One thing is always constant in the NFL, and that's attrition. Bradlee Anae is discovering this reality for the first time in his young career, having been waived by the Dallas Cowboys in early November before going unclaimed and re-signing to the team's practice squad -- where he remained the rest of the season. With the Cowboys now eliminated from the playoffs, Anae's practice squad contract expires, and he's decided to take his talents north, signing with the New York Jets on Wednesday, per his agent.
Anae, 23, is a 2020 fifth-round draft pick of the Cowboys who entered the league with a ton of promise after making a name for himself at the University of Utah. A Morris Trophy winner and consensus First-Team All-American in 2019, as well as a two-time First-Team All-Pac 12 honoree in 2018 and 2019, there's a very high ceiling on Anae that never materialized in Dallas.
That was likely for several reasons, from his first defensive coordinator being Mike Nolan -- who led an abysmal defensive effort that led to his firing one year later -- to having to prove himself to Dan Quinn in a rotation that featured no shortage of talented pass rushers, e.g., Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, Micah Parsons, Dorance Armstrong, etcetera.
He leaves the Cowboys having played in only 50 defensive snaps in two seasons.
Anae now gets a fresh start with another one of the more talented defensive minds in Jets head coach Robert Saleh, and can also be a special teams contributor as well for Gang Green. The young linebacker improved every single season in his four years at Utah, going from a freshman year with only two sacks, to seven as a sophomore, then 7.5 as a junior, before exploding with 13 as a senior.
"I'm just a playmaker overall," he said after his selection by the Cowboys in 2020. "My strong suits would probably be my work ethic and my ability to make plays -- be productive."
The former Ute can operate as either a 4-3 rusher off the edge or in a three-man front, and that flexibility is also what likely attracted Saleh to him this offseason. And as the Jets work to try and build on what turned into a competitive first season under Saleh, they'll do so with the hopes of making Anae a feature in their defense, assuming he can get back to the form witnessed in his days at Utah.