trai turner jets
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Five-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Trai Turner is on the market. Should the New York Jets make a move to acquire him?

Whether it’s Zach Wilson, Sam Darnold, or possibly the expensive superstar that is Deshaun Watson, the Jets offensive line will need to step up and protect its quarterback in 2021. The Gang Green unit allowed 43 sacks last year and was the 29th-ranked offensive line per Pro Football Focus‘ ranking system.

Given the Jets possess a whopping amount of cap space (nearly $70 million as of Saturday), the organization would benefit if it utilized some of it to boost the talent level across the offensive front.

Lucky enough, the Chargers just made offensive guard Trai Turner — a five-time Pro Bowler — a cap casualty. His release this past Friday saved Los Angeles $11.5 million against the cap but he’ll surely find another team for the 2021 campaign and potentially beyond.

Could that team be the Jets?

It could, and likely should.

It’s known general manager Joe Douglas prefers to build through the draft; that’s why selecting Wilson at No. 2 overall is a more probable option at this point than giving up a multitude of assets for Watson. But with the aforementioned amount of cap space on hand, the Jets at least need to make a few acquisitions when the free agency period officially commences on Wednesday, March 17.

Turner would certainly be an upgrade from current Jets offensive guard Alex Lewis, who still could end up being a cap casualty — cutting Lewis would save the Jets nearly $5.2 million in space. Turner has simply undergone a better career (despite struggles out West last season) than Lewis and is still young at the age of 27 (Lewis is entering his age-29 season).

He might not be totally expensive either given his on-field issues last season (34.8 PFF grade through just nine games). His past injury history additionally may bring down his price; Turner has played a full season just twice in seven years.

Turner’s previous contract carried an average salary of $11.25 million, so the Jets could probably acquire him for around $8-10 million annually. That would certainly be affordable for the organization with the second-highest amount of cap space in the entire league right now.

The Jets could also sign Turner to a short-term contract, whether it’s a prove-it deal or just for him to be a stopgap option while a Joe Douglas draftee develops behind him. New York may utilize a mid-round selection (such as its No. 108 overall pick in the fourth round) on an interior offensive lineman.

As previously noted, a talented offensive line that can build chemistry and flourish on the field will be important for whoever plays quarterback for the Jets next season, but especially if it’s Wilson or Darnold. The former would need a great deal of help to efficiently develop in his rookie season while the latter would require assistance to prove he can succeed and be the team’s long-term signal-caller.

A crucial aspect of either development will be the overall success of the line. Turner could contribute to that potential success, and since an acquisition may not be a complicated task, the Jets should at least consider picking him up this offseason.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.