George Fant was the most expensive player the New York Jets brought in via free agency but, he wasn’t the big name that most fans had hoped for this offseason.
His three-year, $27.3 million contract includes $13.7 million in guaranteed money makes him the biggest contract handed out by general manager Joe Douglas since he took over the role last summer. In fact, the Jets three biggest contracts of this offseason were all offensive linemen (Fant is followed by center Connor McGovern, guard Greg Van Roten).
So for the Jets to invest in Fant to this extent is telling given their commitment to rebuilding what was the weakest unit on the two-deep last year.
The lowdown: The Jets came into the offseason desperately needing offensive line help, the unit was among the three worst in the league last year in almost every significant category. Fant represents what the Jets are looking for from their linemen, an athletic player with good feet who is explosive and can get down the field.
What Fant brings: Fant is athletic, not a surprise given that the former college basketball player didn’t start playing college football at Western Kentucky until his senior season. He has experience at both tackle positions as well as being a blocking tight end. He’s still developing as a blocker but he moves well and fluidly. Of his 46 NFL appearances over three seasons (he was hurt for the entirety of the 2017 season), he has started in just over half the games (24) so he brings some experience to a rebuilt offensive line (although he was very often deployed as a blocking tight end for Seattle during much of time in the league).
Where he fits: This is the really big question. In a recent conference call with the media, Fant said he originally came to the Jets to be their starting left tackle. Now with the drafting of Mekhi Becton in the first round of the NFL Draft, Fant could well slot in on the right side.
But, reality might dictate otherwise. Fant has experience at left tackle and Becton is talented but raw. The Jets might want Becton, just 21-years old, to get a season or two at right tackle before handing over the blindside to him.
In all likelihood, Fant will be the starting left tackle come preseason with the opportunity to earn it outright. If he falters or Becton shows incredible promise, then he could switch to the right side.
Long-term outlook: He may have been the priciest free agent addition, but the Jets got a good deal. He’s a solid player with upside and potential who can play multiple positions. And yet, the Jets got him at a bit of a steal compared to some of the other deals handed out to far lesser offensive linemen by other teams this offseason.
The contract is clearly carved out to give the Jets some flexibility moving forward. In 2021, Fant is just a $2 million dead cap hit and just $1 million the year after that. So if things don’t work out, the Jets have flexibility moving forward to re-address the tackle position opposite Becton.
Grading the move: This wasn’t Jack Conklin, but the Jets got tremendous value and a real solid player who showed well with the Seahawks. That he can play either tackle position and has experience as both a backup and as a starter in the NFL is a very good sign for what he can bring to the table.
Considering the cap flexibility during the final two years of the contract and that the Jets didn’t have the salary cap space to bring in a big name free agent without blowing through their flexibility, Fant is really a good signing on multiple levels.