As the New York Giants search for a starting right tackle continues, we ponder if former number two overall pick Luke Joeckel be the answer.
With training camp looming ahead for Big Blue, it’s about time that the team took an eye to adding a fresh face to the offensive line unit that could legitimately compete for the starting right tackle position.
Despite having to battle against the newly signed Kelvin Beachum for his own starting position with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Joeckel would likely easily be able to beat out current Giants’ starter Marshall Newhouse for the starting right tackle gig.
The former second overall selection of the 2013 NFL Draft never exactly panned out how the Jags had hoped, leading the team to decline Joeckel’s fifth year option. At 6’6″ and 306 lbs, the measurables are all there for the former Aggie, it’s just a question of improving his technique and finding his best fit on the offensive line.
Jacksonville went out and signed Beachum away from the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason to be their starting left tackle in 2016, and have been working Joeckel in at left guard during the team’s OTA period. Beachum has been recovering from injuries and won’t participate in workouts until August, so Joeckel has been seeing left tackle reps with the first team.
However, that seems mostly temporary as, although Joeckel would like to battle and win the starting gig, he’ll likely ultimately get slide down once Beachum returns.
“I’m going in planning on winning the job,” Joeckel said, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “I’m competing for a spot…I don’t know if insulted is the right word for it. [General manager] Dave [Caldwell] was honest with me the whole time…You do take it personally, for sure. But I want to stick in Jacksonville. I like it here. It all comes down to my play and I know that.”
It’s the right attitude for a player on the brink of demotion, but the Jaguars don’t want Joeckel to be there starting left tackle in 2016 unless he takes a huge step forward this year. While the former Texas A&M star might want to stick around in Jacksonville, that feeling might not be mutual as evident by the team declining his rookie option. It would behoove the Jags to explore trading him if they really have little to no intention of bringing him back in 2017.
The Giants would probably have to part with something in the range of a conditional fifth round pick in exchange for Joeckel’s services. The problem with the deal would be the likelihood that Joeckel walks after just one year with Big Blue in hopes of finding a team willing to offer him a shot at their left tackle slot.
On the other hand, it is pretty clear that Jacksonville want’s Joeckel to compete, but ideally for them he would lose out and be their starting left guard. There’s no way Joeckel doesn’t see that coming either. The Jags declined his option and gave Beachum a deal that has the potential to span over five years and pay him out as much as $46 million. He is a smart guy and sees what is going on around him.
The writing is on the wall for Joeckel, and if he really does want to stay in South Florida despite all of this, maybe New York could get him to stick around if they give him both the security of a starting job and a winning situation.
Joeckel wasn’t horrendous in 2015, he just wasn’t what a team expects when they use a first round (let allow the second one in the Draft) pick on a player. He allowed just one sack from Week 1 through Week 16. During the Jags’ Week 17 matchup against the Houston Texans he imploded allowing five sacks, getting manhandled by the likes of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Two great defenders, Watt being probably the best defensive lineman in the game, but still unacceptable from any franchise left tackle. It was an unfortunate performance that marred what was otherwise a fine season for him.
Jacksonville invested a lot in this guy and, although they’re on the brink of giving up on him, they still see some value in him as a starting guard. The Giants would really have to be willing to give up that conditional fifth round pick, with the understanding it would become a sixth rounder if Joeckel isn’t on New York’s roster in 2017.
This is deal makes sense for both sides, addressing a clear need for the Giants while allowing Jacksonville to move on from a failed projected franchise cornerstone with some value in hand.
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Joeckel isn’t a Pro Bowler by any means, but he can be serviceable and would look great in New York’s West Coast offense. It won’t require him to stay in pass protection for long periods of time, and Joeckel’s length makes it easy for him to set the edge and keep pass rushers on his outside hip. Even if he gets beat on the outside, Eli Manning has the offensive system and weapons to get the ball out quickly enough to minimize mistakes made by the big guys up front.
Replacing Newhouse with Joeckel isn’t fixing the problem overnight here. It’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet hole really, but if a low risk trade is what makes it happen then it’s worth Jerry Reese exploring.
A big splash on the offensive line would have been great for this team, however, the time for that is long gone. It’s about making the best of the scraps and flawed parts left on the open market and trade block to fill out what will hopefully be a playoff competitive team. Frankly, this team doesn’t need that big splash signing anyways, it’s offense is designed to survive without excellent offensive line play. With the struggles of Newhouse, Ereck Flowers, John Jerry the Giants still made do. They had just two real above average player in Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, and still were the league’s eighth ranked offense.
Joeckel is the low risk-high reward type move that could pay big dividends for this team if it pans out correctly. If not, losing a sixth rounder might sting a bit, but this team’s window is closing rapidly and every avenue is worth exploring at this point.