As the New York Jets gear up for the 2023 off-season, it is time to preview where each position stands. Whether there is talent already under contract, or New York acquires players through free agency or the draft, General Manager Joe Douglas looks to build a contender out of the franchise. That being said, let’s take a look at the Jets interior offensive line preview for the 2023 off-season.
New York Jets 2023 Off-Season Previews: Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End, Offensive Tackle
New York Jets 2023 Off-Season Preview: Interior Offensive Line
Jets Under Contract for 2023
As previously mentioned in the offensive tackles preview, Alijah Vera-Tucker should return to guard in 2023. An All-Pro caliber lineman, it was a real shame to see Vera-Tucker miss the season after suffering a season-ending torn triceps injury. The former 13th overall pick out of USC has been the difference-maker along the offensive line Douglas hoped he would be. Getting him healthy and starting a full 17 games is the next step in year three.
With Alijah Vera-Tucker a lock to start at one of the guard spots, the questions, therefore, lie opposite him and center. Laken Tomlinson, the Jets big-fish free agent signing a year ago, has not panned out. In 17 starts, Tomlinson was inconsistent, looking completely different from his Pro Bowl self in 2021. With a cap hit of over $17 million for 2023, the Jets could cut the eight-year veteran and save just under $5 million. Then again, Tomlinson’s departure would only leave another hole at guard. After all, the only other interior offensive lineman under contract is Dru Samia, Eric Smith, and Chris Glaser. All of whom have combined for 19 games played and four starts.
Lastly, Gang Green must decide on unrestricted free agent center Connor McGovern. McGovern, who will be 30 years old this season, has held down the fort since signing a three-year deal with New York in 2020. In that time, he has started all 48 games played, halting the Jets rotating door at the center. While he may not be an elite blocker, McGovern is consistent and one of the more underrated centers from 2022. Re-signing McGovern is not out of the question unless Douglas wants to commit to a younger center long-term.
2023 NFL Free Agency Interior Offensive Line Options
Starting with guard, now the Jets could invest in another top-tier option such as Isaac Seumalo. Nonetheless, without Tomlinson, the Jets could use a proven starter to replace him. Through the offensive coordinator connection with Nathaniel Hackett, maybe the Jets target Dalton Risner. The 41st overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft has started all 62 games played since his rookie season at guard. The Kansas State product will only be 28 years old for the 2023 campaign and should command a multi-year deal for just under $10 million annually.
Another player with coaching ties to the Jets is Nate Davis. A former third-round selection by the Tennessee Titans, Davis has started 54 of 55 games played at right guard. Likely seeking a multi-year deal worth over $20 million total, Davis would be an under-the-radar pickup to play guard opposite Vera-Tucker. Some other names to look for also include Rodger Saffold, Ben Powers, and Elijah Wilkinson.
Meanwhile, the Jets have their in-house choices. At guard, re-signing Nate Herbig as depth would be a great move by Joe Douglas. Joining Herbig on the market is Dan Feeney, who has been a versatile backup lineman for the Jets for the last two seasons. Bringing McGovern back to mentor a rookie center is ideal, and his contract would likely be similar to his first deal with the team back in 2020.
Lastly, should McGovern walk, the Jets need an experienced center with or without a long-term rookie to develop. Thankfully, the free agent market includes the likes of Garrett Bradbury, Bradley Bozeman, and Ethan Pocic. All three are less than 30 years old and can provide the Jets a multi-year starter.
2023 NFL Draft Interior Offensive Line Options
Now, the Jets are not spending their first-round pick on an interior offensive lineman. There are more pressing needs there, such as offensive tackle or safety. On day two, Douglas will be tempted to select a center or guard considering all the talent available at the position. In round two, landing Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz would be Douglas’ dream. The third round will offer plenty of versatile center/guard options, such as Steve Avila (TCU), Andrew Vorhees (USC), Olusegun Oluwatimi (Michigan), Luke Wypler (Ohio State), and Emil Ekiyor Jr. (Alabama). All can be early contributors if not starters in the NFL and do not cost premiere draft capital to select.
Jets Interior Offensive Line Construction Prediction
Come training camp 2023, the Jets interior offensive line should see a decent revamp. Outside of Alijah Vera-Tucker, there is a chance that Samia, Smith, and Glaser are the only other Jets interior linemen retained. McGovern or another veteran center will be brought in either to be the starter for the foreseeable future or mentor a rookie. At right guard opposite Vera-Tucker, the Jets must attempt to retain Herbig regardless of what happens to Tomlinson. But if Tomlinson is cut, then the Jets must add a right guard this off-season.
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