Latest Update (Jan. 17)
12:15PM: Winters received a four-year, $29 million contract extension, including $15 million guaranteed, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.
The $15 million guaranteed is the tenth-largest guarantee for a guard.
Previous Reports and Reaction (Jan. 16)
8:34PM: The New York Jets re-signed offensive lineman Brian Winters to a four-year contract extension, the team announced Monday night.
The contract is worth about $8 million per year, according to SNY.tv's Ralph Vacchiano, which would make him the third-highest paid right guard in the NFL, however ESPN's Rich Cimini reports the figure is about $7 million annually, which would tie him for the fifth highest salary for a right guard.
Winters played 13 games at right guard in 2016 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He had played 51 games over his first four seasons with the Jets after they drafted him in the third round in 2013.
Winters had his best season in 2016, as Pro Football Focus graded him as the 16th-ranked right guard in the league.
The only player on the Jets' list of soon-to-be free agents who figured to be a top priority for them is now off the market nearly two months before free agency is scheduled to begin.
It was a terrific and aggressive move by the Jets lock up Winters to a four-year contract extension. A source told SNY the deal is worth approximately $8 million annually, a high price to pay for a player who isn't exactly a star and has struggled at times during his four NFL seasons. But it was important to pay that price to retain a promising young player, especially with all the changes that could be coming to their offensive line.
Those changes could include new players at both tackle positions - with Ryan Clady and Breno Giacomini likely out, and Ben Ijalana scheduled to be a free agent in March -- and possibly the loss of center Nick Mangold, who given his age and injury history could be a salary cap casualty. At least now they will have a building block at right guard in the 25-year-old Winters.
Winters was also one of the few bright spots in the Jets' dismal 2016 season, right up until he injured his shoulder during the Jets' loss to the Dolphins in mid-December and spent the last two weeks of the season on injured reserve.
With Winters back, the Jets don't have any unrestricted free agents who figure to be must-sign players for them. The rest of the list includes Ijalana, quarterbacks Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, linebackers Josh Martin, Bruce Carter and Corey Lemonier, long snapper Tanner Purdum, safety Antonio Allen and tight end Kellen Davis.
Rebuilding the offensive line figures to be the Jets' No. 2 priority this offseason, right behind finding their new franchise quarterback. The Jets will at least have a solid interior line, with Winters and James Carpenter at guard and likely Wes Johnson, a restricted free agent who is expected to be tendered, replacing Mangold at center.
The Jets will surely have to look to free agency to fill at least one of their soon-to-be vacant tackle spots. Depending on what they do at quarterback, they could also fill a tackle spot with the No. 6 pick in the draft.