The Jets have needed offensive tackle depth. Now they may need a Week 1 starter.
Projected starting right tackle Mekhi Becton went down in Monday’s practice and limped off the field. He was favoring his braced right knee — a dislocation of the same knee caused Becton to miss 16 games last year. The initial diagnosis revealed injury to the knee cap and patella. There is reportedly fear Becton’s 2022 season might be over before it started. Head coach Robert Saleh said “it doesn’t look good” during a Tuesday morning interview on WFAN.
Injuries and a perceived lack of commitment sent Becton to the right side after the Jets drafted him in 2020 to be the blindside blocker for years to come. He reported to camp in shape and seemed to be off to a solid start. But now Becton could be looking at another lost season.
The Jets have been in talks with free-agent offensive tackle Duane Brown. Those talks might speed up with the latest Becton news.
What would a potential acquisition of Brown look like?
Talented, but … Brown may still have a step. He earned his fifth career Pro Bowl nod with the Seahawks last year and could still be a reliable tackle in this league should he remain healthy (which hasn’t been much of a problem — he started every game for the Seahawks in three of the last four seasons).
There are issues, however. Brown is turning 37 years old at the end of this month. He may hit a wall both production- and health-wise. We’ve seen it happen with offensive linemen in the past.
There’s little-to-no chance the Jets would sign him and have him be a starting or even reserve option past 2022. It would be a one-year deal with minimal desire to retain him for the long-term future.
Brown is also dealing with a legal matter. He was just arrested last month for the alleged possession of a concealed weapon at LAX. This could possibly be an issue with the NFL’s personal conduct policy. But it likely won’t be; Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams was arrested for possession of a handgun at LaGuardia Airport back in March 2020 and didn’t receive a suspension.
What to do with Fant? The Jets also have veteran George Fant on the roster. He’s expected to start at left tackle after impressing in that role in Becton’s absence last year.
If Becton must miss time and the Jets sign Brown for stopgap purposes, the smart move would be to start Brown on the right side. Yes, Brown has been a primary left tackle his whole career. But age is a factor. Plus Fant already has nearly a year’s worth of experience on the blindside in offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system. Why would the Jets want to put a stop to that development?
Fant has been a successful left tackle for Zach Wilson. And the main goal should be putting the young quarterback in the best position to succeed and win right now. Maintaining continuity at the most important spot on the offensive line would assist with that task.
You also don’t want to plug Brown on the left side, move Fant to the right, and then switch Fant back to the left side should Becton be ready to play at some point this season. That would ruin the continuity which, in turn, is a prerequisite of great offensive line chemistry.