The wall around new franchise quarterback Zach Wilson continues to grow larger in New York.
On Friday, offensive tackle Morgan Moses inked a one-year, $3.6 million contract with the New York Jets that can work its way up to $5 million based on playing time incentives. The news of Moses’s signing confirmed rumors that were swirling over the past couple of weeks surrounding the impending deal.
For Joe Douglas and the Jets, landing Moses adds to an overhaul that projects to have at least six new starters lining up on the offensive side of the ball come Week 1. And for an offense that ranked dead last in the NFL a season ago, that overhaul can only be a positive.
Most notably, the Jets have placed a premium on strengthening the offensive line since Douglas entered the building in 2019. New York has used a first-round pick in each of the past two drafts on a linemen—selecting Mekhi Becton in 2020 and Alijah Vera-Tucker in 2021—solidifying the left side for the foreseeable future. Now, with the addition of Moses, Douglas has his right tackle to match.
Nonetheless, the timing of this move is certainly notable. The Jets didn’t pursue a tackle in the early part of free agency, nor did they select one with any of their 10 draft picks. There was confidence in the locker room that George Fant had improved dramatically toward the back half of the 2020 season, and he projected to be a strong scheme fit under new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.
So why was New York so set on pursuing the 30-year-old veteran Moses? What does that mean for Fant? And how does he fit LaFleur’s scheme?
For starters, Moses graded out as one of the better tackles in the league last year while playing in Washington, posting a 79.9 overall PFF grade (18th out of 79 qualifying tackles). He excelled in the run game, grading out as the 7th-best tackle in football in that department with a season-long grade of 84.9. For comparison, Jack Conklin—an All-Pro right tackle in 2020 who New York targeted a season ago—posted a 78.8 run-blocking grade.
In an offense that is expected to be run heavy this upcoming season, lining up Moses opposite Becton eliminates the predictability of running strictly off tackle to the left side. At 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds, Moses has the strength and acumen to seal off 3-techniques and even nose tackles on counters and inside zone run plays. He combines that strength with extremely long arms that give him an advantage over edge rushers to direct them into the B-gaps to open up outside zone runs.
As good as he is against the run, Moses is still an above-average pass protector. He doesn’t quite possess the size and upside of Becton, especially since he’s likely reached his NFL ceiling, but he’s certainly comparable in his areas of expertise. He is a top-of-the-line run blocker who is more than capable pass-blocking as well.
Perhaps most importantly, Moses has been exceedingly durable over the course of his career. He has started all 16 games in each of the past six seasons and hasn’t missed a game since his rookie year in 2014. For an offensive line that had its fair share of injuries last year and faces concerns in that department with Becton that may always loom large, Moses’s consistent presence on the right side should bring some level of stability.
It also presumably pushes Fant one spot down the depth chart, which would make him one of the better swing tackles in the league. Should Becton or Moses be unavailable at any point, sliding Fant into the lineup can still inspire confidence up front, whereas replacing a starting tackle with Conor McDermott or Chuma Edoga left a lot to be desired a year ago.
If all goes well for the Jets in 2021, Fant won’t see the field at the tackle position at all, but you can never have too much offensive line depth, especially for a team that hasn’t had a reliable front in several years.
There is a chance, however, that Fant could compete for the right guard spot, assuming Moses has the right tackle spot on lockdown. Greg van Roten and Alex Lewis are currently in competition right now, but neither looked particularly impressive last year, and Fant is viewed as an exceptional athlete who is still a bit of a project. College tackles making the jump to guard has become increasingly common over the past few years, and while Fant is 28, he’s still tapping into his potential. He’d be one of the more athletic guards in football with the size to match if he can add a little more power to his repertoire.
Scheme-wise, the signing of Moses isn’t necessarily a perfect puzzle piece. LaFleur’s unit is one that figures to rely on fast, athletic linemen that can get into space and block on the outside, and as good of a run-blocker as Moses is, speed isn’t one of the hallmarks of his game. He profiles as more of a power player, while Fant profiles as a more prototypical speed guy.
For that reason, the Jets might encourage Moses to trim back down to the weight he played at as a rookie (314 pounds) to see if that can add a step or two to his play speed. Either way, New York is relying on the proven talent to shine regardless of what scheme he plays in, and LaFleur has shown the adaptability in the Shanahan offense to play to his players’ strengths, offensive linemen included. He’ll relish adding a proven tackle to Florham Park.
As will Zach Wilson, who can now sleep easier. His offensive line just got much better.
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