The offensive line of the New York Jets didn’t have their best season in 2012. They had trouble establishing the run early and had difficulty protecting Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy in his only start. The team has two unrestricted free agents in this group and will cut one more.
Nick Mangold failed to make the Pro Bowl this season after making it the past few. Mangold is still one of the best centers in the game and is one of the lynchpins on the Jets line along with D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Mangold is signed through 2017 and should play out that contract.
Ferguson was taken in the first round of the same draft class with Mangold. Ferguson was a surprise pick not to make the Pro Bowl as he had one of his better seasons especially after a mediacore year in 2011. Ferguson is one of the best left tackles in the game and is also signed through 2017.
Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson are both unrestricted free agents this offseason. Moore is one of the longest tenured Jets after starting his career on the Jets practice squad as an undrafted free agent. He came into the NFL as a defensive tackle but switched over to the offensive line. Moore has battled a hip injury and might not be brought back.
Slauson has been a starter his entire Jets career at guard. He’s a solid left guard who plays between Mangold and Ferguson. He started alternating reps in games with Vladimir Ducasse this season so its uncertain if he’ll be brought back. I do expect one of Moore or Slauson to return. I’d say the best bet is Slauson as he will come cheaper.
Ducasse is a polarizing former second round draft pick from Temple. He’s been considered a bust by many Jets fans as he hasn’t been able to crack the starting lineup since coming into the league. This was the first season he saw live action during games. It seems the Jets were grooming him to be a starter this season. I would expect him to start at guard unless the Jets draft an offensive lineman early in April’s draft.
Austin Howard played a solid right tackle this year after getting the starting job after the team traded away Wayne Hunter. Howard is only 25 years old and fits the need of a cheap starter on the offensive line. A nucleus of Mangold, Ferguson and Howard can play on the line for a number of years to come. He’s a restricted free agent and will surely be brought back.
The Jets traded Hunter away to the St. Louis Rams before the season for Jason Smith. Smith was the second overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Smith was mostly used as a blocking tight end or an extra offensive lineman this year. He will be cut this offseason as the team would save $12 million by removing him. He could potentially come back and compete with Howard for the starting right tackle position.
Caleb Schlauderaff is the other offensive lineman on the roster. He was a favorite of former general manager, Mike Tannenbaum. He hasn’t seen any significant playing time during his two-year Jet career. I think the Jets will draft a lineman sometime during the 2013 NFL Draft so Schlauderaff could be done as a Jet.