Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
When news broke of the Jets' first free agent signing last week, this was met with bewilderment by many Jets fans, especially when it was reported they were giving him a deal worth $10 million per year.
Earlier this month, we identified George Fant as a possible bargain pick-up in free agency, but few expected him to command a contract of that size. Nevertheless, he was a player we felt could be a useful pickup, and the Jets obviously felt the same way to go to a number that high to secure his services. So let's review some of the things he brings to the table and what his role might be.
Fant first arrived on the NFL scene in 2016 when he was forced into the starting lineup at left tackle for the Seattle Seahawks due to injuries. Having barely played any college football, the converted basketball player was understandably extremely raw, and at times, looked completely overmatched.
Nevertheless, he flashed athleticism and enough potential that Seattle kept him in the role until the end of the season, and felt good about the prospect of developing him over the next few years.
Unfortunately, Fant's progress was derailed when he tore his ACL in preseason in 2017. Forced to upgrade, the Seahawks traded for pro bowler Duane Brown. With former first-rounder Germain Ifedi already starting on the other side, this basically ensured Fant would be forced to come off the bench in 2018 and 2019.
Seattle couldn't keep him off the field, though. In addition to starting six games at tackle as an injury replacement, including a postseason win over the Eagles, Fant also averaged about 15 snaps a game as a sixth lineman/tight end hybrid when he wasn't starting.
Within that role, Fant established himself as something of a fan favorite, playing a versatile role with impressive run blocking performances that contributed to a Seattle running game that led the league in rushing in 2018 and placed fourth last year.
It wasn't just as a run blocker that he displayed how far he had come since his rookie year, though. In pass protection, Fant's sack rate and pressure rate were both significantly lower over the past two years after he had given up eight sacks and one of the highest pressure rates in the league as a rookie.
Fant has always had good feet and shown natural ability while mirroring in pass protection, but he showed specific improvement in his ability to re-anchor against a bull rush and to pick up stunts. Also, importantly, he was protecting Russell Wilson, so he often had to sustain his block for a long time while Wilson kept plays alive
Heading into 2020, many expected the Seahawks to try and re-sign Fant so that he could take over at the right tackle position, but the Jets were obviously prepared to sign him to a larger-than-expected contract, for what is widely considered "starter money."
So what could Fant's role be in 2020? According to Brian Costello from the New York Post, the Jets view Fant as a left tackle who can move to the right if needed. Currently, he would likely be penciled in on the left with last year's third-round pick Chuma Edoga -- who started games at both positions last year -- at right tackle.
With the team widely expected to draft a tackle in the first round, the Jets have unlimited options. They can play the rookie on the right, groom him on the bench, or plug him in as the left tackle of the future from the outset. Fant's versatility should enable the Jets to fit the other pieces around that as he could play left tackle, right tackle, or even revert back into that blocking utility tight end role to add value while he serves as emergency cover in the swing tackle role.
For someone who had literally never played the offensive tackle position before he signed for the Seahawks, Fant has definitely made solid progress since his rookie season. The Jets are obviously hoping that he's progressed to the point where he's ready to be a full-time starter and can hold up well in that role. Although it's only one game, the way he held his own at left tackle against Nick Bosa and the 49ers last year gives a tantalizing glimpse of his potential.
If Fant can play like that on a consistent basis against players of Bosa's caliber then he could yet prove to be well worth the financial outlay. As unlikely as it may seem, perhaps he could even progress to the point where his contract starts to look like a bargain after all.