Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the New York Jets have agreed to a trade for Oakland Raiders offensive guard Kelechi Osemele. Here is a breakdown of the two-time Pro Bowler’s game and contract situation.
The New York Jets made it apparent that a top priority for the team this offseason would be bolstering the offensive line. With the reported acquisition of offensive guard Kelechi Osemele, it’s clear that the Jets didn’t want to wait until free agency to begin the improvement process.
Per a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Jets have agreed to send a 2019 fifth-round draft pick in exchange for Osemele and a sixth-round selection. While the trade will not be made official until the start of the new league year at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, reports indicate that it is, in fact, a done deal.
It’s no secret that the Jets were looking to acquire some new faces along the offensive line and with the release of Spencer Long and the expected departure of James Carpenter, it was clear the Jets would be targeting two positions specifically: left guard and center.
It looks as though they now have their new left guard.
Osemele entered the league as a second-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2012 but it wasn’t until he signed a massive 5-year, $60 million contract with the Raiders ahead of the 2016 season that he truly broke out. Osemele emerged as one of the premier guards in the league earned back-to-back Pro Bowl nods in 2016 and 2017 and even earning First-Team All-Pro honors in 2016.
The Iowa State product became an anchor for one of the best offensive lines in the league playing alongside fellow Pro Bowlers in Donald Penn and Rodney Hudson. However, his play slipped a bit in 2018 as he fought through an injury-riddled season.
Osemele scored the lowest Pro Football Focus grade of his career scoring a lowly 53.7 injury in a season marred by a nagging knee injury. Prior to that, however, Osemele earned stellar grades of 84.9 and 76.1 during the 2016 and 2017 seasons respectively.
If he could remain healthy and return to Pro Bowl form, this trade will wind up being a steal for the Jets. At his best, Osemele is a mauling run blocker who excels in a power run scheme. This is very different from the offensive linemen that the Jets have recently targeted in the past.
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In the past few years, the Jets have decided to run a zone blocking scheme which requires offensive lineman to be more versatile and athletic. Typically, teams will look for good pass blocking interior lineman as well as linemen who could pull in this scheme.
Osemele doesn’t exactly fit that mold.
The former Oakland Raider specializes in a power-based offense where he’s asked to beat defenders one-on-one by overpowering them. While his pass blocking has never been a true issue, his run blocking has been the emphasis of his game, something none of the Jets interior linemen have been able to say in recent years.
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The Jets have struggled running the football in between the tackles the last few years and much of that has been because of the team’s shift to a zone blocking scheme. With Osemele, the Jets should hopefully be able to run more of a power run scheme and hopefully have more success running inside.
At the same time, Jets fans shouldn’t be expecting a no-doubt All-Pro-caliber player. Osemele struggled mightily at times in 2018 and was ineffective enough for the Raiders to trade him away for very little compensation. Of course, his age and cap figure had a lot to do with that but it remains to be seen if Osemele could rebound after a rough 2018 campaign.
Still, it’s hard to argue that the trade itself isn’t a great move.
Osemele is set to make a little over $20 million over the next two years which is a sizable amount of money. However, none of his remaining salary is guaranteed. That means that the Jets could opt to cut ties with him after 2019 and there will be no cap penalty.
It’s essentially a “get out of jail free card” in case the trade goes south.
The Jets will still have roughly $82 million in cap space which remains the second-highest figure in the league behind only the Indianapolis Colts, per OverTheCap.com. Moreover, it’s likely that the top offensive line targets in free agency — Matt Paradis and Rodger Saffold — would demand higher salaries than what Osemele is earning at the moment.
Regardless, trading for Osemele doesn’t preclude the Jets from adding another offensive lineman in free agency. The Jets will still be in hot pursuit of Paradis and still see Kansas City’s Mitch Morse and the Rams’ John Sullivan as fallback options.
Even if this Osemele trade doesn’t work out, it’s well worth the “gamble” to drop just 57 spots from the fifth-round to the sixth. Osemele isn’t very far removed from being considered one of the best guards in the league and if he could stay healthy and even return slightly to form, the Jets will have gotten a steal ahead of 2019 free agency.
A true win for general manager Mike Maccagnan and a heck of a way to kick off the 2019 offseason.