The New York Jets will likely have some hard decisions to make once free agency begins on March 15.
They’ll need to clear some cap space if they want to bring in an experienced quarterback like Derek Carr or Aaron Rodgers, and the best way to do that is to cut loose the veteran contracts that offer the largest cap breaks. One of those potential cap casualties is left tackle Duane Brown, who turns 38 years old in August.
The Jets could save over $9.7 million if they designate Brown as a post-June 1 cut — while sacrificing $1.576 million in 2023 and another $4.728 million in 2024. If general manager Joe Douglas had any plans about releasing the long-time NFL blocker, however, he did not show it during an NFL Combine press conference on February 28.
“Obviously, for him to do what he did last year [after a shoulder tear] — to play with the injury that he played with — I don’t think we could find a documented tackle that played with the injury that he had for an entire year,” Douglas praised. “It’s a special thing.”
He added that the organization “holds him in very high regard as a person and a player” before concluding that he and head coach Robert Saleh will have discussions with Brown about committing to another year after he recovers from his recent surgery. The 15-year veteran is also a candidate to retire this spring.
Jets GM Joe Douglas Will Continue to Prioritize O-Line & D-Line
The Jets offensive line was a mess in 2022, but a large part of that was due to constant injuries at multiple positions. On February 28, Douglas admitted that Gang Green would like to “create some more stability [and] continuity” within the blocking unit in 2023.
“Duane’s under contract, Max Mitchell’s coming back — Max is doing great, another player that’s recovering — and Mekhi [Becton’s] doing great so we feel good about those three guys coming back,” Douglas voiced.
He continued, emphasizing that the job is not done. “As I’ve said before, O-line [and] D-line are going to be a high priority for us, always,” the Jets GM reaffirmed. “If there’s an opportunity to upgrade tackle, center, guard, D-tackle, D-end — we’re always going to look at doing that.”
Douglas has been consistent in his belief that football is a game won in the trenches. That philosophy hasn’t always translated onto the field during his tenure though.
The offensive line has been Douglas’ greatest failure as GM so far, and the defensive line has underperformed at times despite the resources being poured into it. If the Jets are going to get where they want to go in 2023, they’ll certainly need better quarterback play, but they’ll also need more from their offensive and defensive fronts.
Jets Will Not Decide on Mekhi Becton’s Option Until After the NFL Draft, Still Believe in Him
Speaking of offensive tackles, Douglas also addressed Becton, who has only appeared in one game over the past two seasons.
“We don’t have to make a decision on the fifth-year option until after the draft, so we’re not ready to announce any decision on that,” Douglas began, answering a portion of the question.
He continued: “In terms of Mekhi being able to be a starter, I think for any of you guys that were here in the 2020 season, you saw what Mekhi could do on the football field and how dominant a player that he was as a rookie… Unfortunately, the last few years have been frustrating from an injury standpoint, but I can tell you that Mekhi is in as good of a place now as I’ve seen him in a long time and he’s working his tail off, and he wants to be the best player that he can be for the New York Jets.”
Becton looks to be in tremendous shape this winter, but there’s no telling if a lean “Big Ticket” will yield a healthy one. To earn the trust of the fanbase, he’ll have to prove himself on the gridiron with a campaign of at least 12 or more starts.