The entire NFL knows that GM Joe Douglas is getting ready to overhaul the Jets' offensive line. The only question is how. They assume it'll be a mix of draft picks, big money free agents, and possibly a trade. And everyone has their theory on how he'll do it.
One consensus did emerge, though, at the NFL Scouting Combine last week. Multiple NFL sources said they'd be "shocked" or "surprised" or even "blown away" if Douglas didn't take an offensive lineman with the 11th pick in the NFL draft.
"How could he not?" said one NFL executive. "There are legitimately four starters that will go in the Top 15. They all have Pro Bowl potential. One, maybe even two of them, will be there for the Jets. He can't go wrong (picking a lineman). And he can get a receiver later.
"He needs an anchor left tackle to make sure (Sam) Darnold has time to throw."
There are four impressive tackles seemingly headed for the Top 15: Louisville's Mekhi Becton (6-foot-7, 364 pounds), Iowa's Tristan Wirfs (6-foot-5, 320 pounds), Alabama's Jedrick Wills (6-foot-4, 312 pounds), and Georgia's Andrew Thomas (6-foot-5, 315 pounds). All of them have dazzling athleticism for big men, and all of them are projected as Day 1 starters. There are even a few more likely to get first-round grades, in case Douglas feels the itch to trade down.
"I can tell you that there are quite a few guys that kind of fit the mold of what we're looking for," Douglas said. "Smart, durable, tough, explosive, guys that can play multiple positions. The versatility, that's a big thing. You've got to be able to play multiple positions. So there's quite a few guys who fit that bill."
So that seems the likely scenario, with about two months to go until the draft: Take a left tackle of the future at No. 11 and then fill out the line in other ways. Such as:
- Take a shot at the most expensive tackle: There were some NFL sources at the Combine who thought Douglas would go draft-heavy with linemen, but it seems he's not afraid to do some preliminary shopping in the expensive section of the market. The Jets expressed some interest in RT Jack Conklin, who will likely emerge as the highest-paid RT in history (think $19 million per year). No one thinks the Jets will get him, but many think they'll try.
- Be on guard for more free agents: The tackle market usually gets crazy, which sometimes can keep guard prices down. A little. That's why many thought it was more likely the Jets would be strong suitors for New England's Joe Thuney or Detroit's Graham Glasgow, who could end up more in the $14 million per year range. And by the way, if the Redskins don't franchise Brandon Scherff, expect Douglas to be first in line.
- There are internal options. Really: Jonotthan Harrison is signed for 2020 and it's not unrealistic to think he'll return as the starting center, according to a source. Also, don't rule out T Chuma Edoga. Douglas was impressed by his rookie season, a source said, and he could be the starter at right tackle if the Jets aren't able to upgrade in free agency.
- Winters coming … back?: Cutting veteran G Brian Winters, and clearing $7.2 million in cap room, seemed like a no-brainer. But Douglas seems to like Winters. He was effusive in his praise of the 28-year-old guard at the Combine, calling him "a guy that just battled -- battled his tail off all year after injuring his shoulder in the preseason and fighting through. And you're going to be hard-pressed to find a better teammate, a tougher guy than Brian Winters." So maybe a return after a pay cut is coming? Sounds like that's a possibility.