Duane Brown

Jets Activate T Duane Brown

Today marked the final day of Duane Brown‘s 21-day practice window after he was designated for return from injured reserve. The Jets have elected to use an IR activation on the veteran offensive tackle.

New York activated Brown from injured reserve on Thursday, per a team announcement. If the team had allowed his three-week practice period to expire, he would have reverted to season-ending IR. Instead, Brown will be eligible to return to a Jets offensive line which has been ravaged by injuries during the year. New York will have six IR activations remaining moving forward.

The 38-year-old started the year as New York’s starting left tackle, the role he held for 12 games last season. Brown entered the year facing questions about not only his age, but also his ability to remain healthy for a full campaign; that question took on added significance with 39-year-old Aaron Rodgers in place as the projected starting quarterback for 2023. Like the latter, though, Brown has run into injury troubles.

A hip injury caused Brown to be placed on IR after only two games at the start of the year. That move guaranteed a four-week absence, but that has stretched deep into November given the length of time he spent on injured reserve after retuning to practice. Brown’s absence has led to shuffling along New York’s offensive front, with Mekhi Becton shifting over to the blindside. The former first-rounder suffered an injury of his own in Week 11, though, leaving his availability for tomorrow’s contest in doubt.

Brown’s return would thus be a welcomed development for a Jets O-line which will be without right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker for the rest of the season due to an Achilles tear. Xavier Newman-Johnson has been signed to the active roster, a sign that he will get the start at RG tomorrow. Meanwhile, Chris Glaser – who got the nod in Week 11 – has been waived. While the team’s upcoming Black Friday matchup will feature yet another new combination up front for the Jets, Brown will be a familiar option on the blindside.

OL Rumors: Steelers, 49ers, Jets, Fins, Pugh

The Steelers may have executed a permanent switch at right tackle, and Chukwuma Okorafor believes it came because of comments he made near the end of the team’s Week 8 loss to the Jaguars. Pittsburgh benched Okorafor for its Thursday-night game against Tennessee, moving first-round pick Broderick Jones into the lineup. Okorafor said (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Brian Batko) the Steelers benched him because he was “acting out” toward the end of the Pittsburgh-Jacksonville game. Mike Tomlin said (via The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly) Jones was deserving of an opportunity and helped the Steelers “provide a spark.”

Signed to a three-year, $29.25MM deal in 2022, Okorafor has been the Steelers’ starting right tackle since 2020. The team drafted Jones with the intent on making him its future left tackle, but a configuration in which left tackle Dan Moore moved to the right side to accommodate the rookie was floated as the more likely scenario this offseason. Since the Week 9 change, Jones and Okorafor said (via Kaboly and the Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac) they expect the Moore-Jones starting duo to remain due to Jones receiving the first-team reps this week. The Steelers’ depth chart lists Jones as the RT starter, though the Georgia product said he would prefer to play left tackle, where he lined up for the SEC powerhouse. Okorafor believes what he said has resulted in “significant” ramifications but maintains his benching was not performance-based, creating an interesting storyline to follow in Pittsburgh.

Here are some O-line subplots from elsewhere around the NFL:

  • Missing the past two games with an ankle injury, Trent Williams returned to a limited practice Thursday. Kyle Shanahan said the 49ers‘ All-Pro left tackle has dealt with more than a low ankle sprain, via 49ersWebZone.com’s David Bonilla. The 49ers lost both the games Williams missed, after dropping from the unbeaten ranks — in Cleveland — following Williams’ injury-driven exit in Week 6. A limited practice represents a good sign for Williams’ Week 10 availability and San Francisco’s offensive capabilities.
  • The Jets may soon be without yet another offensive lineman. Robert Saleh described Billy Turner as encountering a “concerning” injury, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes the veteran blocker suffered a broken bone in his hand. This will leave Turner’s status uncertain for the Jets’ Week 10 tilt. Turner has not practiced this week, pointing to an absence. The Jets have turned to Turner at guard in the wake of Connor McGovern and Wes Schweitzer‘s IR trips. The team is likely to have Duane Brown back, however; the 38-year-old tackle — who remains on IR — has practiced fully this week. Saleh recently pointed to Brown’s return kicking Mekhi Becton back to right tackle.
  • Although left tackle Terron Armstead came off IR in time to face the Chiefs, the Dolphins played their Germany game without both starting guards. Isaiah Wynn is on IR with a potential season-ending injury, and Robert Hunt missed the game because of a hamstring ailment. Wynn fill-in Robert Jones also left the game, due to a hyperextended knee. While Mike McDaniel said Jones does not need surgery, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson notes Lester Cotton and 2022 left guard starter Liam Eichenberg are set to vie for the starting role before the Dolphins return to action in Week 11. A third-year UDFA who made his first career start in Week 9, Jones is likely to miss some time, per McDaniel.
  • Justin Pugh signed a one-year, $1.43MM deal to rejoin the Giants last month. Pugh’s second Giants contract includes an incentive package worth $2.1MM, he revealed on his NetWorth Podcast (via the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard). Pugh can earn part of that $2.1MM by hitting the 50%, 70% and 90% playing-time thresholds from the point he debuted (Week 6). Despite the October arrival, Pugh has started — at both guard and tackle — in each of the four games in which he has played this season.

Jets Open Duane Brown’s Practice Window

NOVEMBER 2: As expected, Brown has indeed returned to practice, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport notes. That means Thursday will mark the beginning of his 21-day activation window. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Jets are in activating him, knowing his injury history and the implications it will have on Becton. In any event, New York will receive a boost along the offensive line in the near future.

NOVEMBER 1: Duane Brown‘s hip injury caused the Jets to reconfigure their offensive line. Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker changed positions, and second-round rookie Joe Tippmann entered the starting lineup. With the Jets in a worse place injury-wise weeks later, Brown’s return figures to help a 4-3 team.

Robert Saleh said Wednesday (via the New York Post’s Brian Costello) the team is planning to open Brown’s practice window this week. Brown has been on IR since before Week 4, which would have made last week his first shot at coming back. The Jets, however, believed they rushed Brown back from rotator cuff surgery late this summer (he returned August 23). That could point to caution when bringing him back from the hip injury he sustained in September.

[RELATED: Jets Expecting Aaron Rodgers To Return This Season]

Signed in an emergency circumstance to be the Jets’ left tackle last year, Brown returned to that post to start his age-38 season. The NFL’s second-oldest active O-lineman — behind the Seahawks’ Jason Peters — Brown is likely to take his job back from Becton once he returns. Labeling Brown one of the Jets’ best five O-linemen, Saleh pointed (via ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini) to Becton being moved back to right tackle — where he began the season — in order to ensure both were on the field. While Saleh called Becton a freakish athlete and indicated he would “love” to keep him at left tackle, the Jets’ injury situation points to Brown returning to the blind side.

Brown played through his shoulder injury last season and gained respect from the coaching staff for doing so, but Pro Football Focus assigned Brown by far the worst grade of his career. The advanced metrics site slots Brown outside the top 60 at tackle this season, with a worse grade than 2022, but Saleh viewed the 16th-year blocker’s early-season performance as likely impacted by injury.

Considering the two injuries Brown has sustained as a Jet, he is no longer a particularly safe bet. For a team that has lost Vera-Tucker, center Connor McGovern and swingman Wes Schweitzer in the weeks since (with Tippman missing Week 8), depending on Brown will be a risky proposition. (The Jets placed McGovern and Schweitzer on IR this week, but Saleh noted both have a chance to come back this season.) But the Jets having Brown and Becton back at tackle will be an improvement compared to their current setup, so long as the five-time Pro Bowler is healthy. The Jets will have three weeks from Brown’s practice return to activate him. Gang Green has seven injury activations remaining.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Jets, Onwenu

Last year, the Dolphins made a splashy trade on deadline day. They sent the Broncos first- and fourth-round picks, along with Chase Edmonds for salary-matching purposes, for Bradley Chubb and subsequently signed the edge rusher to an extension. Although the Dolphins have shown more firepower this year and reside atop the AFC East at 5-2, they may not be too interested in a major exchange before Tuesday’s deadline. Mike McDaniel said (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson) he is “very, very comfortable” with the team’s roster and that GM Chris Grier has not come to him with any trade offers.

The Dolphins, who have endured two double-digit losses, rank first offensively but have seen injuries stack up on their offensive line. Terron Armstead and Connor Williams have missed multiple games, and left guard Isaiah Wynn suffered what looks like a season-ending injury. Vic Fangio‘s defense also ranks 27th in points allowed, though Jalen Ramsey‘s return will be a significant in-season acquisition of sorts for that unit. While Miami also was connected to just about every potentially available running back this offseason, its De’Von Achane pick has been a hit, despite the third-rounder residing on short-term IR.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • The Jets re-signed Quincy Williams to a three-year, $18MM deal days before free agency, and the former Jaguars third-rounder has received rave reviews from the coaching staff this season. Pro Football Focus also ranks Williams as a top-10 off-ball linebacker. Williams, however, said he disagreed with the comps the team made when assessing his value this offseason. “I’m going to be honest with you; the contract situation threw me off, for real, for real,” Williams said, via ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. “Listening to the players they thought were better than me, that kind of put a chip on my shoulder.” While that makes it rather interesting Williams did not test the market to gauge how other teams viewed him, his $6MM-per-year contract ended up similar to most of the veteran ILBs who hit free agency this year.
  • Robert Saleh said Duane Brown will not be designated for return this week. While Brown is eligible to practice this week, the New York Post’s Brian Costello notes he will not do so until at least Week 9. The 38-year-old tackle has been on IR with a hip injury since Sept. 23. The Jets moved Mekhi Becton to left tackle, but with RT replacement Alijah Vera-Tucker out for the season, it will be interesting to see if Becton is kicked back to the right side to create a spot for Brown.
  • Regarding the Jets’ Mecole Hardman trade, Saleh said (via Cimini) rookie UDFA Xavier Gipson made the free agent signing expendable. Gipson, who has operated as the Jets’ kick and punt returner this season, has only played 39 offensive snaps. Hardman only logged 28 during a disappointing Jets tenure, but it should be expected Gipson will see a bit more time at receiver going forward. Hardman played in the Chiefs’ Week 7 game, notching an impactful punt return and playing 11 offensive snaps back with his original NFL team.
  • Riley Reiff is now on IR for a second time this season, and trade acquisition Vederian Lowe struggled to replace him at right tackle. The Patriots moved guard Michael Onwenu back to right tackle in Week 7, with Bill Belichick approaching the contract-year player about the switch last week, per MassLive.com’s Chris Mason. Onwenu has spent time at right tackle during his Pats career but had settled in at guard. With the former sixth-round pick in a contract year, a right tackle switch could certainly affect his 2024 market.
  • Malik Cunningham once again passed through waivers and onto the Patriots’ practice squad, but the team was not as lucky with DB Ameer Speed. New England waived Speed last week, but ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss notes the team wanted him back on the P-squad. The Colts nixed that plan with a claim. A sixth-round pick this year, Speed played in five Pats games before his Foxborough exit.

Jets’ Justin Hardee Expected To Land On IR

4:53pm: New York has officially placed the special teamer and cornerback Hardee on IR with today’s transactions. Taking his spot on the team’s active roster will be rookie fourth-round pick Carter Warren. The Jets drafted Warren this year out of Pittsburgh with the hope that he could provide some depth and eventually contribute to the offensive line. With starting guard Alijah Vera-Tucker going on IR, Warren’s activation is timely.

Additionally, the Jets have promoted cornerbacks Craig James and Tae Hayes from the practice squad as standard gameday elevations for tomorrow’s game. James will be facing his former team after playing for the Eagles in 2019 and 2020. With Hardee on IR and Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, and Echols all ruled out for tomorrow, James and Hayes should expect to see some action.

9:19am: The Jets will be without their special teams captain for at least the next month. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, special teams ace Justin Hardee suffered a hamstring injury during last Sunday’s win over the Broncos.

Hardee underwent surgery on his hamstring yesterday. The veteran is expected to miss four to six weeks while recovering from the operation, and he’s expected to land on injured reserve later today.

The former UDFA spent most of his first four years in the league with the Saints, and his special teams prowess earned him a three-year, $5.25MM contract with the Jets in 2021. Hardee didn’t miss a game through his first two seasons in New York, appearing in more than 80 percent of the Jets’ special teams snaps over that span (vs. a single defensive snap in 2021). Between the 2021 and 2022 campaigns, Hardee collected 26 tackles and one forced fumble, and his performance last season led to his first career Pro Bowl nod.

The injury comes at an unfortunate time for the Jets. As ESPN’s Rich Cimini writes, the team’s other gunner, Brandin Echols, won’t play Sunday against the Eagles while he nurses his own hamstring injury.

While the Jets keep getting hit with injuries, there is some good news on that front. Offensive tackle Duane Brown told Brian Costello of the New York Post that he hopes to play following the Jets’ Week 7 bye. The veteran offensive lineman has been limited to only a pair of games this season thanks to a hip injury that ultimately required a trip to injured reserve. It sounds like Brown is hoping to return to the lineup when first eligible in Week 8.

Jets Place LT Duane Brown On IR

SEPTEMBER 24: Saleh’s comment about Becton’s position switch notwithstanding, SNY’s Connor Hughes reports it will be Becton taking over at left tackle. Right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker is shifting back to right tackle — a rumored move during training camp — and second-round pick Joe Tippmann is moving into the starting lineup at right guard.

The Jets had preferred to keep Vera-Tucker at guard, but the team’s long-running tackle problems will bring the 2021 first-rounder back to tackle. Becton spent the offseason insisting he would return to left tackle, his position as a rookie back in 2020. Becton criticized the Jets shifting him to right tackle last year but has been back at that post since midway through camp. This will be Becton’s first regular-season left tackle work since Week 1 of the 2021 season.

SEPTEMBER 23: Zach Wilson‘s second start in 2023 will come without the Jets’ starting blindside blocker in place. Left tackle Duane Brown has been ruled out for Week 3, per a team announcement.

The Jets have since placed Brown on IR, meaning he will miss at least the next four weeks. New York’s plan at the blindside will become increasingly important with Brown’s replacement(s) now tasked with filling in on a medium-term basis.

Brown has been dealing with hip a injury, and the ailment kept him out of practice this week. In spite of that, head coach Robert Saleh had expressed optimism Brown would be able to suit up on Sunday against the Patriots. Now that the team will be shorthanded up front, questions have been raised regarding who will fill in at the left tackle spot, with Mekhi Becton representing an option.

Pointing toward a right-to-left tackle switch being unlikely, however, Saleh said “[Becton’s] been practicing a certain way this entire week, so to move him at the last second would be irresponsible on our part” (h/t ESPN’s Rich Cimini).

Becton was moved to right tackle on a permanent basis this offseason after tensions over his usage last year came to a (rather public) head. After dealing with a litany of injury issues, the former first-rounder has been able to play every snap so far, though, an accomplishment in its own regard considering the missed time which has dominated his Jets tenure. Given Saleh’s expectation Brown would play tomorrow, it would indeed come as a surprise if the team elected to shift Becton to the blindside (where he was originally drafted to play) on short notice.

Presuming the Jets keep Becton at the RT spot, Billy Turner could find himself in the starting lineup tomorrow. The latter has 75 starts to his name, including seven last year with the Broncos. One of several players with ties to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Turner was brought in on a one-year deal to provide experienced tackle depth given the team’s uncertainty up front.

Turner last saw time at left tackle in 2020, though, so an adjustment period would be needed if he were to be called upon to man the blindside tomorrow. Likewise, swingman Max Mitchell‘s only time last season came at right tackle, so using him at the LT spot would mark a new endeavor for him. In any event, it will interesting to see how the Jets proceed along the O-line as they look to protect Wilson during his time at the helm.

Mekhi Becton Wins Jets’ RT Job

AUGUST 27: Becton has indeed won the starting RT job. Saleh made the announcement to reporters, including Connor Hughes of SNY.tv, following the Jets’ preseason victory over the Giants last night.

“He’s doing all of the right stuff,” Saleh said of Becton (via Eric Edholm of NFL.com). “He has a lot of energy. He’s speaking the right language. He has a lot of positive self-talk. He’s in the training room every day working on that knee and making sure that it’s always fresh and ready to roll. He just has to stay on it and he can’t get complacent with where he’s at now. He has a lot to play for. He has gotten better every single day. He has gotten more confident in his knee.”

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers also spoke positively of Becton’s performance in the game itself (via Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network).

September 11, the date of the Jets’ Week 1 matchup with the Bills, will be almost two years to the day since Becton last appeared in a regular season game.

AUGUST 22: Mekhi Becton‘s gradual return to first-string duty will lead to a preseason start. The former first-round pick has spent most of the Jets’ training camp as a backup, but Robert Saleh said (via ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini) he will start at right tackle in the team’s preseason finale.

While teams often sit starters in their final preseason tilts, Aaron Rodgers will make his Jets debut in this one. Becton being summoned for a start points to the Jets giving serious consideration to the fourth-year veteran making a long-delayed return to the starting lineup.

Duane Brown remains on track — tentatively, at least — to reprise his role as the Jets’ left tackle. Brown is visiting a specialist in Houston on Tuesday, and The Athletic’s Dianna Russini notes the expectation is the 16th-year blocker could be activated off the active/PUP list as soon as today (Twitter link). Brown, 37, is in the final stages of his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. While Brown taking this long to return from an early-offseason procedure probably should set off alarm bells, the Jets have shown faith in the former Pro Bowler, who is tied to a two-year deal worth $20MM.

Brown only came to New York after Becton’s second major knee injury. Becton said his move to right tackle — to accommodate George Fant ahead of Gang Green’s 2022 training camp — played a significant role in the reinjury, placing blame on the Jets’ coaching staff for moving him from his natural left tackle position. But Becton has warmed up to the idea of returning to the right side. And the Jets have been proceeding cautiously with Becton during camp.

He only practiced at the position for the first time Thursday; that work preceded a 25-snap cameo against the Buccaneers last weekend. Becton’s agent told Cimini the Jets have limited Becton’s reps and workout time as he ramps back up from his second season-ending injury. This protocol included a delay in playing right tackle, which places more stress on Becton’s surgically repaired right knee. Doctors advised Becton to avoid right tackle early in camp, per Cimini, for this reason. But Becton’s agent said his client has been cleared to play this position again.

Becton has certainly not been a low-maintenance player since the Jets drafted him, and questions abound regarding his ability to hold up at either tackle post once the regular season begins. This has led to frequent concerns about the Jets’ batch of tackles, a group that also includes free agent pickup Billy Turner and 2022 fourth-round pick Max Mitchell. Neither player seizing the RT job opens the door for Becton to play opposite Brown in Week 1. At this point, Becton should probably be considered the favorite for the gig, SI.com’s Albert Breer adds. That said, Becton has not played right tackle in a regular-season game.

Elsewhere on the Jets’ offensive front, Connor McGovern still has the lead for the starting center role. The recently re-signed blocker, who manned this spot from 2020-22, will likely keep the job for Week 1, per Breer. The Jets drafted Joe Tippmann and gave interior O-lineman Wes Schweitzer more money than McGovern this offseason. But Schweitzer has played both center and guard during camp, potentially being groomed for a swing backup role. The Jets being open to moving Alijah Vera-Tucker back to right tackle — in the event the risky Brown-Becton plan does not hold up — could also open up a guard spot for Schweitzer.

Jets Activate T Duane Brown From Active/PUP List

Less than a week before the Jets must finalize their 53-man roster, their expected left tackle is ready to go. Robert Saleh said (via ESPN’s Rich Cimini) Duane Brown is off the active/PUP list and on track to practice Wednesday.

Brown, 37, has been out while rehabbing offseason shoulder surgery. The 15-year veteran played through a torn rotator cuff last season, returning from an IR stay to start his Jets tenure. The former Pro Bowler did not play up to his usual standards, but the injury certainly impacted his performance. Saleh showed faith in Brown this offseason, and despite Mekhi Becton‘s re-emergence, the veteran remains the likely Week 1 left tackle starter.

The Jets’ tackle situation has been under a microscope for months. The team’s effort to draft Broderick Jones did not pan out, with the Steelers jumping in front of them. Becton has worked as a second-string left tackle during training camp, though the slimmed-down blocker is now moving toward being the Week 1 right tackle starter. Neither Billy Turner nor Max Mitchell have seized the right-side gig, opening the door for Becton, who has not played a regular-season game since September 2021.

Brown’s form following several months of rehab will obviously be worth watching, given the brighter spotlight on the Jets this year. As the team prepares to begin its run with Aaron Rodgers, the issues at tackle that have cropped up during practice have become a regular talking point. Brown could be in position to put a stop to that, though he is the league’s oldest active tackle. The former Texans and Seahawks stalwart will turn 38 in October.

Tied to a two-year, $20MM contract that came to pass due to Becton’s second major knee injury — in August 2022 — Brown started 12 games for the Jets last season. Pro Football Focus slotted the five-time Pro Bowler 69th at the position, marking the worst placement of his career. But both Mitchell and Turner — PFF’s 70th- and 71st-ranked tackles in 2022 — are also coming off seasons in which health issues limited them. Turner battled knee trouble in Denver, missing ninegames, while a blood clot issue ended Mitchell’s rookie year early. The Jets also played without George Fant for most of last season. Fant is now with the Texans, while Brown is due to count $11.28MM against the Jets’ cap.

While Becton could conceivably be a left tackle option as well — a reality he aggressively pushed for this offseason — the Jets’ best bet is likely Brown returning to form and Becton staying healthy while manning the RT post. This has the potential to be an unstable situation, though Brown’s comeback obviously represents a positive development ahead of Rodgers’ debut.

Latest On Mekhi Becton, Jets’ Offensive Line

As the Jets’ months-long issue along the offensive line moves into the mainstream, via a brief Hard Knocks segment, the team still has not turned to Mekhi Becton as a first-stringer during training camp.

After showing promise as a rookie, Becton saw extensive injury troubles and weight issues sidetrack his career. The 2020 first-round pick has not played since Week 1 of the 2021 season, but he lost around 50 pounds this offseason. Becton criticized the Jets’ coaching staff for moving him to right tackle last year, a switch he believes led to his knee reinjury. But the talented blocker is now believed to be onboard with playing on the right side. The Jets are trying Becton at right tackle Thursday, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets, marking the first time that has taken place during this year’s camp.

The Jets still have not used Becton as a first-stringer this year. Despite Duane Brown remaining on Gang Green’s active/PUP list, Becton has worked behind Billy Turner and Max Mitchell at tackle. Even as the team’s depleted front has struggled in joint practices with the Panthers and Buccaneers, Saleh is waiting on giving Becton extended run.

The biggest thing for Mekhi is to show that he can play a game without having to be spelled out,” Robert Saleh said, via the New York Post’s Brian Costello. “It’s unfair to the team to prepare a guy to start if you are not sure he can make it through a game. He is moving in the right direction.”

While Becton brings a much higher ceiling compared to Turner and Mitchell, his injury baggage is among the most extensive in recent NFL history. Missing nearly two full seasons, Becton also missed practice time earlier in camp and asked out of the Jets’ Hall of Fame Game. He did return to play 27 snaps against the Panthers last weekend, marking a good sign. The Jets may soon have no choice but to bump Becton into their starting lineup, given the state of their line. But Saleh continues to proceed cautiously.

As injuries mounted last season, the Jets shifted emerging guard Alijah Vera-Tucker to right tackle. The 2021 first-rounder suffered a season-ending triceps injury while at that position, but the team returned him to guard this offseason. The team is again considering Vera-Tucker at tackle, Saleh said (via Costello), though the third-year HC reminded that the team loves the USC alum at guard. Vera-Tucker has also missed recent time due to injury, along with the Jets’ other guard starter — Laken Tomlinson. Neither practiced against the Bucs on Wednesday.

Should the Jets try a “best five” scenario in Week 1, Cimini offers that Wes Schweitzer — who is competing with Connor McGovern at center — could be shifted to guard as Vera-Tucker slides back to right tackle. Although Schweitzer is competing at center, the ex-Atlanta and Washington starter has extensive guard experience. He started at right guard against Carolina last weekend. The Jets also have second-round rookie Joe Tippmann in the mix, rounding out a deep O-line interior on a team that has faced tackle questions for months.

While Saleh has said Vera-Tucker has All-Pro potential at guard, urgency to place a competent line in front of Aaron Rodgers may supersede the team’s long-term plan for the third-year blocker. As for Brown, Saleh said the team’s preferred left tackle option is moving closer to a return from offseason shoulder surgery.

Latest On Jets’ Center, Tackle Competitions

Despite serving as a capable starting center for the last four years, Connor McGovern — who just completed a three-year, $27MM deal that he signed with the Jets in 2020 — did not find much of a market for his services this offseason. In April, McGovern signed a modest one-year, $1.92MM contract to remain with New York, and he watched the team draft Wisconsin snapper Joe Tippmann several days later.

While Zack Rosenblatt of The Athletic (subscription required) recently reported that McGovern will get every chance to retain his starting job, he ultimately believes the club will hand the reins over to Tippmann for the start of the regular season. Rich Cimini of ESPN.com likewise believes McGovern is merely an “insurance policy” for the rookie. 

In the eyes of Pro Football Focus, McGovern finished as the 10th-best center out of 36 qualifiers in 2022, with solid scores for both his pass-blocking and run-blocking. PFF was similarly high on the Missouri product in 2021, but Gang Green clearly believed an upgrade was in order. As Cimini notes, McGovern ranked near the bottom of the league in ESPN’s pass- and run-block win rate metrics, and as the Jets are eyeing a deep playoff push, they are obviously trying to field the best lineup possible and will not give McGovern a boost because of his tenure with the team or the locker room respect that he enjoys.

Whichever player wins the right to snap the ball to Aaron Rodgers will be sandwiched by Laken Tomlinson and Alijah Vera-Tucker at the guard positions. As Jets fans know all too well, however, there is plenty of intrigue surrounding the OT slots.

Mekhi Becton, a former first-rounder who was initially drafted to be the team’s franchise left tackle, has been plagued by knee injuries and conditioning problems, and after playing in Week 1 of the 2021 season, he has missed the last 33 games. Becton has lost a signficiant amount of weight in an effort to get his career back on track, and he has made it clear that he wants to return to the blindside. But recent reporting suggests that veteran Duane Brown — who has five Pro Bowls on his resume and who signed with New York last August when it becamse clear that Becton would miss the entire 2022 campaign — has the inside track to remain in that role.

The problem is that Brown is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and is presently unable to practice. That would seem to open the door for Becton to at least narrow the gap between himself and Brown on the left tackle depth chart, but as Brian Costello of the New York Post recently tweeted, Becton is currently taking LT reps with the second team, while free agent addition Billy Turner is working with the first-stringers. Connor Hughes of SNY.tv, meanwhile, says Becton is not a full participant just yet (Twitter link).

The fact that the Jets are taking it easy with Becton does not necessarily mean that he has suffered some sort of setback; at this point, any sort of participation on his part is encouraging. Still, it appears that the only way in which Becton will open the season as the starting left tackle is if Brown is unable to play, so Becton’s quickest path to a starting gig may be at right tackle (much to his chagrin). Turner, who worked under new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in Green Bay and Denver, will also be in the mix for that job, and Rosenblatt believes Turner will be the team’s Week 1 RT, with Becton or 2022 fourth-rounder Max Mitchell getting the nod later on.