Offensive Line Decisions - Left Tackle
England & USA both made it through and I couldn’t be happier about that. The only issue for me is that the England/Senegal game clashes with the Jets game, and while two screens are possible I hate divided attention. Obviously, the Jets win out in any clash, hopefully, by that point, the USA has already deposited the Netherlands out of the tournament.
Anyway back to why you’re here, time to talk about those Jets.
Robert Saleh was asked about Sauce and the secondary going against Justin Jefferson and you have to love his response "I'll put up our guys against anybody." - When people call Saleh a players coach, this is what they mean. It may seem like the obvious answer but I’m always amazed by how many coaches drop the ball with their pressers.
On the injury front, there was some good news with Sheldon Rankins returning on a limited basis. Michael Carter missed the session with his low-ankle sprain and DJ Reed was excused for personal reasons, but he’ll be back tomorrow.
I wrote a piece for GGN this morning on some comments James Robinson made following the decision to make him a healthy scratch last week, you can read that HERE - Safe to say he wasn’t very happy.
Mike White won the FedEx Air Player of the Week award for his performance against the Bears - By winning the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week Award, FedEx will make a $2,000 donation in White’s name to a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), which will be applied towards needs-based scholarships to deserving HBCU students.
Coach Saleh was asked about how Mike White will handle big December games with playoff implications and his response perfectly highlighted his confidence in #5: “He's very calm, very cool, very coachable. Great presence in the pocket. Quick delivery. Processes quickly. Gets the ball where it needs to go. It's almost like he lowers his heartbeat. It's not big for him."
Whenever I talk to anyone, there is one consistent theme that comes up time and time again, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the QB play, which is strange in itself.
What are the Jets going to do about the offensive line?
No team in the NFL spent more in terms of cap dollars on their offensive line heading into the 2022 NFL season than the Jets, but when the season comes to an end, arguably no team has more decisions to make about their personnel going forward.
The Jets currently have eight offensive linemen on the active roster, with five more on the reserve list and two on the practice squad, which makes 15 in total.
Having five linemen on the reserve list is so incredibly unlucky, and it’s hard to plan for such scenarios. George Fant will come off that list soon, but Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker are the two big names who have missed significant time.
Of the 15 offensive linemen that we’ve currently got signed, 8 of those guys are set to become free agents after the 2022 season, so over half of all our offensive linemen will have the chance to walk away.
George Fant and Connor McGovern are both free agents, and both players started the season as starters. Fant has obviously missed time with injuries, but McGovern has been a consistent presence anchoring the line. Nate Herbig is also set to be a free agent, and I’d argue he’s been one of the better linemen on the team, he was so good in fact, the Jets decided to move AVT over to tackle to enable them to keep Herbig in the lineup.
You then have 5 players who are largely seen as backups but offer good depth.
If I were to ask you to name your ideal starting offensive line next year what would you say? I was asked this question yesterday which offered the inspiration for today’s piece.
The Jets have so many questions to answer in terms of their offensive line, we’re going to split it down into positions. Starting today with the left tackle position, one of the most important positions in football. If the QB is the key, then the guy who protects him is the lock.
Let’s tackle this situation in terms of questionable positions. As I see it right now, the Jets only have one position nailed down and that’s Laken Tomlinson at left guard, he’s not had his best season this year, but based on his contract and his history of performance, he won’t be going anywhere.
I know you’re probably asking about AVT, he’s obviously a starter but where does he play? That’s the big question heading into 2023.
At the moment we have Dane Brown at left tackle and he’ll be entering his age-38 season in 2023. Brown hasn’t been a bad addition to the Jets but according to PFF he is the 59th-rated tackle in the NFL, and the 32nd-rated tackle in terms of his pass protection having allowed just 1 sack and 11 pressures so far this season.
I don’t personally believe the Jets should have too much fear about moving on from Brown. If they were to do so, they’d need to make him a post-June cut, if they were to cut him before June 1st they’d need to eat over $6 million of salary and save less at $5.2 million
If they instead cut him post-June 1st then they would still need to eat the money but it would be spread over the next two years. It’s always hard to lose depth but the Jets are going to have to be smart with the cap heading into 2023 and is Brown really worth $11.5 million? That’s the question that needs to be answered
If not Brown then who? It’s hard to trust Becton coming back from missing two years of football. The best-case scenario is he can stay healthy, but as much as I like Becton and as much as I’m pulling for him, I wouldn’t bet my house on him avoiding the physio room in 2023.
Do you bring back George Fant to play LT? He had a pretty poor start to the season before ending on IR, but he showed last year that he has the potential to be one of the better pass protectors in football. Depending on the price that’s an option.
The only real left tackle of note heading to free agency is Orlando Brown Jr from KC. Orlando is a better pass-protector than he is a run-blocker, but he’s not very good as a run-blocker so that’s not saying a huge amount. So far through 12 weeks, he’s allowed 2 sacks and 35 total pressures (most of any tackle in football). But he is on course to have played in at least 1,000 snaps for four straight years, you know the old saying about the best ability is availability.
Personally, I’d take a pass on that option without hesitation.
I don’t love the idea of Brown Jr, he bet on himself by not accepting the Chiefs long-term contract offer last year and that’s backfired somewhat. Allowing 35 pressures in 535 pass-blocking snaps is not ideal, and it won’t get you the money you’re likely after. Compare that to someone like Tristan Wirfs who has allowed 4 pressures in 521 pass-blocking snaps and you get some idea of context.
So free agency isn’t going to be the way forward. It’s somewhat risky to rely on Brown heading into his age-38 season and at a cap charge of $11.5 million. It’s very risky to rely on Becton and Fant is a bit of a risk as well. Could the Jets turn to the draft to take yet another linemen? That’s possible. Do they turn to AVT?
In week four of the 2022 season, the Jets asked their 2nd year man to play left tackle against the Steelers. PFF didn’t grade him very highly due to him allowing 3 pressures that day, but he kept Zach clean and we already know how talented he is as a run-blocker.
Don’t forget that AVT spent his final year at USC playing left tackle allowing 2 pressures (both sacks) on 248 pass-blocking snaps. Now it’s one thing doing it in college, it’s another thing to do it in the pros, but would you bet against AVT becoming one of the better left tackles in football based on what you’ve seen from him so far? I wouldn’t. Remember he’s played every position for the Jets barring center so far.
Moving AVT to left tackle is a brave, bold and potentially silly suggestion. But let’s for a minute say we do that, that opens up that RG position for Nate Herbig who I feel deserves a contract extension. You have Max Mitchell at right tackle and all of a sudden you get to a point where center and depth is the only thing you need to worry about.
I quite like Connor McGovern so I’d probably advocate for re-signing Herbig and McGovern to maintain some consistency on the line. If you’re not a McGovern fan then Mitch Morse in Buffalo is set to be a free agent, as is veteran Rodney Hudson and Seattle anchor Austin Blythe. Garrett Bradbury in Minnesota is also an option but considering I don’t think Hudson is going anywhere other than retirement, McGovern is the best option for my money, unless you turn to the draft. We’ll get to that another day.
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Curious, when you have meaningful games in December, Jet Fans are not focusing so much on next years draft, or Free Agency in 2023. It will be a different FA in 2023, some interesting cuts will have to made, Jets don’t have a lot of money, Jets may take a couple of second/ third tier FA, but that’s about it, priority will be re-signing our own. We will be drafting in the mid twenties, with just the normal 7 picks, we are just have to get used to it.
The Offensive line , just wow, what a challenge. I can’t see how we can retain Fant, before the injury, he was a 15 million dollar a year player, that’s the rate of Left Tackles these days. Can the Jets re- sign McGovern at the same rate 9/10 million with a front loaded, huge guaranteed contract, maybe ? Herbig can play Center, maybe your Center position is manned by Feeney and Herbig. Can you re-sign those guys for 5/ 6 million each ? Feeney at 3 Herbig at 6 ? AVT and Max Mitchell are 40% of your Offensive Line, we are so fortunate.
Unfortunately, we're stuck with BecTON for another year. Ideally, he finally stays in shape and the line is Becton/Tomlinson/McGovern/AVT/Mitchell. I would not resign Fant and would cut Brown. I'd have Ogbuehi/Herbig/high draft pick as our backups. If Becton can't go, which is what I'm expecting, I'd move AVT to LT for the year while our newly drafted LT gets up to speed. Start Herbig at RG.