With the recent flurry of big-name signings, the first major move of the offseason is perhaps being overlooked.
The Jets acquired two-time Pro Bowl guard Kelechi Osemele from the Raiders in exchange for a day three pick swap. Here's why that move could end up being the most important one the Jets have made this offseason.
A change in attitude
It's immediately apparent from Osemele's film that he brings a nastiness to the position, without being undisciplined. Osemele's physical style sees him regularly taking his man to the ground, staying on his man through the whistle and punishing edge rushers when he provides help to his left tackle.
This style of play could bring a new attitude and identity to the Jets' offense, giving them the opportunity to impose their will on the defense in the trenches. These also represent good habits, which hopefully some of his linemates will adopt.
Osemele should produce an upgrade at left guard, but his mentoring could affect the unit as a whole, while also contributing to improvements in situations such as short yardage and the screen game.
A perfect fit for Gase
Head coach Adam Gase butted heads with media in Miami over the fact that he didn't feel it necessary to invest large amounts of money or high picks in the guard positions. However, that was on a team with limited cap resources.
As for what he does covet from his guards, Gase is said to want to run a system whereby the quarterback gets the ball out quickly, so the most important thing is to hold up at the point of attack, prevent immediate interior pressure and give the quarterback a clean pocket to step into. Osemele is ideally equipped to handle such a role.
In addition, Osemele should be more comfortable in the Jets' run-blocking schemes than he was last year. Osemele has played his best football on teams that have primarily used zone blocking in the running game, so Jon Gruden introducing a power-based system wasn't optimal for him. If new offensive line coach Frank Pollack runs the same system he did in Dallas, it should set Osemele up for a resurgence.
Complementing the Bell move
The possibilities for the newly-signed Le'Veon Bell are tantalizing in Gase's offense. However, if the run blocking from the offensive line is as poor as it was down the stretch in 2018, this will limit his potential. Bell's patient running style often sees him wait for a lane to develop with advanced analytics suggesting he takes more time on average to cross the line of scrimmage than any other back in the league.
That's where Osemele could complement Bell perfectly. It won't be an adjustment for him to stay on his blocks longer, because he already battles to keep control of his man from snap to whistle and sometimes beyond. In fact, he often overwhelms his man and then seeks out someone else to block as the play is extended. Bell is the running back most equipped to reap the rewards from this effort.
Plenty left in the tank
There's some concern that maybe Osemele, who will be 30 by the start of the season, is past his best.
Following consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 2016 and 2017, Osemele suffered through an injury-plagued 2018 season. He missed five starts and graded out poorly as the Raiders had one of the league's worst offensive lines.
In order to elevate the Jets' offensive line out of the basement, Osemele will need to be more consistent in 2019, so it's important he remains healthy. The good news on that front is that none of his injuries last year were serious and a recent social media post suggested he has cut a significant amount of weight in order with that in mind.
The other good news is that a review of Osemele's film from 2018 shows that he's still just as capable of being a dominant blocker in the running game and a reliable pass protector. The Jets will hope that he'll benefit from being a better fit for their system and it will also help to have an experience Kelvin Beachum at left tackle, rather than an overmatched rookie who requires "babysitting".
If the Osemele move doesn't work out, the Jets didn't give up much in the way of draft capital and his contract contains no guarantees, so they'll be able to move on from him after the season.
However, if he remains healthy, there's reason to believe that this could have a significant positive impact on the Jets' future. If Osemele returns to his Pro Bowl form, that could elevate the line from one of the league's worst, to among the best.