New York Jets: There is still work to be done on the offensive line

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 23: Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets makes calls against the Green Bay Packers at MetLife Stadium on December 23, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 23: Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets makes calls against the Green Bay Packers at MetLife Stadium on December 23, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Following the conclusion of the 2018 NFL season, it was clear that the New York Jets not only needed to surround young quarterback Sam Darnold with more talent but that the team needed to improve the offensive line and provide him with adequate protection.

After another losing season that saw the New York Jets finish with a 4-12 record and a fourth-place spot in the AFC East, it was obvious that many holes needed to be filled before the team could return to being a playoff contender.

On the other hand, however, there were indeed some bright sports for the Jets in 2018. The most notable was quarterback Sam Darnold, who was drafted by the Jets with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Despite experiencing some ups and downs and some growing pains, Darnold shined at times giving the organization hope that it had finally found the franchise quarterback it has long been searching for.

With that being said, it’s become evident that the biggest priority for the Jets this offseason is to improve the roster around Darnold and that includes improving the offensive line given that the unit was a glaring weakness for the Jets in 2018.

In fact, the Jets have already begun to address the offensive line, making both changes and improvements. First off, the team elected to part ways with center Spencer Long, who signed with the Jets prior to the 2018 season. At the time, the Jets had hoped that Long would have a line-wide impact, but that didn’t turn out to be the case, as he often struggled and was wildly inconsistent.

Next up, it’s important to note that guard James Carpenter is an unrestricted free agent and is coming off of a season-ending injury, so it’s unlikely that he’ll return to the team next year.

As far as additions go, the Jets have already added some talent as well. First of all, the team re-signed center Jonotthan Harrison, though he’s looked at as more of a role player as opposed to a starter. In addition, it’s been reported that the Jets have agreed to terms with the Oakland Raiders on a trade that will send guard Kelechi Osemele to the Jets.

Adding Osemele is certainly an upgrade for the green and white as he’s only 29-years-old with two Pro Bowl selections and an All-Pro honor under his belt. In 2016, he had a grade of 84.9 and in 2017, he had a grade of 76.1.

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Last season, his grade dropped down to 53.7, but it’s important to note that he was dealing with an injury and a bit of a falling out with the Raiders staff.

Ultimately, Osemele is a high-level guard when healthy and could provide a much-needed spark to the Jets line. Also, the deal is a favorable one for the Jets as Osemele has no guaranteed money remaining on his deal and the team only sent a fifth-round pick back to the Raiders in exchange for him.

But despite the fact that this move seems to be a smart one made by the Jets, there is still work to be done this offseason in regards to the offensive line.

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At this point, it would appear that Osemele and Brian Winters will serve as the team’s starting guards while Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell will start in the tackle roles. The center position, however, remains a question.

As previously mentioned, Harrison is a skilled player and one that made sense for the Jets to re-sign, but he’s not necessarily seen as a starter.

With that being said, the team will need to address the position in free agency or in the draft in order to continue improving the protection for Darnold.  Unfortunately, the offensive line class doesn’t seem to be all that strong in free agency or the draft.

Because of this, the Jets should put a heavy emphasis on targeting 29-year-old Matt Paradis in free agency. The former Denver Bronco, who the Jets are reportedly making a “strong push” for according to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano is expected to be a highly-sought after free agent.

Adding a player of his caliber or perhaps someone like Kansas City’s Mitch Morse could be the missing piece the Jets are looking for and perhaps provide the team with what it was hoping for with Long last year.

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If the Jets were to indeed come to terms on a deal with Paradis or even Morse, the team’s offensive line as a whole would be much improved. In an offseason where the focus is on protecting Darnold and surrounding him with talent, this would be a strong step in the right direction.