After four seasons with the Jets, Brian Winters could have tested the free agency market. There was certainly an allure to the unknown, but Winters also had firsthand knowledge of a pair of veteran linemen who had stayed for more than a decade after being drafted in 2006.
"I feel good, I feel relieved. I'm happy we were able to work something out," Winters said a day after inking a four-year extension with the Green & White. "I wanted to stay a Jet and continue my career with the team that drafted me. So I'm pretty excited about that, to kind of follow in the footsteps of Nick (Mangold) and D'Brickashaw (Ferguson), being a homegrown guy."
Ferguson and Mangold played 10 seasons together after being selected by the Green & White in the first round of the 2006 draft. Winters has played four seasons with Mangold and he was a teammate of Ferguson's from 2013-15.
"I felt like it would be good for me to stay with the New York Jets because they drafted me, they gave me my chance," said Winters, a third-round pick from Kent State in 2013. " I'm comfortable with where I'm at. Obviously testing the waters is nice and it would be fun, but it's also very stressful."
For the majority of his collegiate career, Winters played outside at tackle for the Golden Flashes. He moved to the interior for the Jets, starting 18 games over his first two professional seasons. But he came into his own when taking over the starting duties at RG for Willie Colon when the latter was forced to injured reserve in 2015 with a knee ailment.
"I had growing pains early on. I never had played the positon until I got to the NFL. Once I got here, it was a learning curve but I just had to continue to work and grind," said Winters. "It's a process. I'm not going to go out there and be a superstar right away. I learned, I studied more, I figured out how to play that position well and obviously I did that. It was a continuous ladder that I climbed."
The 6'4", 320-pound Winters started 13 games this season for the Jets, forming one of the better guard duos in football with James Carpenter.
"James and I talk about that every week. Me and him always say we can be one of the best guard tandems in the NFL and I still think that. That's another reason I wanted to stay around because I have a lot of respect for him and everyone else across the line," Winters said. "I wanted to fulfill that and I wanted to be a part of that with him. He's taught me a lot and I've taught him some things and we feed off of each other. I'm just excited to continue to play with him and we want to build our brand."
Back in Ohio rehabbing his surgery-repaired shoulder, Winters is already looking ahead to taking on more responsibility in 2017.
"I'm excited. I want to be a bigger face of the team. I want to be a leader," he said. "I hope people lean on me that way — not just from my situation but I've been around and I've seen the ups and downs. I just want to help and grow and I'm ready for the ride. I know what we have in the locker room and I know what we can be. We just have to put it all together."
The Jets Signed G Brian Winters to a Four-Year Contract Extension on Monday