Jets Free Agency Preview: Offensive Line

Posted Feb 19, 2018

Green & White Could Have a Critical Decision Ahead at the Pivot

Jets Free Agents

UFA (3): G Dakota Dozier, OL Jonotthan Harrison, C Wesley Johnson
RFA (1): OL Brent Qvale

The Market
Notable Tackles: Nate Solder (NE), Cameron Flemming (NE), Seantrel Henderson (BUF), Michael Schofield (LAC), Sam Young (MIA), Chris Hubbard (PITT)
Notable Centers: Ryan Jensen (BAL), John Sullivan (LAR), Weston Richburg (NYG), Spencer Long (WAS), Daniel Kilgore (SF), Travis Swanson (DET), Russell Bodine (CIN)
Notable Guards: Andrew Norwell (CAR), Justin Pugh (NYG), Brandon Fusco (SF), John Kline (TEN), Joe Berger (MIN), Patrick Omameh (JAX), Evan Smith (TB)

Synopsis: For close to two decades, the Jets experienced an unprecedented run at center. It all started with a free agent pickup as Bill Parcells targeted Kevin Mawae in 1998 and the latter revolutionized the position, displaying an athleticism not seen before in the middle. Mawae, who earned six of his eight Pro Bowl selections with the Jets from 1999-2004, was released in the 2006 offseason.

The hole in the middle didn’t last long as the Jets selected Ohio State’s Nick Mangold with the 29th overall selection in the ensuing Draft. Mangold would gain seven Pro Bowl invites and the only things that slowed him down were age and an ankle injury. Released last February after 11 seasons with the club, Mangold did not play in 2017.

Veteran Wesley Johnson made eight starts in relief of Mangold in 2016 and he became the guy last season, starting in all 15 of his appearances. But Johnson and his backup, Jonotthan Harrison, have expiring contracts and the Jets have a critical decision to make. While most of the speculation around the team is focused on the quarterback position, who will be hiking him the ball in 2018?

Ryan Jensen took over full-time center duties for the Ravens last season, earning plenty of praise along the way. He is expected to have multiple suitors if he hits the market and Jensen should have plenty of good football left in him, considering he has only made 35 NFL appearances and he will turn 27 in May. The Rams have expressed interest in retaining John Sullivan but it would be fascinating to see his market as the experienced Sullivan, a longtime Viking who has been an NFL starter since 2006, will be 33 when the regular season commences in September. A concussion limited Weston Richburg to just four games in 2017, but the Giant has three years of starting experience and could be an intriguing option for some clubs. Daniel Kilgore started 16 games last season for the 49ers and San Francisco reportedly has had discussions with his representation about a possible extension.

Next to the Jets’ center, both James Carpenter and Brian Winters are scheduled to return. Talented reserve Dakota Dozier, whom head coach Todd Bowles cited as one of the most improved players on the team, has a deal that will expire in March.  The big fish at guard is slated to be Andrew Norwell, a former undrafted free agent who was named first-team All-Pro last year. The Panthers want Norwell back, but the stud mauler could command one of the most lucrative offensive linemen contracts in the history of the league.

At tackle, Kelvin Beachum gave the Jets a solid effort on the left side and the wise veteran provided a positive presence in the locker room. Across the way, Brandon Shell took a step forward in Year 2. One of the Patriots’ most pressing offseason questions revolves around Nate Solder, a first-round pick in 2011 who has been responsible for protecting Tom Brady’s blindside. Fellow Patriot Cameron Flemming is only 25 and he has the ability to play both tackle spots. In order to free up cap space, the Dolphins may elect to part ways with RT Ja’Wuan James.

The Green & White have the financial flexibility to target a couple of offensive linemen in free agency although general manager Mike Maccagnan has stated that successful teams find value in offensive line prospects in the draft that they grow and develop. Some of the top offensive linemen in April’s draft class include Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson, Oklahoma T Orlando Brown, Texas T Connor Williams, UCLA T Kolton Miller, UTEP G Will Hernandez, Ohio State C Billy Price, Arkansas C Frank Ragnow, Georgia T Isaiah Wynn and Notre Dame T Mike McGlinchey.