On track to play a 16th NFL season, Duane Brown expressed hesitation regarding a potential move to right tackle to accommodate Mekhi Becton. As was the case last year, Becton may still be ticketed for the Jets’ right tackle gig.
Becton affirmed his strong preference to return to left tackle, and predicted he would regain the job early in training camp, but Robert Saleh has not ruled out keeping the injury-prone blocker on the right side. With Brown having 15 years’ experience and winning over Saleh and other Jets staffers by playing through a shoulder injury last year, the New York Post’s Brian Costello views the five-time Pro Bowler as having the inside track to the job protecting Aaron Rodgers‘ blind side.
“You guys know I love Duane,” Saleh said. “Like I said, last year his money was guaranteed, didn’t have to play a down … and he didn’t have to subject his body to what he did, but he stepped on the field, played as many games as he possibly could with torn rotator cuffs and did a really nice job, so he’s going to fight for it.
“He doesn’t believe he’s entitled to anything. He believes he’s got to earn everything, and there’s a reason why he’s played for so long and has had so much success. I mean, look at him: He’s a brick house. He can still play as many years as he’s willing to play.”
Saleh has been asked to respond to two Becton salvos about his positional preference, and Costello adds the former first-round pick blaming the Jets coaches for his second major knee injury understandably did not go over well with the staff. Becton spent a second offseason out of commission due to knee surgery, and while he has dropped upwards of 45 pounds this year and is expected to be healthy by the time camp starts, Brown’s experience may still win out.
Brown, 37, is the league’s oldest active O-lineman and has 215 career starts on his resume. That sits in the top 10 all time for pure tackles. Pro Football Focus assigned Brown a career-worst grade last season, placing him barely inside the top 70 at tackle, but it has been made clear the former Texans and Seahawks left tackle played hurt. Brown underwent shoulder surgery this offseason. While it does not sound like the Jets are entertaining a late-summer cut, which would save them $9.7MM, Brown is not a lock to be ready by the time camp starts. (The Jets are not holding a minicamp this year, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets, with Saleh having canceled it. The team is set to report to training camp a week early due to its booking in this year’s Hall of Fame Game.)
Becton, who has missed 33 straight games since a September 2021 knee injury threw his career off track, was not due to participate in the since-canceled minicamp. The Jets planned to make Becton their starting right tackle last year — prior to his second major knee malady — and Costello expects that scenario to play out this year. He will still need to beat out Nathaniel Hackett favorite Billy Turner, who has now worked with Hackett in three cities (Green Bay, Denver, New York), and second-year pro Max Mitchell for the gig.
With the much-discussed Broderick Jones what-if in the rearview, Becton’s position will be one of the top Jets storylines to follow at camp. Seeing as the Jets’ tackle situation will garner more attention thanks to Rodgers’ arrival, how Saleh, Hackett and new O-line coach Keith Carter divvy up snaps between Brown, Becton and Turner will certainly be worth monitoring later this summer.