I'm going to split my offseason outlook on the offensive line into two groups, with this entry being about tackles and the second entry being about guards and centers. The Jets do need help on the offensive line, but I don't think it's likely that this team spends a lot of money or any premium assets to acquire a guy who would be playing at tackle in 2022. I want to spend a moment to appreciate what the tackles this year were able to do for the offense, but things are probably going to look different in 2022 no matter how good they looked.
In this post, I will be analyzing what the position currently offers, what I think about their options internally, in free agency and the draft, and what the Jets expect from the exterior of the offensive line in 2022. I'm going to have to keep it short- since tackles don't tend to record stats on the sheet- and rely on a lot of PFF and OTC evaluations. Unless otherwise stated, assume the stats I do list are recorded by PFF, since they're usually the best option for evaluating OL.
Feel free to leave your feedback or suggestions below this post.
There are currently three pure tackles on the roster for 2022 not including those on future contracts, which is a number that needs to be at least doubled by the end of the draft. I will begin my analysis with them in order of 2022 cap hits from highest to lowest.
George Fant, Age 30, 6 Years of Experience
George Fant had the best season of his career in 2021, serving as the team's LT for much of the season following Mekhi Becton's Week 1 injury. Fant played 13 complete games for the Jets (plus 2 more he was forced to leave early), and he had the best pass-blocking season of his career per PFF with a grade of 75.1 in that regard. He ranked 20th in the NFL among qualifying LTs in pass-blocking while playing the 13th most snaps. He wasn't particularly great as a run blocker with a PFF grade of 59.8 in that regard, but I'd much rather have my LT be a good pass blocker than a good run blocker if he cannot be both.
For Fant, his only game below a PBLK grade of 50.0 was his Week 1 performance where he split his time between LT and RT (48 snaps at RT to 17 snaps at LT). He had 9 complete games with a grade over 60.0 (8 over 70.0, 6 over 75.0 and 4 over 80.0) as a pass blocker. Except for his Week 10 performance against Buffalo (which was comfortably his worst game at LT in 2021), he never allowed more than 2 pressures in a game. He's also only credited with 1 sack allowed in his game against the Texans, and I'm fairly certain that the sack was the one where Wilson refused to throw the ball away and took a completely unnecessary hit and loss along the sideline, so Fant may have been able to go the entire season without allowing a sack if not for that one play. He is credited with committing 4 penalties (plus 2 that were not accepted), which is not ideal but can be manageable.
These numbers don't scream franchise LT to me, but he is still a good player capable of starting in this league. He suffered a knee injury in Week 17 against the Buccaneers that cost him the finale, and he missed a game against the Dolphins in Week 15 with an issue in that same knee, but the injury was said to not be serious after he was placed on IR to miss the finale. I don't expect that it will cause any delays with his return in the offseason, so hopefully he can get healed up quickly and prepare for the 2022 season that will be the last year of his contract.
I think the Jets would be wise to keep Fant on the roster for 2022. They could choose to cut him for a $1 million dead cap hit or keep him for $11.1 million (unless they renegotiate on a pay reduction or even an extension that lowers his cap). You might find the opportunity to save $10 million enticing, but I prefer to have him as the insurance policy for Mekhi Becton and the veteran tackle presence who would likely be starting at one of the two tackle spots (more on that later). He's only 30 years old next season and just had a career year, so there's even a chance that he could get even better next year. He has only played organized football in 77 games, having not played football in college until his final college year in 2015 where he only played 2 games as a TE, so he could have even more room to develop; I'd much rather see him do that with the Jets than another team, but that's just me.
Mekhi Becton, Age 23, 2 Years of Experience
There's not much to say of Becton's 2021 season; he only played 48 offensive snaps in Week 1 before a knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. There's a good chance that Becton was never fully healthy in his one game played (which is an issue) after suffering from plantar fascitis in June and a concussion in August, leading him to have a below-average 59.7 PBLK grade from PFF on his 31 pass blocking snaps. He was injured on his final pass-blocking snap (which was Zach Wilson's first career TD to Corey Davis) when another player landed on his leg from behind while in the midst of a block, and when the cart came out to take him off the field, you kind of knew that there wouldn't be any good news for him.
The Jets initially said that they expected him to be back at practice within 8 weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery, which was something of a surprise to me; I fully expected Becton's season to be over, as I tend to do whenever I see a guy get carted or stretchered off the field. He ended up missing the rest of the season anyway, as his rehab did not progress to the Jets' expectations and he never even participated in team practices. Part of that is probably on the Jets overestimating his recovery as they did to a lot of players who got injured in 2021, but another part of that is on Mekhi Becton being much, much larger than your average human. That's the big risk of having a player that large expected to be a key player on your team; injuries may take a longer time to recover from when they occur.
And these injuries have been frequent for Becton. It's hard to blame him (or any player, for that matter) for the majority of injuries that he's suffered, but it doesn't change the fact that he's been injured six times in two years as a professional football player. He has played only 9 complete games (15 overall, 14 starts) at LT, often showing himself to be a talented player in need of refinement, but it's difficult to get that refinement when there was no offseason program in 2020 and he missed a lot of the 2021 offseason program. He was good in 2020, though his recorded stat sheet is not as good as Fant's for 2021, where he allowed 7 sacks (all on Darnold and none on Flacco, so maybe Darnold was the problem on some of them) and 23 pressures.
There's absolutely no reason to cut Becton; his entire contract his guaranteed unless he fails a physical next season, and as much as people love to throw motivation accusations at him, I think he'd be motivated enough to at least pass that physical. I don't think anyone is salivating to trade for him either, and I wouldn't accept anything less than a 1st round pick for him (unless he were part of a package for someone like DK Metcalf, as I mentioned in my outlook on receivers). Unless the Ravens really want Becton and are willing to part with the 14th overall pick for him, Becton should be on the Jets next season at his $5 million cap hit. It's on him to shed the "injury prone" label by playing complete games in 2022, but the talent he offers when on the field is something that could help him turn into a franchise cornerstone.
Chuma Edoga, Age 25, 3 Years of Experience
Edoga was a third round pick in 2019 (on a 92nd overall pick that changed hands three times) that Maccagnan hoped could be a long term option at either side of the line. Edgoa, however, failed to even win a backup job in his rookie season behind starters Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell, serving as a healthy scratch in the first two weeks of his rookie season. He would go on to play 8 games as a rookie (5 at RT, 3 at LT) and get injured in two of them, and he was not particularly good even when on the field (all but one complete game graded below 60.0 overall by PFF).
He was only marginally better in 2020, serving as the first backup to Becton and Fant and playing 6 games on offense (plus 5 more where he only played special teams snaps). He only played 2 complete games, getting injured in 3 of his games while starting 4 (yes, he started 4 games at LT and RT). PFF gave him a season grade of 61.3, which is fine for a backup, but that's his career high.
In 2021, he played in 5 games (only recorded a snap in 4), with 0 starts or complete games to his credit (injured once and placed on IR for a month). In his two games where he recorded more than four snaps, he had overall grades of 66.5 and 46.5 and two accepted penalties (one declined).
Edoga should not be on this team next year. It's yet another bad Maccagnan pick in five drafts full of them. Even as a backup, he's way too inconsistent and too frequently injured to be on this team. I doubt he has any trade value, so the Jets should just cut him for a $217 thousand cap hit and $965 thousand savings. Even with there being only three tackles currently on the roster for 2022 and him making close to minimum wage, Edoga feels more like a burden rather than a real player. I don't know if he clears waivers, but even if he does, I'm not even certain I'd want him on the practice squad.
So, with the tackles currently on the roster taken care of, let me first lay out my plan for them. I'd like Becton and Fant to have a proper competition to see which one of them should be the starting LT. By that, I don't mean "Which one is better at LT?" I mean "Which placement of these two makes the offense the best?" I know that Becton was graded higher overall by PFF in his rookie season than Fant was in 2021, but Fant was markedly better at LT than RT with better per-game stats than Becton as a pass blocker. Becton is the superior run blocker by PFF's metric, and it might be more advantageous to have your better run blocker on the right side of the line while keeping your best pass-blocking permutation on the field. I'd give Becton some snaps at RT during the offseason workouts and preseason, and who knows? Maybe moving to the other side of the line unlocks Becton's potential the same way moving to the other side of the line seemed to have unlocked Fant's.
The Jets will need to add more bodies to the room, both in free agency and the draft. I like the potential of this unit, but considering the fact that neither of them have played complete seasons for the Jets through two years, they need to have a backup unit that can step in on occasion or even take over in the case of season-ending injuries. I will first list my three favorite options in free agency. I'm not separating either list into tiers since I don't believe that the Jets need to look for any kind of alternatives to Becton or Fant as starters. I'm also assuming that Morgan Moses- as good as he was at RT in 2021, will look to move on for both more money and the best opportunity to play, two things I don't think the Jets will be giving him in 2022. I'd definitely like him to come back to be depth at RT, but I wouldn't be willing to pay him more than $6.5 million per year to do so; if he's comfortable taking that amount to potentially be a backup for a couple years, then I'd take him, but I think he's leaving in free agency.
With that in mind, let me launch into my three favorite free agency options for offensive tackle.
Trent Brown, Age 29, 7 Years of Experience
Brown is a guy who might be in the same boat as Moses, i.e., looking for both money and an opportunity to play. Brown, however, likely does not have as much credibility to get both, as Moses has played in every game every season dating back to 2015 while Brown has only had a complete season twice in 7 years for 3 different team. He was drafted by the 49ers in the 7th round in 2015 and stuck with the team through the 2017 season where he worked with current Jets OC Mike LaFleur and current Jets OL coach John Benton, giving him some experience with this offensive system and staff.
Brown started 9 games in 2021, completing 7 of them (after a Week 1 injury that cost him eight games, like what the Jets expected from Becton after his injury). PFF graded him higher than both Fant and Moses last season (better PBLK than both, better RBLK than Fant), though Fant and Moses outpaced him by at least 338 snaps each. I think that entering a familiar offensive system like the one the Jets employ and not entering the season as the presumed starter could benefit him long term; even if he never plays a single offensive snap for the Jets in a hypothetical world where both Fant and Becton play the entire season, getting paid to be a backup could be good for his long term health.
I also think that Brown is like Moses in that he's likely to only serve as a RT; though he has played both sides of the line in his career, he's only played RT since 2019 (a year he made the Pro Bowl despite only playing in 11 games) and only played LT in 19 (2 incomplete) of his 72 career games. He only played LT in 2018 and was penalized a league high 15 times (including 5 declined or offset) that year, so he would probably not be best suited to be a backup swing tackle.
If Brown were to sign with the Jets, I project that it would be on a one-year, $4.5 million contract with $3 million guaranteed. I think he's likely to hit free agency, as the Patriots only have $12.4 million at present in cap room, but I think he could get interest from a host of other teams (like the Steelers or Chargers, for instance) that could offer the same AAV for multiple years and a good chance to play. I'm not absolutely dying to have Brown on the team, so I probably won't look to raise either the dollar or guaranteed amount, but I do think he'd be good depth for this team. It'd be nice to get him in at that price, but if he signs elsewhere, it's not that big of a deal.
Nate Solder, Age 34, 11 Years of Experience
Solder is already loathed by one New York fanbase, so why not make him hated by another? I'm kidding, of course; I think a big reason why he's despised so much is because the Giants overpaid heavily to acquire him. He was made the highest-paid lineman ever at the time of his signing with the expectation that he'd be one of the best tackles in the league. That expectation was flawed from the start; Solder had never made the Pro Bowl in his 7 seasons with the Patriots and was among the more penalty-prone players on a usually-disciplined team (flagged 10 times each in his final two seasons with them).
It's not like he wasn't good for the Patriots, though; outside of his rookie 2011 season and his 5-game 2015 season, he'd never graded below 74.0 overall and was even above 81.0 in three of his seasons. He was among the more high profile free agents of the 2018 class, so it's not like he was completely unqualified for the job. The Giants simply shouldn't have set the market for him the way they did; he was entering a new offensive system for the first time in his career after playing in front of Tom Brady- one of the faster snap-to-throw QBs in the NFL- and coming off a 2017 where he allowed a career high 51 pressures with MVP-winning Brady.
Solder has played plenty of LT in his long career and is coming off a 2021 season where he played 15 of his 16 games at RT for the Giants (only completed 12, though I don't think all of his early departures were due to injury; I think he and the other starters were benched against the Rams when the game was well out of reach in the 4th quarter). He had a career-worst pass blocking grade from PFF of 52.7 and allowed a fairly high 36 pressures and 6 sacks(!!!), though if you ignore the game he played LT (easily his worst of the season), he only allowed 28 pressures at RT. Solder could probably serve as a backup swing tackle for the Jets with experience on both sides of the line, so I'm willing to forgive that one horrid game against the Cowboys where he allowed 8 pressures in front of 2 different quarterbacks.
If Solder were to sign with the Jets, I project that it would be on a one-year, $3 million contract (fully guaranteed) with an additional $3 million in LTBE incentives on playing time that could get him up to $6 million (games played means playing at least 20% of the Jets' offensive snaps in a game; $500,000 for 4 games played, $500,000 for 8 games played, $1 million for 12 games played, $1 million for 16 games played). I think this is a fair deal for Solder; he already counts for $4 million on the Giants 2022 cap thanks to a voided year, so he could account for $10 million across two teams if he ends up being the full-time starter for the Jets or just $7 million if he doesn't play more than a few snaps in a season. He provides quality depth on both sides of the line at a relatively cheap cost. I don't know what his market will look like after opting out of the 2020 season and playing below average in 2021, so he may not get better offers than this. He's already made a lot of money, so he might look to sign to be a backup with a contender, but even then, I'm not certain how many would even pay as much as I'm offering.
Germain Ifedi, Age 28, 6 Years of Experience
This one's a little awkward for me; I wanted the Jets to pursue Ifedi in free agency last year after what appeared to be a possible career resurgence in Chicago. After being Seattle's first round pick in 2016, he underwhelmed through four seasons splitting time between RG and RT. He signed with the Bears in 2020 at a contract just barely above veteran minimum and proceeded to have the best year of his career (not saying much, playing to about an average standard between both positions). In 2020, PFF gave him a 65.2 overall grade for his 16 complete games at both positions (he missed only 7 snaps the whole season, all of them against the Jaguars in a blowout victory). I thought he'd be a worthwhile signing for the Jets to either be a backup tackle or even a starting guard, and I would have paid him $5 million for one year (the money they could have saved by cutting Alex Lewis).
As it turns out, the Jets were probably good for not signing him, as he re-signed with the Bears to be their RT for one year at $4.25 million (spread over two voided years) and ended up playing in only 7 games on offense (2 more only on special teams) around a knee injury. He played about average in his 6 complete games, grading no lower than 51.5 overall and having 4 of those games graded above 60.0. He allowed an okay 9 pressures and 2 sacks in his 6 complete games, though his 5 penalties on the season (all false starts) are concerning. He also once got penalized 22(!!!!!!!!!!!!) times in 2017 with the Seahawks, so it's not like this was an unusually high amount of penalties for his games played last year. I don't think he'd be able to swing a starting job wherever he winds up next, so I think he could be a good depth signing.
Though his experience at both RG and RT appeals to me, I don't think the Jets should count on him to be a swing tackle. Still, I think he makes a good depth piece on the right side. He's definitely not lived up to being a first round pick, but he's still an NFL caliber player. He's missed only 12 games in his 6 years, so he's likely to remain healthy even if 8 of them happened last season. Hopefully, a new offensive system like the one the Jets would employ would best suit his talents and get the best out of him wherever he were to play along the line.
If Ifedi were to sign with the Jets, I project that it would be on a one-year, $3.5 million contract with $3 million guaranteed (same contract Dan Feeney signed last year). He played okay when on the field, but he only played 6 complete games and will likely have to take less money on his next contract. He's had a lot of experience in the league and can stay healthy; he needs to become more disciplined and could hopefully do that with the Jets staff, but if he's just a backup, hopefully that wouldn't mean too much.
Honorable mention: Mitchell Schwartz, Age 33, 9 Years of Experience
This one is a bit of a wild card, as Schwartz was not signed to a team in the 2021 season and I don't know if he intends to play again. He was last seen playing for the Chiefs in 2020 and only played 6 games that year, the first time in his lengthy career where he did not play a full 16 games. He was still playing at a high level in that year, but a back injury forced him onto IR in the middle of the season, with Schwartz choosing to hold off on surgery that would have definitely ended his season in the hopes of returning for a postseason run. That ultimately never happened, as he did not recover well enough to return for the Chiefs in the playoffs.
He was a solid RT for his entire career (only one snap at LT back in 2013 with the Browns), including two standout seasons in 2018 and 2019 (the former earning him a First Team All-Pro selection). The Chiefs released him ahead of the 2021 season as part of a cost-cutting measure, and he did not sign anywhere else like former teammate Eric Fisher did with the Colts. I don't know this for certain, but I believe that Schwartz decided to take a season off rather than full on retire to allow his body to heal from the back surgery he had in February. Maybe he had a private agreement with the Chiefs to return to them in 2022 once healed, but since he hasn't announced his retirement, I assume that he's available for anyone to sign, and I think he could be a good signing for the Jets.
If he were to sign with the Jets, I project that it would be on a one-year, $2.5 million contract, half of it guaranteed. I'd also include an additional $4.5 million in NLTBE incentives that could get him up to $7 million for playing time (games played means playing at least 20% of the Jets' offensive snaps in a game; $500,000 for 2 games played, $500,000 for 4 games played, $500,000 for 8 games played, $1 million for 12 games played, $1 million for 16 games played) and performance ($500,000 for making the Pro Bowl, $500,000 for being named a First Team All-Pro). I don't know what game shape he's in after what would be close to two years away from the game in September, but the upside he offers is great. He could sign with a team to be a backup (with at least one tackle who has been pretty frequently injured in his two-year career) for good pay and have a chance to earn much more should he be forced into a starting role, the latter of which could result in him getting another opportunity to earn more in 2023. This all depends on whether or not he intends to play again and, if he does, whether or not he'd be willing to sign with a team other than the Chiefs. If the answer to either question is no, then the Jets will need to look elsewhere.
Minimum Wage Options
I said I wasn't separating my favorite options into multiple tiers, so I guess that was technically a lie. As much as I'd like the Jets to sign one of the guys I mentioned, signing multiple of those guys to the contracts I described would not be responsible since all of these guys are expected to be backups with the Jets, and you really shouldn't be committing more money to backups than starters for almost any position group. Under those conditions, the Jets also need to round out their tackle room with guys making the veteran minimum or close to it.
I'm not expanding into any real detail, but there are three guys I'd like to bring in on contracts close to the minimum to serve as 3rd-string depth prior to the draft. The first is Jason Spriggs (Age 28, 6 Years of Experience), who was a 2nd round bust for the Packers that never turned into a starting caliber player but has played for 3 different teams in his time in the league. The second is Joe Noteboom (Age 27, 4 Years of Experience), who has played both LT and LG (plus a few snaps at RG and one complete game at RT) in his four years with the Rams, but didn't develop into a proper starter behind Andrew Whitworth (only starting when the veteran was injured); his experience at multiple positions appeals to me and I'd be willing to go a little over the minimum with some guarantees for one year. The third is Yosh Njiman (Age 26, 2 Years of Experience), who is my required Hokie for this list (even if the Packers might tender him) that played very well for a 4th LT in 8 complete games in 2021 and can be a good special teams blocker for the Jets at worst.
With all of these options, even if the Jets do as I wish and sign one tackle from each category, they still should supplement their ranks with options coming out of the draft. What they do with their draft picks will depend on the direction of their free agency moves, but I have a set offseason plan of attack that I'd like the Jets to pursue.
I'm not separating these options into tiers of play either, only distinguishing them by their projected draft round. I have three options to find the Jets long term tackle prospects, each of them capable of turning into eventual starters down the line. Note: these are not my favorite tackles in the draft necessarily, but my favorite options on how to target tackles in this class along with who in this class I would want to target at those spots.
Evan Neal, Age 21, Alabama
Neal is widely regarded to be the top offensive tackle prospect in the 2022 draft, possibly even the best offensive player ahead of any other offensive position. He became a starter on the Crimson Tide as a true freshman in 2019 at LG before moving over to RT in 2020 and LT in 2021. Playing in the SEC, Neal has faced a ton of defensive linemen that have made or will likely make the NFL in the coming years and he has graded extremely highly through PFF in each of his two years at offensive tackle.
He was extremely durable, not missing a game in his three years despite his Mekhi Becton-esque size and his hard-hitting opponents. He also managed to keep up a high level of playing in that time, allowing only 5 sacks in 40 games in front of 3 (main) different quarterbacks. In a class rich of tackles, Neal may turn out to be the best with his size, strength and abilities, though he would need to be developed in the NFL with better technique and (like Becton) may need to adjust his weight based on the desires of the team that drafts him.
The Jets would likely need to spend their 4th overall pick to draft him (making him the highest drafted OL since Andrew Thomas at 4th overall in 2020), and there's no guarantee he'd be available with two OL-needy teams in front of them in the Jaguars and Texans. Either one of them could forego selecting one of the top edge rushers or their other defensive needs for Neal, but if he makes it to the Jets, he would be a good choice. He can play multiple positions and provide the long term plan for the Jets to use at tackle post-George Fant.
Max Mitchell, Age 22, Louisiana
Mitchell became a starting player at his college as a true freshman and has been a very important player to one of the Sun Belt's best offenses in front of Levi Lewis (who I'd like the Jets to bring in if he hits UDFA) these past four years. The Ragin' Cajuns have used him as a LT, LG and RT during his time in college, but they seemed to settle on him being their RT in the 2020 season and almost exclusively used him in that role in 2021. PFF graded him as the second-best OT in the nation behind Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa (Mitchell was best in FBS) with a superb RBLK grade of 95.0 and a slightly-less impressive PBLK grade of 82.5.
You do have to consider his level of competition in the Sun Belt, with only Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State recently offering NFL prospects as high as the fourth round or expected to go in the fourth round of draft this year. While the step up in competition may be difficult to acclimate to for someone who played in the Group of Five, if the Jets were to draft him, I'd be comfortable with treating him as a backup in his first year behind Fant/Becton at RT to allow him to develop into a starter in his second year. Though this process didn't work with Chuma Edoga, I have more confidence that it could work with Mitchell.
The Jets would likely need to spend their 3rd round pick at 69th overall to draft him. I understand if you might not want to spend a pick in the first three rounds to have that player redshirt (or intend to redshirt) his rookie season, but Mitchell has the potential to turn into a franchise cornerstone as much as Becton does. He will be participating at the Senior Bowl (for the other team), so the Jets will have the opportunity to see how he matches up against other NFL prospects. With a solid performance there and at the combine, Mitchell may even raise his stock to the middle of the 2nd round, so he may not be available at 69, but he'd be a fine selection if he was and the Jets haven't resolved on their long term RT prior to the 3rd round.
Rasheed Walker, Age 22, Penn State
Walker is a prospect who has a lot to prove before the draft, and he will likely only have his college's Pro Day to do so. He was considered in 2020 to be a prospect on the rise to potentially earn himself an early selection in the 2021 draft, but he chose to return for a redshirt junior season. His final college season was unfortunately his worst as a starter, seeing him miss three games (including the Outback Bowl a month after the regular season ended) due to injury and not playing particularly well when on the field. He still played at about an average level for a season, but he had some games (notably against Wisconsin) where he struggled mightily.
He may still project as a viable NFL starter to some teams, but I think Walker could be a very good depth player used as a long term swing tackle. He almost always played at LT in his college career, but he already has a lot of good instincts in his blocking that he may not need much to transition to the right side if need be. Hopefully, his decline in 2021 was not a sign of what he will be in the NFL.
The Jets would likely need to spend one of their 4th round picks on him, which would only be advisable should they not have drafted any tackles prior to the 4th round and there are no better, more immediately effective alternatives. Should Walker slip all the way to the 5th round, he'd be a pretty easy selection for me even if I've already drafted a tackle ahead of him, but the middle of the 4th round seems like a fairly safe bet as to where he'll go in April, so if the Jets really want him, they'd best use a 4th to get him. Having a cheap, long term swing tackle is very beneficial to every future offseason planning, as you won't need to spend too many other resources at the tackle position if you're comfortable with the starting component.
Bonus Options in the 2022 Draft
Sometimes, undrafted tackles get called upon to make big leaps in their professional developments and end up getting significant playing time. George Fant was undrafted and has started 53 games in his 6 years (5 seasons) as a pro. Fant is an anomaly since he did not play tackle in college, but there are other examples of undrafted tackles coming to the NFL and having significant roles. I expect the Jets to be active in luring UDFA OTs to the team as soon as they are able, and there are a few options I'd like them to consider.
I'd like to take a swing on George Moore of Oregon (JUCO product of San Mateo). He's a little on the older side for NFL rookies, but at the tackle position, that's not particularly important. I think he could be a good RT piece that could use a year on the practice squad, as he only played in 29 games at Oregon and started only 20 of them. I'd also like to try bringing in Chris Paul of Tulsa should he hit UDFA (though I suspect he will get drafted), as he has experience at both guard spots and right tackle during his years in college. He's also a little on the older side as a redshirt senior, but his positional versatility is appealing. Finally, I'd like to give Aaron Frost of Nevada a chance, another redshirt senior with experience at both guard positions and right tackle. He has some more experience than Moore (36 games), and he missed some time due to injury, but he has the positional versatility I value in the experienced college OL.
Starting with the three guys currently on the roster, I'd retain Mekhi Becton (obviously) and George Fant while shedding Chuma Edoga. If Fant is willing to agree to a pay reduction either in a cut or extension, that'd be appreciated, but I think he earned his paycheck in 2021 and can be allowed to play for his money in 2022 if he doesn't want to renegotiate. That would leave only two on the roster ahead of free agency.
In said free agency, I would want the Jets to acquire at least two tackles with starting experience at the two positions. If Schwartz is willing to return to football and come to the Jets, I'd sign him first, but I don't know what his plans are for 2022 so I will assume that he is finished with his playing career and move on. I would first sign Germain Ifedi to the listed contract and use him as a RG/RT backup (like I wanted last year). From the veteran minimum pile, I'd bring in Joseph Noteboom, though I don't know how hard I'd fight for him if he gets better offers or wants to remain in Los Angeles for the minimum. If I cannot get either of them, I'd turn to Jason Spriggs and Nate Solder to be my backup options, hopefully with both of them still being available.
In the draft, I would be ready to take Evan Neal at 4th overall should I get my way. You may be wondering why I'd take a tackle 4th overall with already having two tackles set to start next season. In my plan, I'd have Neal play at RG in his first year and then move outside to one of the two tackle spots (probably LT) in his second year, similar to how he did at Alabama. This doesn't happen often in the pros, but it did happen in New England with Michael Onwenu, who primarily played at three different positions with varying degrees of success in his rookie year before seeming to settle at RT this year after a few games.
If Fant plays well enough in 2022 that the Jets simply cannot let him go, then great; they can extend him then to be a franchise tackle and keep Neal at guard. If not, that's still fine, as Neal can move outside to take his place. The same goes for Becton, who is entering a make-or-break year in 2022 that will determine whether or not the franchise will view him as a long term option or just dead weight. Personally, I'd move Becton to the right side and have Neal move to LT if Neal plays well at guard and Fant departs in free agency, since I think Neal is a better pass-blocking prospect in 2022 than Becton was in 2020, but if the component works best with Becton as LT in 2021, then I'm still fine with drafting a RT 4th overall.
That's a pretty significant change from where I was a few months ago when I said that you should not be drafting a RT that high. What changed? That was back when I was told the Jets would have Becton back by Thanksgiving and before I started to take notice and true appreciation of how much better Fant was playing at LT than he had at RT. I view Neal as not just a RT, but as a premium insurance policy against Becton, who needs to stay healthy and effective in order for me not to exercise it. If Becton cannot stay on the field or looks like he did against the Panthers last year when on it, I'd be prepared to shift Neal outside in his rookie season like the Patriots did when their 2020 OL battled injuries and COVID-19.
I'd also look to use other assets on the OL to improve the interior for the long haul, but I'll save my other ideas for that in my next offseason outlook when I round out the offense and analyze the guard and center positions.
Thanks for reading if you've made it this far.