The New York Jets have absolutely zero time to waste in finding their replacement for Mekhi Becton at right tackle following his untimely and unfortunate season-ending injury. With no real backup plan set in free agency or the draft, aside from drafting Louisiana’s Max Mitchell in the fourth round, the Jets are scrambling to find a serviceable tackle to fortify a hopefully much-improved offensive line for the 2022 NFL season.
While the organization would love for someone already in-house to step up to the task, with head coach Robert Saleh echoing that they’re comfortable with their backup situation, most would argue that’s not the case. Conor McDermott, the most experienced of the bunch, is out for the next few weeks with a sprained ankle. Mitchell, albeit very sound in his pass protection technique, is a developmental piece and is not ready to handle the size and strength of NFL defensive linemen. Chuma Edoga hasn’t started a game since 2020 and would be a worrisome sight given his lack of consistency.
The obvious pin waiting to drop is free agent tackle Duane Brown, who’s spent his 14-year career as a left tackle for both the Houston Texans and the Seattle Seahawks. Brown has spent time around the organization this past week, and there is mutual interest between both parties, but Brown is still weighing his options as there are several teams that could use his talents. The five-time pro bowler will be 37 in just a few weeks and could very well choose to sign with a team that has a more positive outlook for the upcoming season.
With no solid option in house, and Brown sifting through his options, the Jets would be wise to dip their toes into the trade market. Two names have popped up more than others — 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins of the Chicago Bears and 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard of the Philadelphia Eagles — but only one of those names, Dillard, makes for a legitimate candidate.
Dillard, entering his fourth NFL season, has struggled to carve out a starting role in Philadelphia given the consistency of Lane Johnson and emergence of Jordan Mailata. He has, however, shown his ability to be a serviceable option in his sporadic nine starts and earned a 69.6 grade from PFF in his five starts last season — ranking him 45th out of 85 tackles to play 300 or more snaps.
He has the prototypical build for a tackle that general manager Joe Douglas looks for, a mountain of a man listed at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, which makes all the sense given Douglas was a member of the Eagles organization that took him 22nd overall. The former Cougar matches that with a very strong athletic profile, placing in the 94th percentile of all tackles to ever run the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and the 98th percentile in both the broad jump and 20-yard shuttle.
It’s not that Dillard is this hyper-underappreciated asset that’s wasting away as a reserve in Philadelphia; he’s yet to show he deserves the opportunity to be a season-long starter. For what it’s worth, members of the Chicago Bears organization strongly believe that Jenkins is their most talented lineman. Jenkins possesses more potential and talent in the short-term and long-term future. Dillard is, however, a far less-risky option than the second-year player from Oklahoma State.
Jenkins missed more than half of his rookie season with a season-ending surgery to his back, a persistent concern dating back to his college days. After appearing in OTAs and minicamps this offseason, Jenkins was absent from the beginning of training camp and speculation around his health began to stir.
That was until David Kaplan of NBC Sports chimed in, reporting that Jenkins was at odds with the Bears new coaching staff and that maturity issues were the primary reason for his absence. Jeff Hughes of Da Bears Blog reiterated that message by saying Jenkins’ personality, not character, has created a rift with the new staff in Chicago.
This isn’t a first for Jenkins, who was the subject of reports about emotional breakdowns during hard practices at Oklahoma State. His college coach Mike Gundy also spoke on his shaky motivation and work ethic in college.
He’s since returned to the Bears facilities and is taking snaps with the second team offense but remains firmly on the trade block.
Knowing what we do about Douglas, Saleh and the Jets team they are trying to build, there is little that makes me think Jenkins is under serious consideration. This organization has prioritized team-first athletes that eat, sleep and breathe football, not those who constantly need to be reminded that they need to remain focused and motivated. Beyond that, trading for a player with nagging injuries to replace another player with nagging injuries doesn’t add up.
Upside and talent are the main reasons that Jenkins would appear enticing, but this organization has chosen trust and stability over upside a handful of times — most recently by their decision to keep the trustworthy George Fant at left tackle and upside of Becton at right tackle before his injury.
Dillard may not possess the talent or experience at right tackle that Jenkins does, but his familiarity to Douglas and the lack of red flags around his health and character make him a far more trustworthy trade candidate for the Jets. Should talks with Brown fade in the coming days, there’s no reason Dillard shouldn’t be on the team plane heading back to New York after the two face off in preseason action this Friday.
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