Jets Free Agency Preview: Offensive Line

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OverviewThe changing of the guard has meant a guard emphasis for the Jets.

GM Mike Maccagnan used his first free agency to ink James Carpenter to a four-year deal and "Carp" has been the team's top lineman over the past two years. While Carpenter has manned the left guard spot for the last 32 games, Brian Winters has significantly developed and become a valuable right guard. After starting 13 games this past season, the Jets made sure their starting guards would be together for at least two more seasons as they signed Winters to a four-year extension.

"Me and him (Carpenter) always say we can be one of the best guard tandems in the NFL and I still think that," Winters said. "That's another reason I wanted to stay around because I have a lot of respect for him and everyone else across the line."

Jets Free AgentsT Ben Ijalana (UFA): Accustomed to backing up D'Brickashaw Ferguson, things changed in a big way for Ijalana in 2016. After an illustrious 10-year career, Ferguson decided to retire in the offseason. With Breno Giacomini battling a back injury, Ijalana started the season in a rotation at RT with Brent Qvale. Then the 27-year-old Ijalana flipped over to the left side when Ryan Clady couldn't overcome a shoulder injury and was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 9.  Receiving the most extensive playing time of his career, Ijalana made 13 starts.

C Wesley Johnson (RFA): After Nick Mangold went down in Week 7 vs. the Ravens, Wesley Johnson became the center of attention. And he performed reasonably well for the Jets down the stretch as the team got RB Bilal Powell on track late. The 6'5", 297-pound Johnson started eight games for the Jets.

Best Images of the 2017 Restricted and Unrestricted Free Agents

The MarketWith Carpenter and Winters locked up, the Jets aren't in need for a front-line player at guard. Teams targeting that position might a look at the likes of Kevin Zeitler (Cincinnati Bengals), T.J. Lang (Green Bay Packers) and Larry Warford (Detroit Lions).

Entering February over the projected cap, the Jets will have decisions to make on Clady and Giacomini. The nagging back ailment limited Giacomini to five contests in 2016 after he started each game in 2014-15. Ricky Wagner (Baltimore Ravens), Andre Whitworth (Cincinnati Bengals), Riley Reiff (Detroit Lions), Jake Long and Matt Kalil (Minnesota Vikings) and Sebastian Vollmer (New England Patriots) all are scheduled to be on the market.

The 33-year-old Mangold, who paired up with Ferguson to be the fixtures along the Jets line from 2006-15, has expressed his desire to continue playing and would reportedly make $9.1 million this season under his current contract. The free agent crop at center includes J.C. Tretter (Green Bay Packers), Joe Hawley (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and John Sullivan (Washington Redskins).

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SynopsisDespite starting nine line combinations last season, the Jets ranked sixth in the AFC with 4.31 yards per rush. Eight different players participated in at least 20 percent of the snaps up front.

"The big thing is the young guys had a chance to play and establish themselves, so, there is hope there," said head coach Todd Bowles.

Brandon Shell, a fifth-round pick from South Carolina, started the final three games of the season at RT and was strong in his short stint. With another offseason to develop, it's possible the 6'6", 324-pound Shell could become the team's full-time RT. Johnson showed the game was not too big for him, but Mangold is a seven-time Pro Bowler and he remains a competent performer when healthy.

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