over three sacks in a single season while struggling to find a role as both a defensive tackle and defensive end in different defensive schemes. In 2022, Thomas put up an average 49.9 score on Pro Football Focus while recording half a sack in 17 appearances last season. 

Thomas signed a one-year deal to return to the Jets this off-season and is now joining a deep core of defensive linemen from one of the best overall units in football last year. 

While the pass rusher could have easily looked elsewhere for a different role, he remained steadfast that rejoining Jets head coach Robert Saleh was his primary wish during the offseason. 

“Just knowing what (Saleh) was building here and knowing the coaches here, I was very confident coming back here and building a winning team,” Thomas told AMNY. “Coming back here was a no-brainer.”

 Like many players on the Jets’ defensive line, Thomas can play on both the outside and inside of the 4-3 construction. He’ll most likely compete for playing time with the likes of Michael Clemons, John Franklin-Myers, and even 2023 first-round pick Will McDonald. 

In a lot of ways, McDonald’s journey to the NFL mirrored Thomas’ in that he played multiple defensive positions in college with most not utilizing his natural skill. Because of that, Thomas has been more than willing to give the Iowa St. product tips on how to get the most out of his overall skill. 

“Will’s college career was crazy. I didn’t even realize he was playing a lot of 4i, but now the fact he’s going to be on the edge the whole time, it’s going to be really scary. He’s still learning and he’s still performing at a high level,” Thomas explained. “It’s definitely different. We’ve been talking about his timing, certain angles…he has a different body type so just teaching him how to use his body type.”

Thomas taking on more of a leadership role doesn’t come as a surprise to many on the Jets coaching staff. Saleh spoke about how Thomas was seen as a “flagbearer” as someone who spreads the coach’s message out to the players and keeps everyone in line. Saleh and Thomas both came from San Francisco when the Jets hired the head coach back in 2021. 

It’s a role that Thomas is more than willing to fill as New York awaits the return of first-team All-Pro Quinnen Williams. 

“It means a lot to me. It’s a huge honor to have your head coach say that. Being able to earn the respect of my teammates and coaches, it’s something I work for every day,” Thomas said. “I want to be that leader for them. I’m going into my seventh year in this league. I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs in this league so whatever experience I can bring I’m going to do.”

With his role on the field staying the same, and his leadership off the field changing, Thomas has become an important member of the New York Jets. As the team prepares for its final OTA practice on Friday, and a nice month-long break before the start of training camp, keeping the young players focused will be a key component of Gang Green’s goals. 

And having leaders like Thomas on the defensive side of the football will certainly help to keep everyone prepared for the grueling months ahead. 

For more New York Jets news, turn to AMNY.com