Joe Douglas has been retooling the New York Jets’ offensive line all offseason. Signing Larry Warford would finish the rebuild.
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas is an offensive line guy. He played the position at Richmond, in his first press conference he talked about the importance of the offensive line, and now he’s spent the entire 2020 offseason rebuilding that unit.
He’s brought in four new starters along the line. Larry Warford should be the fifth. The Jets’ offensive line was arguably the worst in football in 2019. Sam Darnold was pressured the second most in the NFL on over 40% of dropbacks. The running game wasn’t much better as Le’Veon Bell averaged the least yardage gained before contact.
The line needed to be completely revamped. With Mekhi Becton and George Fant in hand, the Jets have two new tackles. Greg Van Roten will compete for a starting guard spot. Most importantly, Connor McGovern is set to take over at center.
All of those moves represent upgrades over the players who previously held their spots. The only position that hasn’t changed is right guard. Brian Winters continues to man the spot as he has for the last seven years.
Larry Warford suddenly becoming available gives Joe Douglas the perfect opportunity to upgrade. He should seize it and finish his overhaul of one of the worst units in football.
The Guard Situation
The current guard situation is problematic, to say the least. Winters and Alex Lewis combined to be one of the worst pairings in the NFL in 2019. As things stand now, they both have a shot to start next season.
Lewis is going to compete with free agent pick up Greg Van Roten for the left guard spot. Both signed three-year deals this offseason, but Lewis was with the team in 2019. That gives him an innate advantage, especially since Van Roten won’t be able to get any on-field work done most of the offseason.
The worse situation is at right guard. Brian Winters is currently going to be unchallenged at right guard. He’s one of the worst guards in the NFL and is set to make over $7 million in 2020, that’s poor cap management.
That can be solved though, Winters would leave no dead cap if the Jets were to cut him. It didn’t make much sense to cut him after the initial wave of free agency ended. It was clear Winters was still the team’s best option.
The situation changed Friday night when Ian Rapoport announced that the New Orleans Saints cut Larry Warford. The three-time Pro-Bowler would immediately be the Jets best guard, and potentially best offensive lineman.
He’d be an immediate upgrade. Cutting Winters and signing Warford should be a no-brainer for Douglas.
How does Warford stack up?
Warford had 29 approximate value over the past three seasons. That puts him second among right guards behind only Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys. Brian Winters, on the other hand, had just 14 AV over the last three years. Winters’ best season had him earn just six AV. That’s equal to the worst season of Warford’s career.
According to Pro Football Focus, the University of Kentucky product was the 11th best guard in 2019. He was particularly effective in the run game where he rated out as PFF’s eighth-best run-blocking guard.
Warford has allowed just five sacks and was called for just eight penalties over the last three years. On the other hand, Winters has allowed 11 sacks and was called for 13 penalties.
Most importantly, there’s no concerning injury history here. He’s played in 44 of a possible 48 games over the past three seasons. Compare that to Winters who’s only played in 38 of a possible 48 games.
So let’s just get this straight: He’s better, generally healthier, and about the same age as Winters. Why wouldn’t the Jets jump all over this opportunity?
Warford is among the top-five right guards in the NFL. He’s a top-15 guard in the league. Some team is going to add some serious muscle to its offensive line when they sign Warford. The Jets have the cap space and a need at the position. Joe Douglas should make sure Warford is in green in 2020.
This is a move that solidifies the offensive line and potentially gives Sam Darnold, at the very least, a league-average unit in front of him. That would be a huge step up from the league-worst unit that was in front of him in 2019. That’s how you build around a young quarterback.