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Jets Draft Prospect: Illinios Left Tackle as Tyron Smith Understudy?

After making a major free splash in signing former Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith, the New York Jets may turn their attention to Illinois tackle JulianPearl as a developmental swing option in the upcoming NFL Draft.

What had been a quiet offseason for the New York Jets rose to a thunderous decibel level on Friday night with the news of Gang Green’s signing former Dallas Cowboys five-time All Pro offensive tackle Tyron Smith.  

Filling arguably their greatest offseason need, the Jets are signing Smith to one-year contract, which could be worth up to $20 million with incentives. 

For the first time in 13 years, the Jets not only seem poised to erase an embarrassing playoff deficit, but they also have a legitimate chance to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl — thanks to a re-imaged offense and their stout defense. Adding a tackle of Smith’s caliber to protect Rodgers’ blind side will allow the 40-year-old both the time and space he needs to operate at a high level. 

Cred: USA Today Sports Images

Cred: USA Today Sports Images

Still, the ex-Cowboys legend is signed for one year. As such, New York still maintains a need for a swing reserve with the potential to be the future at the position. 

Should they look to the middle rounds of April’s draft, Illinios let tackle Julian Pearl may be of great interest to the Jets. 

Pearl started at right tackle and left tackle for the Illini over the past three seasons. He broke into the starting lineup on the right side during the 2020 season. However, he transitioned to the left and anligned exclusively at the position in 2023. Of his 843 snaps, 327 came as a run blocker and 516 were in pass protection. He was credited by Pro Football Focus with allowing seven sacks and three quarterback hits, earning in him an overall grade of 66.2. 

At 6-6, 315 pounds, Pearl has versatility and size to blend with his quickness and athleticism. The Danville native anchors well due to his lower body strength. However, his ability to ward off defenders with his arms remains a work in progress. As such, he has the tendency to frequently surrender his position, perhaps too much to be effective as a starting pro tackle. Under the tutelage of a legendary blocker such as Smith, Pearl would have the advantage of learning the technique of a tackle who has long been considered one of the best in the game during his era. 

Whether the Jets draft Pearl or another developmental tackle, New York is almost certain to remain in the market for swing options to add depth Smith, and fellow starters Joe Tippmann, Morgan Moses, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and John Simpson.