Improving the offensive line is expected to be a major focus for the New York Jets this offseason. In an increasingly thin free agent market, here are the top guys they should be targeting…
1. Mike Iupati
If you are going to spend big money up front, you want to grab a guy that immediately improves your areas of weakness. Surprisingly, it was run blocking where the Jets offensive line struggled most in 2014. Iupati would immediately improve the Jets ability to run the ball on a consistent basis. There is some concern that he would be going from a power heavy run scheme in San Francisco to a Spread Zone system with the Jets. While he doesn’t have incredibly quick feet, he should transition fine in Chan Gailey’s system. The 49ers did run some zone with Kaepernick in the gun/pistol and he was just as dominant run blocking. The bigger concern is his pass protection. Iupati has never been able to develop the proper technique and knee bend to become an exceptional pass blocker. Some of his pressures could be attributed to Colin Kaepernick’s inability to make quick reads. This is a problem he won’t be able to escape if Geno Smith starts and continues to hold the ball. Iupati is clearly the guy who would upgrade the Jets offensive line the most in this thin market.
2. Bryan Bulaga
The Jets greatest need up front is clearly guard, but they could get creative to play the five best players. Bulaga is about as solid as you get at right tackle in the NFL. He is a very polished player with excellent technique and footwork. He doesn’t play with great bend though and often allowed pass rushers to get under him, but he always seems to be in position to make his blocks. The Jets could sign a pure tackle like Bulaga and move Breno Giacomini inside or fill in the guard position in other ways.
3. Justin Blalock
Reports are that the Falcons cut Blalock because he didn’t fit in Kyle Shanahan’s zone scheme. I’m sure it had much more to do with clearing his cap hit off the books. Even so, Shanahan’s system is different than that of Chan Gailey’s in that it focuses much more heavily on the stretch zone concept. Blalock may not be the best fit in Gailey’s system at the age of 31, but he is a flat out better player than the rest of the guards available. Blalock is a solid player that would be an upgrade at either guard spot.
4. Joe Barksdale
Like with Bulaga, the Jets may decide to grab a tackle and fill in guard in other ways. After Justin Blalock, I don’t see any guards that would improve my line very much. If I’m trying to get the five best players on the field then I may opt to take Barksdale instead of a lower tier guard. Barksdale is an really good pass protector from the right side and is a much more polished player than Breno Giacomini. He leaves a lot to be desired in the run game, however, struggling to get on linebackers on the second level.
Others to Watch
Clint Boling – An average offensive guard who some times stood out as the weak link up front for the Bengals. Doesn’t generate great movement and can get overpowered at times but generally finds himself in the right position.
James Carpenter – Looks like a clone of Willie Colon and not from the good part of his career. Plays with a lot of effort, but struggles to stay on blocks.
Rob Sims – Sims may not leave Detroit since they are so thin up front, but he could be a guy the Jets go after if they miss the top tier guards and are looking for depth or a short term fill-in.