Ex-Jets 3-Year Starter Could Serve as Fallback Option in Free Agency

Connor McGovern

Getty Former New York Jets center Connor McGovern getting some work in during practice.

As the New York Jets community awaits the verdict on an Aaron Rodgers trade, the team must still fill a few holes on the depth chart.

One glaring need is at center, where the Jets appear to lack a starting caliber talent. Now, New York has been connected to former Tennessee Titans Pro Bowler Ben Jones in free agency — a player with Tennessee ties to coaching newcomers Keith Carter (offensive line/run game coordinator) and Todd Downing (passing game coordinator). They also signed veteran interior OL depth in Wes Schweitzer and Trystan Colon.

What if the Jets are unable to land Jones, however? Will they target the position in the NFL Draft, or will they pivot and attempt to solve this problem in free agency once again?

Jets Insider Details Center ‘Rumblings’ From League Meetings

During a recap of the NFL League Meeting on ESPN, NYJ beat reporter Rich Cimini provided a “rumbling” on the center position.

“They still hope to sign former Tennessee Titans center Ben Jones,” Cimini reiterated. “If that falls through, they could turn back to Connor McGovern on a one-year deal. Free agency hasn’t worked out as planned for McGovern, who started 48 games for the Jets from 2020 to 2022. He wanted a long-term deal, but the market has dried up.”

It makes sense that the current fallback plan at this position is McGovern, a three-year NYJ starter that publicly emphasized that he would like to return in 2023. “If we can work a deal when [general manager] Joe Douglas is ready then I would like to work a deal,” the veteran center told Heavy on Jets reporter Paul Esden Jr. on February 11.

McGovern was a decent signing for Douglas in 2020 — not great, but not bad either. He ended up starting all 17 games in 2022 (48 total starts over three seasons), and got the job done even if he wasn’t always spectacular.

According to Pro Football Focus, McGovern never earned a run-blocking grade lower than 69.7 as a Jet with a high of 78.9 in 2021. He was worse in pass protection, but rebounded his final two years after a rough inaugural campaign with Gang Green.

Once again, his best season came in 2021 where he only allowed 19 quarterback pressures compared to 33 in 2020 and 24 in 2022. McGovern was charged with an average of five sacks per year during his tenure in New York.

Is Ex-Titans’ Ben Jones a Clear Upgrade on Ex-Jets’ Connor McGovern?

When comparing McGovern to Jones, there’s really no comparison. When healthy, the better player is the long-time Titans blocker and it’s not particularly close.

According to PFF, Jones has only been charged with two sacks over the past three seasons — compared to McGovern’s 15. Now, Jones did start three fewer games, but that’s not a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.

The 11-year NFL pro is the better pass protector. How about run blocking though?

Tennessee built a reputation on the backs of Derrick Henry and their run game during Jones’ tenure. His PFF grades reflect that too, with a 70.4 or higher in all seven of his seasons as a Titan. At least four of those campaigns, those marks were greater than 74.0.

It’s ironic that Jones was voted to the Pro Bowl during an injury-ruined season in 2022, because his most stellar year was clearly 2020. Not only did the Titan receive a 79.3 run blocking grade, but he also finished the campaign with zero sacks allowed and just 11 quarterback pressures in 16 starts.

Jones struggled with concussions in 2022, but had been an iron man for the majority of his career before that.

“God definitely taught me some patience,” Jones told reporters upon his return from injury in December 2022. “You can’t push through some things. You want to be out there with your friends and family. It hurt not being out there. It shook me up, but I’m happy to be back with my family and out there and ready to play.”

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