2 Jets 2022 Starters Could Get ‘Priced Out’ on the Open Market

Connor McGovern

Getty New York Jets center Connor McGovern may have played his last game with Gang Green.

Most would agree that the New York Jets offensive line needs some work. To make matters worse, Gang Green could reportedly lose two key pieces in free agency.

During an article on March 3, The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt relayed that he’s hearing “center Connor McGovern might get priced out of what the Jets are willing to pay.” Not only that, but he also added that 2022 starting right guard Nate Herbig could leave for a full-time starting gig with Alijah Vera-Tucker returning from injury and Laken Tomlinson entrenched as the left guard.

Football team builders always argue that you need seven or eight starting caliber O-linemen as you enter Week 1 of every season — five starters, a reliable swing tackle, and an interior backup that can play center or guard. By losing McGovern and Herbig, the Jets would lose two of their top seven blockers when they still need help at offensive tackle too.

Obviously, general manager Joe Douglas has some big decisions to make this spring.

Do Connor McGovern & Nate Herbig Deserve New Contracts?

After undergoing knee surgery and being labeled a cut candidate in 2022, McGovern rebounded by starting all 17 games in 2023 as one of the only healthy members of the NYJ blocking unit. Herbig also battled through injury, starting all 11 of his appearances as an integral reserve turned first-teamer. Both performed adequately, considering the constant turnover around them.

Pro Football Focus graded McGovern at a 69.6 overall, which ranked second for Jets O-linemen behind Vera-Tucker. He was pretty consistent all-around, with a 69.7 run blocking grade and a 69.5 pass blocking grade. In pass protection, he was charged with five sacks and 24 quarterback pressures, but his 97.9% pass-blocking efficiency rate ranked first on the team.

Ironically, Herbig ranked second in pass-blocking efficiency rate (97.7%) with one sack allowed and 18 quarterback pressures in fewer offensive snaps. His PFF grades were worse, however, with a 58.0 (overall), 55.7 (run blocking) and 58.6 (pass protection).

Both were charged with four penalties on the year, and McGovern led the entire offense in snaps with one more than Tomlinson and over 200 more than Garrett Wilson (third in snaps).

Based on all of that, McGovern and Herbig definitely deserve new contracts as Rosenblatt alluded, but do the Jets feel they can upgrade on these positions at a cheaper rate? Many expect Douglas to target a long-term answer at center in the draft and with a veteran QB leading the offense, this strategy becomes more doable — you wouldn’t want to pair a rookie center with Zach Wilson or another draft pick.

In a strange way, Herbig might actually be the tougher asset to replace. Versatile interior linemen are hard to find and while the Jets could bring back Dan Feeney to cover the role, he’s not the same caliber player as Herbig. At the same time, Douglas found the former Philadelphia Eagles castoff on waivers, and perhaps he can work his magic once again if he leaves.

Connor McGovern Would Like to Remain With Jets

Our very own Heavy on Jets reporter Paul Esden Jr. spoke with McGovern back on February 11, and the NYJ center stressed that he would love to return and finish what the Jets have started under head coach Robert Saleh.

“If we can work a deal when Joe Douglas is ready then I would like to work a deal,” McGovern expressed in a private message with Esden.

Shortly after, Esden tweeted out that “I just spoke with Connor McGovern & he wanted to make it clear that he wants to continue his career with the Jets. He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. TakeFlight signed him in 2020 & he has been rock solid appearing in 48 out of 50 possible games.”

McGovern hasn’t always been the most popular signing, but he appears to have gained the respect of most Jets fans as his tenure went on. After all, the proof is in the pudding and over 600 NYJ supporters liked Esden’s tweet from February 11.

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