Going into 2014, the New York Jets find themselves in a familiar place needing a new offensive guard to play on the right side of Nick Mangold. After eleven years of Brandon Moore, who was a beyond adequate guard in both pass protection and aiding the run game, the Jets found themselves in need for a new guard before the 2013 season.
In came Willie Colon, a Steelers cast off who had been an IR mainstay for a decent portion of his career, but what Colon brought to the team was far superior to what his record may have suggested. Colon is a local kid(product of Hofstra University's once existing football program) with a natural hatred for the Patriots and a drive from his years in Pittsburgh playing in two superbowls. The feeling on Colon was he would be outstanding at right guard if he could stay healthy, and he did just that, providing far and away the best pass protection on the line. Colon did tear his bicep in the final game of the season, but making it 16 games before injury was all the Jets needed from their starting right guard. It is also important to note that Colon led the team in presnap penalties in 2013, but its a minor offset with his pass protection in mind.
Now Colon is a free agent who the Jets already know fits their line scheme. Colon can even sign a similar contract to that which he signed in 2013 because of his bicep injury in game 16, and if that is the case bringing him back will be a very cost efficient move for the Jets. Should the Jets desire to move on from Colon however, and Atlanta did show interest in Colon, there are several approaches the Jets could consider.
The free agent market for offensive guards is far from scarce. There are plenty of cheaper options out there who can provide the veteran leadership on this line that Brandon Moore was known for, and offer sufficient protection to keep the line effective. The cheaper options that come to mind include New York Giants free agent Kevin Boothe, another local product who has the ability to play anywhere on the line as an important cog, and excels in pass protection. Another cheap option would be Seahawks free agent Paul McQuistan who offers sufficient run production but is far from the best pass protector in the league. His familiarity with Idzik may be a plus however. Another cheap option is six time probowler Brian Waters, who has been in the league since 1999 and offered great protection on both fronts for most of his career. Waters is however 36 years old and his career should be approaching its end. Of course, Richie Incognito is also a cheap option but seeing the sentiment about him in the league I personally cannot condone this.
There is also a chance the Jets spend a good portion of their cap space on a proven offensive guard without concern over price. This type of signing would be a beneficial move to the team but would cost more money to sign, and spending too much on the Oline position when the team has several other needs may not be the most well thought out idea. One more expensive free agent that comes to mind include Kansas City Chiefs free agent Jon Asamoah whose career year in 2013 has his paycheck probably increasing significantly. Another expensive guard is Travelle Wharton who, after signing a one year prove it contract, turned out a tremendous year in Carolina and deserves a pay raise.
Another cheap alternative is, as always, drafting a new offensive guard. John Idzik drafted two guards in the 2013 draft, one of which, Brian Winters, figures to the the starting left guard in 2014 despite a turbulent 2013 campaign. The Jets figure to get 11 draft picks in 2014, so I would not be surprised if at least 2-3 of them are used on offensive line help. The issue at hand is, how early in the draft should the Jets pursue an offensive guard? There are plenty of promising early options like Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson, Notre Dame's Zack Martin, and Stanford's David Yankey. Of course, the Jets have too many other needs to draft a guard early, but there are great options later in the draft as well including Alabama's Anthony Steen, Florida's John Halapio, and Nebraska's Spencer Long. All of these draft options would be worth the shot, in my opinion, but drafting should not be the only source for a new guard.
It is important to note here that the Jets will also be saying goodbye to Vlad Ducasse, and rightfully so, so I figure they will draft at least one guard to replace the loss of depth in addition to whichever free agent they may chose to sign. The draft option would suggest the Jets draft two offensive guards rather than spend on a free agent and draft one.
There is of course one more option, and that is to not do a thing. Of course this option is rather silly, the Jets would be entering the season with the starting right guard competition being between sixth round 2013 draft pick William Campbell, who has yet to play a single game in the NFL, former Auburn center Dalton Freeman, who is still rather small to be a guard, and practice squad member Patrick Ford, who is the longest of longshots. I would think the Jets do at least something at guard for obvious reasons.
I personally believe the Jets will resign Colon and draft a later prospect. What do you think?