NY Jets: How the team can fix the offensive line in 2020 NFL Draft, free agency

NY Jets (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /
NY Jets, 2020 NFL Draft, free agency (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
NY Jets, 2020 NFL Draft, free agency (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

The NY Jets can fix their offensive line woes this offseason. Here’s a full plan on how the team can do that in the 2020 NFL Draft and in free agency.

Everything fell apart for the NY Jets in 2019 for a variety of reasons. Although the root of all those issues can all be traced back to the team’s offensive line woes.

Sam Darnold was banged up both on and off the field. While we can’t blame the trenches for his diagnosis of mononucleosis, we can blame them for the sacks, quarterback hits, and hurries. That stunted the development of Darnold and thus stymied the team’s chances of winning ball games.

NY Jets fans have been begging the football gods forever for a franchise quarterback. Many talented passers have come and gone over the years, but none of them have been able to live up to the hype.

Sam Darnold seems different. There’s a quiet yet confident moxie, pocket presence, and an ability to improvise that you just can’t teach.

Despite the superstar traits, when you put anyone behind an average or subpar offensive line they can go from Superman to Clark Kent very quickly. There’s no better example than Andrew Luck with the Indianapolis Colts. Many analysts considered him one of the best quarterbacks in the game, but years of neglect to the offensive line eventually eroded him from a superhero to a mortal. Which eventually forced him to call it quits many years before anyone could’ve predicted.

That should be a cautionary tale for the NY Jets who believe they have finally found a worthy franchise quarterback to build around. But be warned, if you don’t protect him, Darnold will suffer the same fate that Andrew Luck did.

To prevent that from ever happening, we decided to cook up a perfect strategy this offseason to fix the trenches for the green and white. Here’s our foolproof plan utilizing the 2020 NFL Draft and this year’s free agency period.

Next: Free agency plan

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Free agency plan

The NY Jets have over $50 million in cap space although experts expect the team to have over $70 million by the time everything is said and done. With that being the case, Gang Green has a few different ways they can go:

  • Swing for the fences and attempt to acquire as many big-named free agents in the trenches as possible. This would feature names like Joe Thuney (New England Patriots), Brandon Scherff (Washington Redskins), and Jack Conklin (Tennessee Titans).
    • Any of these options would require market setting money but each possesses the credentials to back up such an extraordinary investment.
  • Or maximize value and sign several second and third-tier options to load up with depth and versatility.
    • The options in this category are endless considering the pieces that’ll be available during the free agency period.

With Kelvin Beachum heading to free agency, the team is in dire need of a starting left tackle. The plan should be to sign a veteran like Jason Peters (high-quality player with a connection to general manager Joe Douglas from their time in Philadelphia together), but his age (38) and durability concerns are too troubling to rely on.

So instead Joe Douglas should sign Halapoulivaati Vaitai. A versatile 26-year old (will be 27 by the start of the 2020 season) offensive tackle that is expected to earn between $8 and $12 million per season on a long-term deal.

Douglas spent several years in the Philadelphia Eagles organization and knows Vaitai well. He would provide some flexibility ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft with his ability to play left or right tackle.

During the NFL Combine, Joe Douglas intimated that the team would like to retain Brian Winters at guard. His $7.3 million cap charge includes no guarantees, so the team could cut him and save all of it on the cap. Although the best move would be to rework his contract so they make half of it incentive-laden.

At center the Jets can simply ride the Jonotthan Harrison train. He’s super affordable $2.25 million and has versatility (can play across the formation) but has shown some potential at center. There aren’t any great options on the free-agent market that make sense, so this is the clear answer.

At the other guard spot, the NY Jets apparently will be “all in” on Graham Glasgow formerly of the Detroit Lions. Over the last three years, he has started 47 of 48 possible games. He has experience at all interior positions along the offensive line which could come in handy in a pinch.

At right tackle, the Jets will likely swing for Jack Conklin. If they can land him he’d be a plug and play option, but the money is going to be insane. The team should consider some second and third-tier options like Daryl Williams, Jared Veldheer, or Germain Ifedi.

Next: 2020 NFL Draft plan

2020 NFL Draft plan

In our simulated free agency plan, the NY Jets didn’t break the bank for anyone but the team did add valuable depth and a variety of second-tier options throughout the trenches.

In the 2020 NFL Draft, the team owns eight selections and four in the top-80 which is the highest quartet of picks since 2013.

With the 11th overall pick, the Jets should take the best offensive lineman on the board. In a perfect world that would be Jedrick Wills, Andrew Thomas, or Tristan Wirfs. If any of those players were selected they could plug in at left tackle from day one or flip to the right side to pair with Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

For those curious: Mekhi Becton has an incredibly high ceiling and perhaps could one day enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame with his talent level alone, but the reason I wouldn’t be comfortable taking him is that he’s got too low of a floor for me to take a gamble on with a top-11 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Then on day two, I would add another center to the mix to compete with Jonotthan Harrison. There should be plenty of options available: Matt Hennessy of Temple (his brother is the long snapper for the NY Jets), Lloyd Cushenberry III of LSU, or Tyler Biadasz of Wisconsin.

Next. New York Jets: Top 10 2020 NFL free agents Gang Green should chase

If the NY Jets were able to follow this blueprint in free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft here’s what their offensive line would like heading into 2020:

LT: Jedrick Wills/Andrew Thomas/Tristan Wirfs (one of the three)

LG: Brian Winters (the team should also invest at guard depth on day 3 of the NFL Draft)

C: Jonotthan Harrison and either Hennessy, Cushenberry, or Biadasz

RG: Graham Glasgow (the team should also invest at guard depth on day 3 of the NFL Draft)

RT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai