With approximately $30-40 million in cap space, the New York Jets are pegged to be players when the new league year begins on March 3rd, 2014. Today, we look at free agent offensive linemen. Check out our look at Tight Ends from last week here.
The New York Jets offensive line struggled mightily in 2013 to protect rookie QB Geno Smith. However, Austin Howard turned in a solid season, Willie Colon brought a much needed nastiness, and Nick Mangold bounced back from a subpar 2012 season to put together a solid all-around season this past year. The weakness of the Jets offensive line stemmed from LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson and the Vlad Ducasse/Brian Winters tandem.
Now, WInters ended the season on a strong note (similar to all of the Jets rookies) and he will most likely be the starter Week 1 at one of the guard positions. It’s possible that the Jets ask Ferguson to restructure his contract or try to move him if he doesn’t agree to the restructure. Colon may be gone as well. Austin Howard will most likely be retained with a new deal as he has blossomed in the last two years as the Jets starting RT. The Jets will be in the market for an offensive lineman to replace Colon and to possibly replace Ferguson and Howard so here are the top 5 that the Jets could target.
1. Jon Asamoah
Analysis: Jon Asamoah is 6’4″, 305 pounds, and can play both LG and RG positions. He is only 25 years old and set to become an unrestricted free agent. Asamoah is a very athletic player for a man his size, and he is solid in both run blocking and pass blocking. He’s very good at maintaining his balance at the point of attack and he has consistently displayed really good positioning. Asamoah, also, displayed great strength despite being only 305 pounds. Last year, Jamaal Charles averaged 5.0 yards a carry behind Asamoah.
Likelihood: I’ll put this as a 7 because Asamoah seems entrenched behind Geoff Schwartz (another free agent that the Chiefs seem to be prioritizing). Asamoah would be an excellent fit at RG next to Austin Howard, and he has the experience at LG (he replaced Brian Waters) where he could start there and still remain effective if the Jets felt that Brian Winters wasn’t ready. He’d be a great signing.
2. Zane Beadles
Analysis: Beadles, one of the many culprits in the Broncos Super Bowl loss to the Seahawks, is now set to become a free agent. At 6’4, 310 pounds Beadles has played his entire NFL career inside although he was a tackle in college. Beadles has solid speed for a guard (a trait needed for stretch and sweep plays, as well as screens) and this speed allows him to shed his initial block and reach the second level. Beadles did struggle this year with larger defensive tackles (think Brandon Mebane) but what he lacked in pure strength he more than made up for it with natural football instincts. He was, also, the leader of the Broncos offensive line.
Likelihood: Beadles, who has started 62 consecutive games, is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Beadles is 27 and is coming off back to back Pro Bowls. He’s about to get paid, either by Denver or someone else, so we’ll put this as a 1.
3. Jared Veldheer
Analysis: Jared Veldheer possesses a rare mix of size and speed. Veldheer is able to get out of his stance quickly, which gives him leverage when engaging defenders. At 6’8″, 312 pounds Veldheer is a massive player manning the LT position. The Raiders played Veldheer a bit at RT this year too, as well as on rotation with Khalif Barnes at LT. He’s started 48 games after being drafted in the 3rd round.
Likelihood: I’ll put this as a 2 but that number increases if the Jets lose Austin Howard or end up releasing D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Veldheer can play on the left side or on the right. He battled some injuries last year, so there are concerns, but he’d be a good signing should the Jets need a tackle.
4. Wade Smith
Analysis: Wade Smith made the Pro Bowl in 2012 for the Texans, and played all 16 games in 2013. During his time in Houston, he’s played at Center, Guard, and Tackle. He’s a bit undersized at 6’4 and 295 pounds, but he has been durable as he’s played 16 games in four straight seasons. Smith was a bright spot on an otherwise dismal Texans season.
Likelihood: Smith is 32 years old and there was talk that he would be retiring at the end of the season. However, he is set to become a free agent and a team that signs him gets a guy one year removed from the Pro Bowl. I’ll put this as an 5 based off of him being a former Jet and because he has the versatility that Idzik would like to target to either replace Colon or as insurance for Howard.
5. Chad Rinehart
Analysis: Rinehart spent a week on the New York Jets practice squad in 2010 before being signed by the Bills. He spent the past season in San Diego, where he helped pave the way for Ryan Matthews’s best year as a pro. Rinehart is great in run blocking and has experience playing tackle. He, also, excels in pass blocking and is able to use his large frame to protect the QB from bigger defensive linemen. Rinehart displayed good straight line quickness and great trap blocking skills.
Likelihood: This is a 5, due to his past ties to the Jets. Rinehart, like Wade Smith, has experience at both tackle and guard positions, and would be a great value signing for John Idzik.