George Fant

OL Notes: Smith, Texans, Rams, Bears

The Cowboys are going with a “best five” configuration up front, shifting course months after Jerry Jones discussed a plan of keeping Tyler Smith at tackle. Smith is back at guard, but he may not be a lock to start the season on time. The second-year blocker suffered a hamstring strain, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News tweets. Jones expects Smith to play in Week 1; the 2022 first-round pick did not miss a game last season. Dallas has lost its starting left guard in free agency in each of the past two offseasons, seeing Connor Williams and Connor McGovern defect to the AFC East.

One of the backup options, Josh Ball, is on IR. Ball is battling hip and groin pain, and the Morning News’ Michael Gehlken notes he is expected to miss around two months. A 2021 fourth-rounder, Ball is not expected to need surgery. The Cowboys kept eight O-linemen, with rookies Asim Richards and T.J. Bass joining Chuma Edoga as backups.

Here is the latest from NFL O-lines:

  • Texans right tackle Tytus Howard returned to practice earlier this week, working out with a cast on his injured left hand. While the fifth-year lineman is on the verge of returning, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes George Fant is expected to play in place of Howard in Week 1. Howard, who signed a Texans extension in July, underwent surgery to repair a broken hand in early August. Fant worked as a regular Jets starter — at left and right tackle — throughout the 2020 and ’21 seasons; injuries limited him to seven games last year.
  • Josh Jones filled in for D.J. Humphries as the Cardinals’ left tackle last season, but the recently traded blocker is back at guard. The Texans have Jones in place as their starting left guard going into the season, Wilson tweets. Jones is replacing 2022 first-rounder Kenyon Green, who is on season-ending IR. Jones spent the 2021 season as a primary Cardinals starting guard. The Texans will also be without center Juice Scruggs to start the season; the second-rounder is on short-term IR with a hamstring injury.
  • The Rams gave Joseph Noteboom a three-year, $40MM deal to replace Andrew Whitworth in 2022, but after another season-ending injury, Whitworth’s would-be heir apparent lost his job. The Rams are going with Alaric Jackson at left tackle, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, who adds Noteboom is back at guard (subscription required). Noteboom worked at guard early in his career and was mentioned as a guard option this offseason, but he had played on the outside since becoming Los Angeles’ swing tackle in 2020. The Rams also added Kevin Dotson from the Steelers, and while Dotson has started 30 career games (including 17 last year), Rodrigue adds the team views him as a depth piece. A former UDFA, Jackson started six games last season before becoming one of the many Ram blockers forced off the field due to health issues. Blood clots ended Jackson’s 2022 slate.
  • Previously set to shift back to center, Cody Whitehair is at guard to start his eighth Bears season. Teven Jenkins‘ injury will shift Whitehair to left guard and Lucas Patrick to center, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes. Recent trade acquisition Dan Feeney is in place as Chicago’s backup center. Jenkins is on IR to start the season. Whitehair spent the past four seasons at guard but began his career with three slates at center. Patrick has played both guard and center. The 2022 free agency addition was ticketed to start at center last season, but injuries limited the ex-Packer to seven games.

Texans, T George Fant Agree To Deal

Not long after a workout in Houston, George Fant has landed a deal. The veteran offensive tackle is joining the Texans on a one-year contract worth up to $4MM, reports Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 (Twitter link).

Wilson adds that Fant had offers in place from other teams, but elected to join Houston. A starting role is out of the question unless either member of the Texans’ first-team tandem (Laremy Tunsil and the recently-extended Tytus Howard) were to suffer an injury. Fant, 31, will provide a veteran presence and considerable experience off the bench if called into action, though.

The Titans were one of the teams to show interest in Fant, hosting him for a free agent visit last weekend. They did the same with Chris Hubbard, however, and elected to sign the latter yesterday. It comes as little surprise that Fant has reacted to that development by taking a different deal inside the AFC South. He will join a Texans team which was in need of an addition for the swing tackle role.

2020 fourth-rounder Charlie Heck (who has started 17 games during his three-year Texans tenure) is currently on the PUP list. Fant will thus have plenty of reps available during training camp, as he looks to settle into his third career team. The Western Kentucky alum spent three years each with the Seahawks and Jets prior to his 2023 free agent period.

Fant started all but one of his appearances in New York, and he was one of many O-linemen to suffer injury troubles for the Jets last season. A knee issue limited him to eight games, and after discussing an extension the offseason prior, team and club parted ways at the start of the new league year. The Jets have several options to sort through at both the left and right tackle spots, positions at which Fant has experience. While his former team works through their various combinations, Fant will provide the Texans with a capable backup swing tackle.

Titans Audition OTs George Fant, Chris Hubbard

JULY 22: Tennessee hosted Fant as scheduled, while also taking a look at Chris Hubbard (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network). The latter has spent his entire career in the AFC North, seeing time at both guard and tackle with the Steelers and Brown. Hubbard (who also visited the Colts this offseason) has 49 starts to his name, and like Fant would represent a far more experienced Petit-Frere replacement than Tennessee’s internal options. 2021 second-rounder Dillon Radunz – who continues to recover from the ACL tear which ended his second career season in December – has been placed on the active/PUP list to begin training camp. That news could give the Titans added incentive to sign Fant, Hubbard or another veteran in the near future.

JULY 19: Nicholas Petit-Frere‘s six-game gambling suspension will have the Titans starting four new offensive linemen, but the team is likely aiming for a higher-end bridge option at right tackle.

Sitting as one of the top free agents available, George Fant is set for a Nashville trek. The veteran tackle will work out for the Titans on Saturday, Jordan Schultz of The Score tweets. Fant spent the past three seasons with the Jets, but he has been a free agent since his contract expired earlier this year.

This would be an interesting landing spot for Fant, seeing as Tennessee does not appear to have an opening for a full-time tackle starter. Petit-Frere started throughout last season, winning the RT job out of training camp. The 2022 third-round pick will seemingly be ready to reclaim his job after his suspension ends. That said, Schultz adds there is a good chance Fant will sign with the Titans assuming his workout goes well.

Fant-Jets extension rumors swirled last year, but nothing transpired. The Jets have an even more uncertain tackle situation than the Titans, with both Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton coming off injuries. The team signed longtime Nathaniel Hackett charge Billy Turner, however, and have 2022 draftee Max Mitchell in place as a backup option. Fant was also in play for the Dolphins earlier this year. Miami has since added Isaiah Wynn and Cedric Ogbuehi.

Fant, who turns 31 today, has made 60 career starts across a seven-year career. The ex-college basketball player played out a three-year, $30MM Jets deal, starting at both the left and right tackle spots. While Fant could bring valuable depth to a Titans team that struggled to keep its O-linemen healthy last season, he also could mix in for a starting role.

Fant, however, also missed much of last season with a knee injury. He played in just eight games, and Pro Football Focus ranked his injury-affected work as among the worst at the position last year. PFF did give Fant a top-40 tackle grade in 2021, when he replaced Becton at left tackle. Should Fant sign, it would be interesting to see if he ends up changing the Titans’ plans for their tackle posts. As of now, Andre Dillard is expected to play left tackle and team with a stopgap right-sider and then Petit-Frere after Week 6.

Considering a host of options to man the RT post during Petit-Frere’s time away, the Titans signing Fant would clear up their plans for first-rounder Peter Skoronski. Pegged as a guard by many NFL evaluators during the pre-draft process, Skoronski only played tackle at Northwestern. But the Titans gave him more guard work during the offseason program.

Latest On Eagles’ RG Competition; Team To Add OT?

Like many players who lined up at offensive tackle in college, Eagles third-round rookie Tyler Steen is, according to Bo Wulf of The Athletic (subscription required), set to play guard at the NFL level, at least in his first professional season. Which certainly makes sense, as Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson are locked into the starting tackle jobs.

However, the decision to deploy Steen on the interior is notable for two reasons. One, it sets up an intriguing position battle at right guard between the rookie and 2022 second-rounder Cam Jurgens. Jurgens, a natural center, was drafted as the eventual replacement for five-time First Team All-Pro pivot Jason Kelce, but Kelce elected to put off retirement for another year and agreed to a new contract with Philadelphia in March. As such, there is only one starting spot available on the club’s O-line, and that is the RG post that was vacated when Isaac Seumalo defected to the Steelers in free agency this offseason.

Although Jurgens appeared in only 34 snaps as a rookie (28 of which came at center), he has the benefit of having spent a year learning the Eagles’ offense and the blocking schemes of OL coach Jeff Stoutland. He also lined up with the first-stringers during OTAs, and while that is obviously not as important as who gets the first-team reps in training camp, one would think that Jurgens has a leg up on Steen at the moment, even if the coaching staff has not tipped its hand one way or another.

The loser of the competition will nonetheless become a key reserve, as the guard depth presently consists of the likes of Sua Opeta, Tyrese Robinson, and Julian Good-Jones. The tackle depth behind Mailata and Johnson is similarly uninspiring, and since Steen is focusing his efforts on guard as opposed to tackle, Wulf expects GM Howie Roseman to add an OT before Week 1.

Of course, the market for quality tackles is largely bare at this point in the offseason, though George Fant remains available and would, in Wulf’s estimation, represent an ideal fit. Fant has extensive experience at both OT spots and could be waiting for a clearer path to a starting job to open up in camp. If such an opportunity does not become available, the Eagles have enough cap space (roughly $14MM as of the time of this writing) to entice him. Wulf names the Cardinals’ Kelvin Beachum as a potential trade target, as the rebuilding Arizona outfit used its top pick in this year’s draft on an elite offensive lineman (Paris Johnson Jr.) and could therefore see the 34-year-old Beachum as surplus to requirements, especially with longtime LT D.J. Humphries healthy again.

Wulf also sees wide receiver, inside linebacker, and pass rush as areas in which the Eagles could seek an upgrade, though he does not envision Roseman making a big splash at any of those spots, unless he can pounce on a pass rusher like Yannick Ngakoue that has lingered on the open market.

Dolphins Interested In George Fant, Unlikely To Exercise Fifth-Year Options On Austin Jackson, Noah Igbinoghene

Towards the end of February, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote that the Dolphins are unlikely to exercise the fifth-year option on right tackle Austin Jackson. In the ensuing weeks, there has been nothing to suggest that the ‘Fins are reconsidering that stance.

Indeed, as Barry Jackson tweeted on Friday, Miami has shown interest in free agent tackle George Fant, lending credence to previous reports that the club is expected to bring in competition for Austin Jackson. That also represents the first reported interest in Fant since free agency opened several days ago.

Austin Jackson, the No. 18 overall pick of the 2020 draft, has yet to live up to his first-round billing. Miami hoped that the USC product would become its long-term answer at left tackle, but in 13 games (12 starts) at the position in his rookie year, Jackson largely struggled. While he got some run at LT in his second professional season, most of his snaps came at left guard, with similarly mediocre results. He then opened the 2022 campaign as the Dolphins’ starting right tackle before suffering an ankle injury in Week 1 that essentially wiped out his season (he wound up playing in just two contests and 84 total snaps).

It comes as little surprise, then, that Miami would decline to exercise Jackson’s fifth-year option, which would lock in a fully-guaranteed $14.2MM salary for 2024. It is equally unsurprising that the team would seek to bring in competition for the RT job.

Fant, who is entering his age-31 season, signed a three-year contract with the Jets in 2020. He spent most of his first year in New York at right tackle, with generally uninspiring results. However, when he was moved to left tackle out of necessity in 2021, Fant blossomed, and his performance even led to extension talks with Gang Green last year. Unfortunately, he was limited to just eight games in 2022 due to knee trouble, and even when he was on the field, his work was not as strong as it was the season before.

The Dolphins used Greg Little and Brandon Shell as Jackson replacements last year, but both players are also out of contract. It seems Miami wants to see what else is out there, and Fant is someone who can at least provide depth at both tackle spots and who would stand a good chance of opening the season as the club’s starting right tackle.

In related news, it would be “unfathomable” if the Dolphins were to exercise cornerback Noah Igbinoghene‘s fifth-year option (worth $11.5MM) for 2024, per Barry Jackson. Igbinoghene, who was selected twelve picks after Austin Jackson in 2020, is clearly not well-regarded by head coach Mike McDaniel & Co., as he was a healthy scratch for eight games in 2022 even though the Dolphins were without their No. 2 and No. 3 corners (Byron Jones and Nik Needham).

Jones has been released and Needham re-signed over the last week, and the Dolphins of course made a big splash to acquire Jalen Ramsey from the Rams. As it stands, Ramsey and Xavien Howard will operate as Miami’s starting boundary corners, with Kader Kohou and Needham both above Igbinoghene on the depth chart.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/7/23

Today’s minor transactions heading into the final Sunday of the regular season:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

  • Promoted from practice squad: WR Josh Ali

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jets Activate T George Fant, Place T Cedric Ogbuehi On IR

The Jets continued the dance between tackles George Fant and Cedric Ogbuehi today activating Fant from injured reserve and placing Ogbuehi on IR, according to the team’s Twitter account. The loss of Ogbuehi should be alleviated by Fant, whom the former tackle was originally brought in to help replace.

Fant began the year as the team’s starter at left tackle while current starter Duane Brown dealt with a shoulder injury. Three games into the season, Fant was placed on IR with a knee injury, leading to the signing of Ogbuehi off of the Texans practice squad. Ogbuehi would eventually crack the starting lineup after an injury to Alijah Vera-Tucker and has served as New York’s starting right tackle for the last four games.

In last week’s win over the Bears, Ogbuehi suffered a groin injury early that would take him out for the remainder of the game. Jets rookie fourth-round pick Max Mitchell, who started the first four games of the year before injuring his knee, came in for the injured Ogbuehi last weekend. With Fant back in the picture, it’s unclear whether he or Mitchell will get the nod to start this week opposite Brown. Regardless, it’s a good problem to have as the Jets offensive line continues to work towards full health after a catastrophic first few weeks of the season.

In addition to the offensive lineman exchange, the Jets announced they are promoting linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen from the practice squad as a standard gameday elevation for tomorrow’s matchup in Minnesota. This is the third time Nasirildeen has been elevated, meaning that, if the Jets wish to bring him up again, the team will have to sign him to the active roster as an official member of the 53-man roster.

Jets Designate T George Fant For Return

The Jets opted against blocking the Patriots from poaching practice squad tackle Conor McDermott on Tuesday. That transaction preceded good news on the injury front for New York.

George Fant is back at practice Wednesday. The Jets have started the veteran tackle’s IR-return clock, which gives the team three weeks to move him back onto the 53-man roster. Fant has been out since Week 3. The Jets are in good shape, activation-wise, with six such moves remaining.

A knee injury led to Fant being shut down. While Fant attempted to play through the malady during a rough day against the Bengals, he did not finish that game and was soon shelved. Fant has dealt with knee trouble for a bit now. He went down with a knee injury late last season and began training camp on the Jets’ active/PUP list as a result.

Fant’s return would be a boon for an offense that has played without its optimal tackle arrangement all season. The team aimed at having Fant at left tackle and Mekhi Becton on the right side, but Becton’s season-ending avulsion fracture soon nixed that. Gang Green then planned on having Fant move back to right tackle to play opposite Duane Brown. The latter’s preseason injury scrapped that concept. Fant’s injury then prompted the team to move second-year guard Alijah Vera-Tucker to tackle, but Vera-Tucker is now out for the season.

Brown and Fant have yet to play together in New York. Should Fant return to action, the former Seahawks teammates will be slated to start together as Jets tackles — at long last. Although the Jets signed Mike Remmers as tackle insurance, they have used fellow in-season pickup Cedric Ogbuehi — signed off the Texans’ practice squad in late September — as their right-side starter during Fant’s absence.

From 2020-21, Fant was a Jets constant at tackle. The ex-college basketball player and ex-Seahawks swingman started at right tackle in 2020 and left tackle, replacing an injured Becton, in 2021. Extension buzz circulated this offseason, but no deal came to fruition. The Jets’ plan to have Fant play on the left side set up the prospect of a considerable raise for the 30-year-old blocker, but Brown’s arrival — on a two-year, $20MM deal — and the knee injury changed the equation for the third-year Jet.

The Jets can activate Fant this week. Moving the veteran back into the lineup in place of Ogbuehi would stand to help new starting quarterback Mike White, who has not taken a snap yet this season.

Jets Place T George Fant On IR

A lingering knee injury forced George Fant out of Sunday’s Jets-Bengals game, and the issue will sideline Fant for a while. The Jets placed the veteran tackle on IR Tuesday, Field Yates of tweets.

This moves yet another high-profile Jets tackle off the active roster. Fant’s IR shift follows the transactions that sent Mekhi Becton and Duane Brown to the injured list. While Brown will be eligible to return in Week 5, Fant is shut down until at least Week 8.

Robert Saleh classified Fant as “day to day” Monday. Instead, Fant’s IR placement further depletes the Jets at a premier position. The team finished Sunday’s Bengals tilt with Conor McDermott at left tackle. Fourth-round rookie Max Mitchell has played every snap for the Jets at right tackle this season. This is far from the initial configuration Gang Green planned, and Fant’s absence figures to make matters more difficult for Zach Wilson, who is on track to return from his August knee surgery in Week 4.

Fant had a tough day against standout Cincinnati defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who notched strip-sacks against Fant and McDermott. But Fant has been battling this knee problem all season, Brian Costello of the New York Post notes. The issue caused him to miss multiple practices last week.

Fant, 30, has been a vital O-line presence for the Jets since signing with the team as a free agent in 2020. The ex-Seahawk spent the 2020 season as the Jets’ right tackle starter and moved to the left side after Becton’s Week 1 injury last season. The Jets named Fant their starting left tackle before Becton’s training camp injury. After being on the Jets’ extension radar early this offseason, no deal came to fruition. Fant’s return from injury will begin a rather important stretch for the former college basketball player. His contract expires at season’s end.

When Fant returns, the Jets will hope to deploy the Brown-Fant tackle combo that has yet to take the field together. After winning the left tackle gig, Fant saw Brown’s late-summer signing move him back to the right side. The Jets signed veteran Mike Remmers as a stopgap option Monday. Remmers currently resides on Gang Green’s practice squad, but the journeyman right tackle is likely to be moved up to the 53-man roster soon.

Jets To Add T Mike Remmers

Two-time Super Bowl starter Mike Remmers will join a team in need at his position. The journeyman tackle is signing with the Jets on a practice squad agreement, Tom Pelissero of tweets.

Remmers is expected to be bumped up to the Jets’ 53-man roster soon. The former Chargers, Panthers, Vikings, Giants and Chiefs blocker has not played for a team this season; the Chiefs did not re-sign him after the 2021 campaign.

The Jets have both Mekhi Becton and Duane Brown on IR. They finished their Week 3 game with Conor McDermott and rookie Max Mitchell as their tackles. George Fant, who has worked as both a left- and right-side starter with the Jets, started at left tackle against the Bengals but left early due to a lingering knee injury. Trey Hendrickson finished the game with 2.5 sacks, two of those forcing Joe Flacco fumbles.

Remmers, 33, has made 90 career starts. He is probably best known for tough nights against Von Miller (Super Bowl 50) and Shaq Barrett (Super Bowl LV), but the former UDFA brings a level of experience the Jets are lacking right now. Brown is ineligible to play until at least Week 5. Remmers, who played just four games last season before a knee injury led the Chiefs to place him on IR, has worked primarily as a right tackle but did play inside during the 2018 season in Minnesota. The Jets are more solidified at guard, however; the team’s tackle plan veered off the rails once Becton suffered an avulsion fracture during training camp. Signed to a lucrative deal to replace Becton, Brown is rehabbing a shoulder injury.

The tackle uncertainty engulfing Gang Green comes as the team is readying Zach Wilson to make his season debut. Wilson, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in August, was slated to play behind a Fant-Becton tackle tandem. He could begin his sophomore NFL season behind Remmers and either McDermott or Mitchell. The latter has played 100% of the Jets’ right tackle snaps this season.