The NY Jets are hoping that free-agent signing Greg Van Roten could upgrade the offensive line.
First-round pick Mekhi Becton has received the majority of the love while fellow free-agent signing Connor McGovern has received his fair share of praise as well. But Van Roten isn’t a name that comes up when discussing the Jets’ best moves of the offseason.
Perhaps it should though.
Van Roten quietly put together a very solid season with the Carolina Panthers last season starting 11 games at left guard. The 30-year-old allowed one sack and was tagged for just two penalties while earning a very solid 65.6 Pro Football Focus grade.
That grade ranked him as the No. 25 guard in the NFL meaning that he was technically above-average at his position in 2019. In his second full season as a starter, Van Roten proved to be a quality member on a shaky Carolina offensive line.
Entering 2020, Van Roten is expected to compete with the incumbent Brian Winters for the starting right guard position. And given his recent success with the Panthers, he’s expected to have the edge.
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But what can Van Roten do to ensure that 2020 is a successful season for him?
How Greg Van Roten can find success with the NY Jets in 2020
The Jets signed Van Roten to a very team-friendly three-year, $10.5 million contract with just $3 million in guaranteed money — all of which is in his first season. That means that the Jets could feasibly cut him at any point after 2020 with no dead cap penalty.
Given his age and lack of consistent starting production that makes a great deal of sense.
Nonetheless, the Jets will hope that Van Roten can not only win the starting right guard job in the summer, but solidify an offensive line that looks somewhat improved on paper.
To do so, he’ll have to beat out the aforementioned Winters for the position.
Winters’ play has declined in recent years as he’s dealt with a variety of injuries, and it’s somewhat of a surprise that he’s still on the team at this point. Still, the Kent State product has proven to be a quality starter when healthy and should provide adequate competition for Van Roten.
Ideally, Van Roten proves that he’s the better option in the summer and forces Winters to either take on a backup role or look for a new job. Now solidified as a starter, he must work on the weaknesses that held him back last year.
Like many of the team’s offseason additions (McGovern chief among them), Van Roten is a much more accomplished pass-blocker than he is a run-blocker. The New York native tallied a very impressive 74.1 pass-block grade by PFF last year but only a 57.3 run-block grade.
This wasn’t a fluke either as his 2018 splits (68.8 pass-block/54.9 run-block) paint a similar picture. Given how poor the Jets’ running game was last season, it would be great to see Van Roten continue to show improvement as a run-blocker.
Of course, at 30-years-old, it’s unlikely that Van Roten makes any serious strides. But the former Ivy League standout has always been a late-bloomer anyway.
An undrafted free agent in 2012, he didn’t start his first career NFL game until 2018 at the age of 28. Moreover, following a brief stint with the Green Bay Packers from 2012-2013, Van Roten wouldn’t suit up for another NFL game again until 2017 with the Panthers.
And after putting together the best season of his career in 2019, perhaps the best is yet to come for Van Roten in 2020.
Improving his run-blocking and maintaining his status as an above-average pass-blocker would do wonders for the Jets’ offensive line this season.
And if he could do that, Greg Van Roten would become one of the most underrated free-agent signings the Jets have made in years.