The New York Jets’ offensive line turned in another solid season this year, paving the way for the NFL’s sixth ranked rushing attack and providing better pass protection than their sacks allowed total indicates. They are all set at left tackle and center with standouts D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, but they have some questions about the other three positions. Right tackle Austin Howard is a free agent, and the Jets must re-sign him. If they can’t agree to a long term contract the Jets will likely franchise Howard, so they should be in good shape at right tackle for at least one more season.
The guard positions, however, are a different story. Rookie Brian Winters had some huge struggles at left guard, while veteran right guard Willie Colon tore his biceps in the final game and likely will not return. The Jets need to find a new right guard this offseason, and they would like to bring in a veteran backup to compete with Winters.
The draft offers several prospects who could fill the Jets’ need for a starting caliber guard. Cyril Richardson, David Yankey, Gabe Jackson and Xavier Su’a-Filo are the top players available in the draft, and the Jets could take one of them with their second or third round pick. If the Jets were really sold on one of these players, I could see them making the move. However, I believe the Jets are looking at other positions at the top of their draft board (namely WR, TE, OLB and FS), and that they would prefer to have a veteran fill their opening at guard.
With that in mind, one player the Jets should target is Kansas City Chiefs guard Jon Asamoah. At 25 years old, Asamoah is a solid run blocker who would replace the production the Jets got from Colon this season while providing a long term solution at the position. Early indications are that the Chiefs are more inclined to re-sign Geoff Schwartz than Asamoah, meaning he should be available. There will certainly be competition for Asamoah’s services on the free agent market, but the Jets have plenty of money to spend and they should at least test the waters.
There are a few alternatives to Asamoah, but they seem less likely. Travelle Wharton is the top guard available, but he plays on the left side and the Carolina Panthers are unlikely to let him go. Zane Beadles and Chad Rinehart are more likely additions, but each is valuable at left guard for his current team. Finally, Brian Waters is no more than a one year solution (if he doesn’t retire), while re-signing Colon comes with too much risk and signing Richie Incognitio comes with too much baggage.
The Jets will likely also be looking to add some veteran depth at every position on the line, as their current roster is composed of mostly inexperienced players. There are a number of options at each position, and the Jets will surely look to bring in some competition for young players like Oday Aboushi and Will Campbell. However, John Idzik will not be looking to spend much money on backup offensive linemen, and these signings will probably come late in free agency and be under the radar.
What is known, however, is that the Jets have to solve their right guard problem. The draft provides some options, but the best scenario for the Jets is signing Asamoah. Winters will return as the starting left guard, so the Jets would be much better off with a proven option on the right side instead of another draft pick. The Jets have to make a move to upgrade their line, and Asamoah is their best option.