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Breaking down remaining holes on Jets’ offensive line

Oct 17, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New York Jets center Nick Mangold (74), guard James Carpenter (77) and offensive tackle Ryan Clady (78) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Jets 28-3. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 17, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New York Jets center Nick Mangold (74), guard James Carpenter (77) and offensive tackle Ryan Clady (78) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Jets 28-3. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Jets have some glaring holes on their offensive line. Here’s a breakdown on some of the more blatant issues that must be addressed.

The New York Jets have blatant holes throughout the roster heading into the offseason. Several of those holes are on the offensive line. Yes, the unit survived with its current players in 2016 and Pro Football Focus graded them well, but you can’t lie to yourself here. With overpaid veterans and repetitive health issues throughout the group, it stands no chance in 2017. Some changes will need to be made this spring.

General manager Mike Maccagnan has already gotten to work with his extension of right guard Brian Winters. The 2013 third-rounder was retained on a four-year deal worth a whopping $29M, although only $15M is guaranteed.

The Jets had to get this guy back in any way possible. He struggled mightily in his first two seasons before molding into one of the best pass blocking guards in the NFL. His inconsistent run blocking is the only thing keeping him from playing at an All-Pro level. His paycheck is well-deserved.

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The other bright spot on Gang Green’s offensive line is James Carpenter. The veteran was signed in the 2015 offseason on a four-year deal worth $19.1M with $7.5M guaranteed. He was a bad experiment by the Seattle Seahawks as he struggled at both tackle and guard in their west coast scheme. He has excelled in New York and made his contract look like a bargain. That’s another move Maccagnan can pat himself on the back for.

The two guard positions are pretty much shored up. You have starters in place and you have depth in Dakota Dozier. Brent Qvale can also step in if need be. The Jets’ concerns are obviously on the outside and at center.

Ryan Clady and Breno Giacomini have cap casualty written all over them. Cutting Clady would save $9.46M and cutting Giacomini would save $3.96M, per Over The Cap. Ben Ijalana‘s late season performance showed it might be best to let him walk.

So how can New York improve at tackle? Well, they can find a starter in free agency or the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. Rookie Brandon Shell proved he’s capable of handling the starting gig at right tackle, but it’d be in the Jets’ best interest to get him some competition. A low-end free agent like Byron Bell or Jordan Mills could work there.

The left side should be addressed through the draft. At sixth overall, Gang Green can reach for Cam Robinson or Ryan Ramczyk. If they decide to wait, there are a handful of tackles with second-round grades to choose from. Garett Bolles, Adam Bisnowaty, and Roderick Johnson are names to consider with the 39th pick.

New York’s center situation is fairly simple to understand. Nick Mangold has been a cornerstone piece for the past 11 seasons, although his health issues and contract make him difficult to keep. Cutting him would save just north of $8.5M, per OTC. He has one year left on his deal, so a pay cut is very possible. Backup center Wesley Johnson is a restricted free agent, which makes a second or original round tender the most likely scenario. The question mark here is the long-term solution.

Next: What direction should the Jets head in for 2017?

The Jets have their issues on the line, however, it’s noticeably improving. Ultimately, the dilemmas at left and right tackle have to be resolved this offseason. Whoever plays quarterback in 2017 needs as much protection as possible. They can’t afford another collapse in the unit like they had in 2016.

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