NY Jets settle for penalty-prone OL signing in free-agency misfire

The Jets have signed an offensive lineman....but there's some bad news

John Simpson
John Simpson / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

The NY Jets entered free agency desperate for offensive line help, and nearly 12 hours into the legal tapering period on Monday, the team finally signed their first free-agent lineman in former Baltimore Ravens guard John Simpson.

Simpson and the Jets agreed to terms on a two-year contract worth a maximum of $18 million. The former fourth-round pick is expected to slot in as the team's new starting left guard — a replacement for Laken Tomlinson.

The Jets sat by as many of the top names on the offensive line market signed with other teams throughout the day. According to various reports, they were never going to be in the market for the best offensive line options.

In the end, they settled for Simpson, a below-average starter who was the weakest link on a very good Ravens offensive line last season — an uninspiring start to free agency, to say the least.

What are the NY Jets getting in John Simpson?

A fourth-round pick of the Las Vegas Raiders in the 2020 NFL Draft, Simpson struggled over the first three seasons of his career with the Raiders. He received an opportunity to start in 2021, and while he did start all 17 games, the Raiders swiftly replaced him in the offseason.

The former Raiders draft pick was waived before the end of his third season, latching on to the Ravens' practice squad in December of 2022. Simpson would end up winning the Ravens' starting left guard job in the summer of 2023, and that's where he would revitalize his career.

Simpson started all 17 games at left guard for the Ravens this past season, allowing just one sack on over 600 pass-block snaps. It was a step in the right direction for a player who was on the verge of being out of the league just 12 months prior.

Still, that's about where the positives with Simpson end. In his two seasons as a starter in the NFL, Simpson has been penalized a whopping 23 times. His 11 penalties in 2023 ranked second among all offensive linemen.

Simpson has also consistently graded out poorly with Pro Football Focus. He's never finished with a PFF grade north of 60.0 in a season and ranked 49th out of 79 qualified guards in 2023.

At best, Simpson was a below-average starter last season when paired with an excellent Ravens offensive line. In every other year in the league, he was a borderline unplayable guard who didn't even make it through his rookie contract.

It's worth wondering how much of his "breakout" 2023 season — one in which he was still below average — could be chalked up to playing alongside a talented offensive line while blocking for the most mobile quarterback in NFL history.

The terms of the contract are reasonable, and it's likely the actual AAV is even less than what's been reported. The Jets went cheap, and as a result, they landed a player who is a marginal improvement (at best) over Laken Tomlinson.

The Jets had the opportunity to sign numerous better offensive linemen to solidify their most pressing need this offseason. Instead, they settled for a bargain-bin signing who seems destined for regression.

Unless Simpson exceeds expectations in New York, this has all the makings of another free-agent misstep by Joe Douglas and the Jets.