If there is anything that NY Jets general manager Joe Douglas has made clear in his three years with the team, it's that he will only spend smart. He wants flexibility, strategic spending, and to simply end the trend of the Jets throwing bags of money at free agents' feet.
That being said, entering this offseason, offensive guard Alex Lewis was by many regards an easy cut. The guard signed a three-year, $18.6 million deal in March of last year, but his inconsistent play was a detriment to the offense in 2021.
In other words, it was surprising to see Lewis remain on the roster through free agency and the draft. After all, there were veterans on the market who could make for cheaper, more consistent upgrades.
Nevertheless, the Jets stuck with Lewis, and recently have restructured his deal. Now, Lewis is scheduled to be a free agent following 2022 and is essentially on a one-year deal worth $3 million.
So, why did the Jets opt to make it easier to keep him around in 2021? Well, Douglas’ reason is clear as day — chemistry.
Chemistry is key for the NY Jets
When looking around the league at the best offensive lines, the units are made up of linemen that have played alongside each other for a number of years.
Something that the Jets have not had any sense of ever since 2015, the final year with both D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold.
Obviously, Alex Lewis is not the same caliber player that Ferguson or Mangold was. But he is an experienced veteran with 39 career starts (21 with Jets) and is versatile too. He's had his moments in both pass and run blocking, just never both at the same time.
In 2019, Lewis was at his best as a pass blocker, worst as a run blocker. Then, in 2020, he flipped the script, as his pass blocking took a major step back. Certainly, if he wants to start this season, he needs to fix that.
Maybe, just maybe, with a normal offseason training program, Lewis will mesh with his fellow offensive linemen better than in the past.
There is a reason why Douglas paid Lewis in the first place, and he will have to prove it before the season begins.
Competing for the right guard spot
During his time with the Jets, Lewis has primarily played left guard, first taking the job after the Kelechi Osemele drama in 2019.
Except now with the Jets having taken USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round to play left guard, Lewis is going to compete for the starting job at right guard.
Who might his competition be? Well, he will be against the team’s 2020 starting right guard in veteran Greg Van Roten, veteran free agent signing Dan Feeney, and second-year lineman Cameron Clark, in addition to a handful of undrafted free agents.
It is also worth noting that the Jets will be in a new offense, led by offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. How each player adjusts to the new scheme will be key in the outcome of the competition.
Alex Lewis must improve
This goes without saying. In order for Lewis to make an impact, let alone make the team, he needs to play better than he did this past season.
No, Lewis may not have given up a sack, but the veteran was often beaten in pass protection. He also will need to prove that his solid run blocking last season was not a fluke, as run blocking has never truly been his strong suit since entering the pros.
Certainly, Alex Lewis has the fiery passion to fit in well with Robert Saleh’s NY Jets. But at the end of the day, all the chemistry in the world won't save Lewis if he does not perform on the field.