Jets Veteran Starter Called ‘Toss-up’ to Be Cut in 2023

Robert Saleh

Getty Head coach Robert Saleh and the New York Jets have some tough decisions to make in 2023.

The New York Jets have a few interesting cut candidates in 2023 and one that could go either way is veteran left tackle Duane Brown.

Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania agreed with that assertion, labeling him a “toss-up” during a breakdown of potential 2023 cuts. “Brown is 37 years old, battled injuries throughout the entire 2022 season, and did not play well when on the field,” Nania began.

Continuing: “He was arguably the most detrimental run-blocker on the team. Still, Brown’s experience and locker-room presence make him a useful backup, and we know the Jets’ offensive line needs all the depth it can get… Releasing Brown will not be cheap due to a $7.88 million signing bonus that the Jets prorated over five years. They added three void years to a two-year deal. Of that $7.88 million, $6.304 million of it is still owed, so the Jets will be paying it at some point down the line, whether it all comes in 2023 (pre-June 1 cut) or $4.728 million of it is pushed into 2024 (post-June 1 cut).”

Nania concluded that “it all depends on how the Jets evaluate Brown’s durability and level of play. If they think he is a high-level backup, I believe he will stick around on this contract. If they view him as nothing more than a replacement-level backup, I think they will swallow the 2024 hit and cut him with a post-June 1 designation to open up a sizable chunk of 2023 cap space.”

Pros & Cons of Jets Bringing Back LT Duane Brown in 2023

The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt recently made a case for the Jets to “bring back” Brown next year, reasoning: “If Brown doesn’t retire — there’s been no indication in either direction yet — then he’s worth bringing back as a veteran option at tackle. He’ll spend the offseason rehabbing his shoulder injury, which he valiantly fought through this season. Brown carries a $11.28 million cap hit and, if healthy, is still a solid option.”

Rosenblatt added that “the Jets will still need to add reinforcements, especially with George Fant expected to leave in free agency, but entering the offseason Brown coupled with two wild cards (Mekhi Becton, Max Mitchell) is a good place to start.”

During our Heavy on Jets January 23 mailbag article, writer Michael Obermuller argued the opposite, voicing that general manager Joe Douglas should replace Brown with an offensive tackle in the first round and re-sign the much more affordable Cedric Ogbuehi for depth.

As Nania outlined, it makes much more sense to release Brown after June 1 — or designate him as a post-June 1 cut — even if it means incurring a $4.7 million-plus dead cap hit in 2024. The Jets need the money more now, with an expensive asset like C.J. Mosley much likelier to come off the books in 2024.

Douglas could also rid himself of bad signings like TE C.J. Uzomah or LG Laken Tomlinson in 2024, if he so chooses. Cutting those two alone next offseason would save $21 million in cap space.

There are more pressing matters in 2023, however, like paying for a new quarterback or extending Quinnen Williams. Quite frankly, $11.28 million is just too much to spend on a likely backup at OT.

Will Duane Brown Make Things Easy on the Jets?

Of course, Brown could help the franchise by retiring on his own volition. The 2022 “selfless warrior” award winner did fight through a supposed shoulder tear to start an admirable 12 games this year.

It’s possible he re-evaluates his injury and calls it quits. That obviously would be a foolish financial decision, but Brown’s made plenty of money throughout his career and perhaps, his priorities lie elsewhere.

Needless to say, that’s probably wishful thinking. It’s more likely that the Jets wrestle with the decision above well into Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and the draft.

Ironically, Brown does have one saving grace and it involves Douglas trading for Aaron Rodgers or Lamar Jackson. To acquire either, they’d have to send their 2023 first-round selection back in return (at least) and without that, the O-tackle position becomes much scarier with health risks like Becton and Mitchell as the only starting options.

If they kept Brown and traded for a superstar QB, they’d also have to free up a whole bunch of cap space some other way.

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