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How Jets return man Andre Roberts made his first Pro Bowl

When the Jets signed Andre Roberts to help solidify the return game, they never could’ve imagined his emergence as one of the best in the sport.

Since entering the league in 2010, Roberts has garnered the reputation of a solid kick and punt returner. Roberts produced consistently in stints with the Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, but not spectacularly. That all changed in Roberts’ ninth season in the NFL, as the veteran put together a career year with the accolades to show for it.

In his first season with the Jets, Roberts led the NFL in kick return yards and was a first-team All-Pro selection for the first time in his career. He was also selected to his first Pro Bowl appearance as well. He’ll take the field for the AFC in Orlando on Sunday.

Roberts opened his tenure with New York in style, as he took a punt 78 yards to the house for a touchdown in Gang Green’s season opener against the Lions. He continued his standout performances as the season progressed, racking up 324 punt return yards and 1,174 kick return yards — both career bests. In Week 16 against the Green Bay Packers, Roberts returned a kick 99 yards for a touchdown and posted a career-high 215 total return yards in his best showing of the season.

Not only did Roberts become New York’s first All-Pro selection since 2011, but he also brought stability to an aspect of the game that had been lacking for years. Since the days of Justin Miller, Leon Washington and Brad Smith, the Jets have struggled to find returners who could consistently get the job done.

In an offseason that was filled with big-name signings such as Trumaine Johnson, Avery Williamson and Isaiah Crowell, Roberts was general manager Mike Maccagnan’s best acquisition of them all. It was a signing that flew under the radar at the time, but wound up as the most impactful one for the Jets in 2018.

Roberts is set to hit free agency again this offseason and he will have no shortage of suitors. Maccagnan will need to pony up if he wants to keep his dynamic return man in town. At 31 years old, this is likely Roberts’ last chance to cash in on a decent contract. If the Jets don’t want to give it to him, someone else certainly will.

There’s no question that the Jets are a better team with Roberts in the fold. His career-year was an unexpected but pleasant development for a team that endured many hardships this past season. Roberts provided a spark that New York’s return game has not had for years. Thanks to his efforts, he has a Pro Bowl appearance to show for it.

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