The New York Jets have a little under $25 million in cap room and there are still quite a few free agents still out there. This is the third in a series of potential free agents the Jets could and should still target.
Name: Larry Warford, guard
Profile: Warford is a big offensive lineman who turns 29-years old in a few days. The San Diego native was a third-round pick by the Detroit Lions out of Kentucky. He blossomed after signing a free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints. He made three straight Pro Bowls with the Saints but was looking for a contract in the $7 million range according to NFL Network.
He was unceremoniously released by New Orleans back in March and has been rumored to be headed to nearly a dozen teams. It was surprising because the Saints chose to keep Andrus Peat who is two years younger but has battled numerous injuries. Warford is a 320-pound lineman who has 107 starts in his NFL career (including the playoffs). He’s ranked a Top-10 guard by Pro Football Focus, and like cornerback Logan Ryan, he is surprising analysts by remaining a free agent as the off-season heads into June.
2019 Stats: 15 appearances, 15 starts (plus one start in the playoffs);
2019 Salary and Contract: Warford signed a four-year, $34 million contract with the New Orleans Saints. He was released with one year remaining on that contract. He was a $12.875 million salary-cap hit.
The Fit: There are conditioning concerns. Despite the fact that he has been overall healthy the last two seasons (he’s only played a full 16-game season once in his NFL career, when he was a rookie in 2013), his lack of speed has come into question, and the thought is as he gets older, that wasn’t going to improve. Warford was the second-highest-paid player on the Saints, second only to quarterback Drew Brees.
The Saints weren’t able to find a trade partner for Warford, and initial reports had him headed to the Houston Texans or the Chicago Bears. Given his consistency, it’s a mystery why he is still a free agent. Given that Warford is asking for a contract in the $7 million range - which is not high considering how durable of a player he has been – some team will benefit by signing him. It’s easy to see why fans are clamoring on social media for Warford to come to the Jets. Something is driving general manager Joe Douglas away. Douglas isn’t the only GM that’s been hesitant, and the mystery as to why this three-time Pro Bowler can’t get a deal from anyone remains.
Now, the Jets have revamped their offensive line, a rather considerable overhaul that included signing five free agents and drafting a tackle and a guard so far this offseason. Does the line desperately need Warford? No. Is he a possible upgrade? He could well be.
He is at a good age to be more than a stopgap but Douglas so far has brought in very few players at or over 30-years old who project to be starters. Consider that Joe Flacco and Frank Gore, both at the tail end of their careers, are brought in for reserve roles.
Warford doesn’t seem to fit the mold of who Douglas brings in based off of a year’s worth of evidence from his signings. But for a revamped offensive line, adding a Pro Bowl caliber guard could be an addition that solidifies the unit but also brings in a strong veteran’s voice.
That he has made three straight Pro Bowl appearances is ability and talent that is hard to ignore.
But in terms of fit, it might not be there for Warford. So far in free agency and the draft, the Jets have signed athletic linemen who can move down the field. Warford moves well but isn't as athletic or nimble as the Jets new additions to the line.
Scheme-wise, he simply may not be a fit unless he can slim down.