Joe Douglas has said it before, and the Jets' general manager, an old offensive lineman himself, said it again in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine this week:
"O-line and D-line are going to be a high priority for us, always."
Douglas offered this latest version of his mantra in response to upgrading at "tackle, center, guard, D-tackle, D-end." But his observation certainly applies to players on the Jets' current roster who need to be signed sometime in the near future.
On the defensive side, DL Quinnen Williams, coming off his first Pro Bowl berth and entering his fifth year with the Jets, is under contract for 2023 but is seeking a new deal that he has said he wants to get done by next month's start of the offseason strength and conditioning program. Douglas said things are moving along in this area in negotiations with Nicole Lynn, Williams' agent.
"We've had good discussions with Nicole and Quinnen since the season ended, and we feel really good about where we're at," the GM said. "We feel good that this process is going to play out in the right way."
The desire, of course, is to sign Williams to a deal that will keep him in green and white for the long term after "Q" enjoyed a career year in 2022. His 12.0 sacks were his best as a Jet and led the team, were 11th-most in the NFL and second among interior linemen behind only the 15.5 sacks of the Chiefs' Chris Jones. Williams' 28 QB hits similarly were a career high, led the team and came in tied for fourth among the league's defenders.
The offensive side is a different matter. The Jets' O-line has some strong individuals yet experienced injury and continuity issues all season. And later this month seven members of the OL room can test the market as unrestricted free agents, all of whom started at least one game. That list (starts in parentheses): center Connor McGovern (17), tackles George Fant (7), Cedric Ogbuehi (5) and Mike Remmers (1), and guards Nate Herbig (11), Dan Feeney (2) and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (1).
Douglas specifically addressed the left tackle position, at which six players logged at least 10 snaps last year — the most Jets to see action at LT in a season since at least 2006.
"Yeah, we have a lot of moving pieces, in-season, too, so that's definitely a position where we'd like to create some more stability and continuity, especially with the injuries we sustained last year," he said. "Duane [Brown]'s under contract, Max Mitchell's coming back — Max is doing great, another player that's recovering — and Mekhi [Becton] is doing great. So we feel good about those three guys coming back."
The GM and his staff's offseason has gotten complicated as the team not only works to sign Williams and its O-linemen but pursues a veteran quarterback as well. But what Douglas said in Indy about free agent QB Derek Carr applies also to the aforementioned situations on either side of the line or at any position as the Jets head deeper in the 2023 calendar:
"When we feel like it's time to make the right decision, we're going to make it."