New York Jets: Which offensive linemen will return next season?
By Justin Fried
The New York Jets will undoubtedly be looking to reshape their offensive line in the offseason. But which linemen could we see return next year?
The New York Jets have plenty of needs going into the offseason, but their top priority will unquestionably will their offensive line.
The Jets team as a whole has underachieved this season, but there has been no more disappointing position unit than their offensive line. And entering the season, there was reason for optimism too.
While they didn’t make any high-profile moves, the additions that they did make led many to believe that there would be improvements off of last season’s lackluster showing.
Former Pro Bowl guard Kelechi Osemele was brought over from the Oakland Raiders to be an improvement over aging veteran James Carpenter while ex-All Pro center Ryan Kalil was coaxed out of retirement to be an upgrade over the duo of Spencer Long and Jonotthan Harrison.
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But despite the offseason changes, a Jets offensive line that was below-league-average last season took a step back and became a bottom-three unit.
Some will try and blame injuries for this but the fact is that the current iteration of the offensive line — with four of five starters out — is the best version we have seen this season. The backups have outperformed the starters, and that’s rarely a good thing.
Realistically speaking, the Jets will look to replace at least two or three of their current starting linemen in the offseason. And that number is likely higher, we’re just playing it safe here.
But it isn’t feasible to expect the team to overhaul their entire offensive line. Besides, that likely isn’t needed anyway.
So with that in mind, which players could the Jets look to keep around? Well, for starters, who will still be under contract?
Right guard Brian Winters — who is currently on the injured reserve — will be on the final year of his contract. But given his recent play and injury history, it’s very likely the Jets look to shake free from his $7.5 million cap hit without any penalty.
At the very least, they’ll likely look to restructure his deal.
The aforementioned Jonotthan Harrison will also be in the final year of a two-year extension he signed this offseason. The Jets will also be able to cut him without any cap penalty, but it’s more likely he sticks around in some fashion.
However, he certainly isn’t guaranteed a starting role.
Finally, rookie right tackle Chuma Edoga will obviously still be on the roster and it’s likely the Jets give him another shot to earn a starting job. While the third-round pick struggled in his rookie season, they’ll hope to continue molding him for the future.
But will that be at left tackle of right tackle?
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Both Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell have their contracts expiring this offseason, and the offensive tackles have arguably been the team’s two most consistent linemen. That said, it’s unlikely they bring both back.
While Shell is younger, the safe bet is on the Jets offering Beachum a short-term extension to return next season. Beachum will be 31-years-old next year, but the former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman has quietly been a very reliable piece for the Jets over the last few seasons.
And if they are going to go all-in on Edoga next season, it’s probably better that he sticks to the right side even if the plan is for him to eventually move to left tackle.
The Jets will also have a decision to make regarding their two backup guards who have become starters. Both Alex Lewis and Tom Compton have been surprises this season after filling in for Osemele and Winters, respectively.
That said, don’t expect the Jets to rely on both of them as starters next season.
Lewis started off strong but has had a rough few weeks while Compton has been a steady improvement over Winters. If the Jets are going to keep one of them in a starting role, I’d put my money on Lewis given that general manager Joe Douglas traded for him back in August.
Lewis was a Douglas acquisition and was given the first crack at the starting lineup. Compton was a Mike Maccagnan signing and even though he’s arguably played better as of late, he’s less likely to be back as a starter.
In reality, I’d say we’re likely to see both Beachum and Edoga brought back as starters next season with one of either Lewis or Winters starting as well. The other two spots will be filled with new starters and don’t count out a third being filled by a mid-round rookie.
The New York Jets’ roster overhaul will commence in the offseason and expect it to start with the offensive line.