Though the Jets improved from four to seven wins this past season, there are a multitude of needs needing to be resolved before there can be any talk of playoffs. Squarely at the top of the list is the need to capitalize on Sam Darnold’s rookie contract by bolstering the offensive line, and thus the offense as a whole. New general manager Joe Douglas will have the tough task of completely revamping a very porous unit.
Kelvin Beachum, who will be an unrestricted free agent, is the only offensive lineman who had a decent season and it showed. In 2019, Gang Green gave up the fourth most sacks, having surrendered 52 on the season. The Jets were also top five in the league in quarterback hits given up with 106.
Luckily for New York, the 2020 NFL Draft includes an incredibly deep class of offensive tackles. The group is headlined by the fantastic four: Jedrick Wills Jr, Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs, and Andrew Thomas. The problem for New York is that they sit just outside the top ten with the 11th pick.
In front of them are the New York Giants, Chargers, Cardinals, and Cleveland, who are also looking for help along the offensive line. With the way the order shook out, there is a very real possibility that neither of the top four offensive tackles will be on the board when New York is on the clock.
To further complicate matters (in a good way), the Jets will be much less inclined to move up in the draft and give up capital due to the depth this class has at running back, wide receiver, and cornerback.
Fortunately for Joe Douglas, two more options have become available for New York. It has been announced that Philadelphia and Jason Peters have mutually agreed on the All-Pro tackle entering free agency while Washington has allowed Trent Williams and his agent to seek a trade.
For a rebuilding team like the Jets, both players present an intriguing option. Both Peters, 38 years old, and Williams, 31 years old, are on the wrong side of 30 and simply provide short-term help along the offensive line, but there is no doubt they would improve the offensive line and protect Darnold. However, the issues that come into question are their respective age and the draft capital required to land either.
For Peters, the 14-year veteran would certainly be a one or two year solution, but he still won’t be cheap. On the flipside, Peters can allow for second year tackle Chuma Edoga to continue to develop, provide an immediate boost to Darnold’s blindside, allow a rookie tackle to start on the right side, and be a veteran presence in the Jets locker room.
With Peters being 38, Douglas and the Jets will have to look at whether or not to look at a rookie to build with Darnold, or have an immediate upgrade in the short term.
Trent Williams carries much of the same concerns in terms of his age, but also the issues of price tag and the necessity of a trade. To land Williams, Douglas will have to facilitate a trade with Washington and the question will be just how much the Redskins are asking for.
New York comes into the 2020 draft with 2 3rd-round picks and should be willing to part with one of the two, but might back away if Washington is asking for a 1st or 2nd-round pick.
New York’s history with veteran offensive lineman has to be taken into account as well. Just this past season, they took low-risk chances on Kelechi Osemele and Ryan Kalil to optimize Darnold’s pocket integrity. The pair combined to start just 12 games during the 2019 season.
There is no question that offensive line will be at the top of the list of priorities for Joe Douglas, and the entrance of both Jason Peters and Trent Williams makes his decision and thought process that much more difficult. Landing either tackle allows greater flexibility when the draft comes around, but neither are long term options.