The NY Jets feared the worst when young left tackle Mekhi Becton went down with a serious knee injury in Week 1 of last season. Veteran George Fant was moved over to left tackle, a position he had not played consistently during his time with the Jets.
In fact, Fant had been little more than a low-end starter/high-end swing tackle to that point in his NFL career. Expectations were understandably low given his prior experience.
However, what followed would be one of the most miraculous single-season breakouts in recent Jets history. Fant put together a phenomenal season that saw him establish himself as one of the best pass-blocking left tackles in the NFL.
At the age of 29, Fant had finally broken out. Now, entering his age 30 season and the final year of his contract, the veteran lineman is looking to secure an extension.
The Jets are likely reluctant to pay Fant at this time because they want to see if he can repeat that same success in 2022. Fant, to his credit, has earned a pay raise and long-term security following his impressive play at one of the most important positions in football last year.
It's an interesting situation, one that feels like it will eventually be resolved. It does seem like a matter of time until the Jets extend Fant, but what might that extension look like?
What would the NY Jets have to pay George Fant in an extension?
Of course, the value of any extension is dependent on when that contract is signed. It's impossible to predict the future value of a contract without knowing how Fant will play in 2022, so for this exercise, we have to assume a deal gets done before the start of the season.
Full disclaimer: I think it's much more likely the Jets extend Fant midseason or even place the franchise tag on him after the season is over, for what it's worth.
We can follow the same model that general manager Joe Douglas has used with previous contracts as a way to gauge what Fant's deal could look like. That's to say that Douglas is likely looking at a three-year deal with an out after year two.
Douglas has structured the vast majority of contracts he's overseen that way, whether it be Carl Lawson, C.J. Uzomah, Corey Davis, or any of a number of free agents he's signed. Even John Franklin-Myers has very little guaranteed money after this upcoming season.
The Jets prefer to have as much financial flexibility as possible, so it's fair to assume that any Fant extension likely wouldn't guarantee him much money after 2023 or 2024.
But what about the annual value? That depends on how much the Jets are willing to bank on Fant repeating his success this season. We could use recent left tackle extensions as a basis of comparison.
The Las Vegas Raiders signed Kolton Miller to a three-year, $54 million extension in April of 2021. That's worth $18 million a season and places him as the fifth-highest-paid left tackle in terms of average annual value.
Miller, however, was 25 years old when he signed that contract. Fant turns 30 later this month. While he was excellent last season, it seems unlikely the Jets would be willing to pay him that much.
Perhaps someone like Donovan Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers represents a more reasonable range then. Like Fant, Smith is currently 29 years old, and he's been Tampa's starting left tackle for the last seven seasons.
The New York native signed a two-year, $31.8 million extension in March of 2021 — a deal that pays him roughly $15.5 million per season. That's probably more likely what we'll see Fant shoot for.
I'd say a three-year, $48 million contract is about what to expect when it comes to a George Fant extension. Of course, that could change if Fant plays well again this season and goes into the spring without a contract. He would likely command more on the open market.
The Jets have to gauge the cost-benefit analysis of signing Fant before the season begins. Do they sign him now and risk him underperforming in 2022? Or do they wait until after the season and risk his price tag skyrocketing?
Those are the questions Joe Douglas will have to answer, and they're the same questions the organization has been faced with all offseason. Only time will tell what the team ultimately decides to do.