Grading the Jets’ Signings in Free Agency So Far
New York Jets were more active in the free-agent market as the signing period progressed. The team, now having their sights set on competing for an AFC East title, addressed the offensive line and the secondary. The focus now shifts to the receiving and pass-rush fields.
Indeed, the pocket has overgone a massive alteration with three of the four signings being offensive linemen. Here’s all you need to know about the start of the Jets’ offseason:
George Fant, Offensive Tackle
Considering Fant’s downfall in Seattle, you have to question Joe Douglas’s decision. In 2017, he missed the year after an ACL injury. He never really returned as a regular starter on the Seahawks offensive line since.
An undrafted free agent in 2016, Fant started just seven games at tackle last year. Previously, he was regularly used as a tight end. However, that can’t erase the fact that his path provides too many question marks. Especially for a team that needs desperate answers at the position.
Unless there’s something that the team sees that we’ve forgotten from the pre-injury Fant, he’ll have to develop a lot to fill the void left by Kelvin Beachum. Beachum was the starting tackle for the last four years. He started 16 games in consecutive years in 2017 and 2018. In his most recent campaign, Beachum committed seven penalties, more than any season except 2016.
Interestingly enough, Fant has been responsible for many flags while playing in the offensive line. In seven starts last year he had just one. However, Fant was still present for only 63 percent of the snaps even in ten starts back in his rookie year. Since then, numbers have only gone downhill, and he resembles a liability.
The deal was worth $30 million over three seasons. Signing bonuses pump up the value of the contract. Fant’s salary of over $9 million in 2022 non-guaranteed, and so is his 2021 salary if the Jets cut him before the fifth day of the league year. Therefore, if he provides a bad turnout and isn’t injured this time next year, the team will be able to move forward. It’s a comfortable deal for the Jets, but it’s weird paying $10 million per year for a player that’s never stuck around long enough. Especially if you’re choosing him over stars like Jack Conklin
Alex Lewis, Left Guard (returning to Jets)
Sometimes, you can’t improve on everything. Knowing they want freshness at left tackle, bringing back their starting left guard is a satisfying move.
The whole of the Jets’ front line was subject to criticism. However, Alex Lewis not only impressed compared to the rest of the pack but had his most productive year up to date. Lewis started career-high 12 games as the team’s starting left guard.
Just like the Fant deal, this one had little in guarantees ($6 million). It should be noted that Joe Douglas’s gambles are not without a cover-up. And just like the Fant deal, it’s interesting with the draft class being loaded with offensive linemen but doesn’t rule out a pick in that field.
Connor McGovern, Center
While the other two moves could turn out to be unexpectedly proficient, this one could hit the jackpot. McGovern had a pretty strong season in Denver. The 2019 campaign saw him get flagged zero times the whole year.
However, that one season wasn’t the lone wonder. He has committed just eight total penalties throughout his three-year career. Only 26-years-old, he’s been terrific since his move from right guard to center and became a force in Denver.
It was a much-needed move to replace Ryan Kalil. Statistically, it was even more impressive. It’s all but covers up for the failure in the Jack Conklin race. Years of bad pocket play costing good seasons and Joe Douglas is bringing an elite lineman to New York, at last.
The Jets’ answer to edge-rushing is still questionable, and that might prompt them to select Thomas or Becton in the Draft. However, their response to interior pressure can come a long way. This means that the Jets might now be in on a WR pick.
Brian Poole, Cornerback (returning to Jets)
The Jets have re-signed one of the best cornerbacks on the market. Brian Poole was the Pro Football Focus’s 9th-highest graded corner last season.
It was a real challenge trying to keep him, especially with their most prominent targets, Byron Jones and Chris Harris, going to Miami and Chargers. During 2019, Poole started career-high nine games and recorded one interception. Also, he allowed a passer rating of just 91.3. Surprisingly, he suffered a slight increase compared to his 85.9 with Atlanta in 2018. His numbers speak volumes of his ceiling.
Continuity should help him spark and improve a subpar defensive unit against the passing game. In order to do that, the Jets need to provide reinforcements via the pass-rush.
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