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Despite free agency results, OL must remain the New York Jets draft focus

Jack Conklin, Mekhi Becton, Andrew Thomas
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images, AP Photo

Free agency just isn’t enough. It never is. For the New York Jets’ offensive line woes, only the NFL Draft will suffice.

This happens every year. It’s as tried and tested as anything in this life. The New York Jets remain in dire straits at the offensive line position yet the fan and media buzz does everything it can to lean towards a flashier position.

I suppose video games are to blame. Maybe it’s the social media impact on our lives. Or, perhaps the casuals unwillingly find themselves caught up in the dazzle a non-hog can offer. After all, who cares about a Madden speed rating for a Nick Mangold? He’s not burning any corners or dominating SportsCenter anytime soon.

Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and a host of others who play a part in the loaded 2020 weapon class can lift the fans out of their seats with one 9-route or slant and YAC. They just can’t do it without Mangold and his boys first laying down the foundation, and that’s the most important thing every Jets fan needs to remember.

It’s the combination that is a stacked offensive line free-agent class and wide receiver draft pool that has some onlookers wanting the Jets to go OL-heavy on the open market and wideout at No. 11. They figure, “Hell, why not? If we can fix both issues by using two varieties of NFL improvement measures, the Jets can surge forward more quickly than anybody could anticipate.”

The folks who understand the game a little more realize one critical thing: every offensive line measure should be taken until the unit is officially fixed. If Joe Douglas literally drafted an offensive lineman in the first four rounds, and signed two free agents, he’d be doing his franchise a great service. (Obviously, that’s overkill; but the point remains the same.)

Until nearly half of the offense is fixed (5-of-11 players), nothing else matters. Sam Darnold’s development doesn’t begin. Robby Anderson’s possible re-signing is meaningless. Jerry Jeudy’s possible rookie season hits a wall before it even begins.

To simply sign big-time offensive linemen and ignore the position in the draft, including the first round, would be, once again, putting the cart before the horse. Le’Veon Bell before a legit offensive line? A young franchise quarterback before an offensive line? The sin that is failing to draft a first-round offensive lineman since 2006 and second-round hog since 2010 is one that needs time and triple-the-effort to resolve. Besides, rarely do excellent offensive lines come together through free agency alone.

Look around; no elite NFL offense qualifies for the tournament without a legit O-line. More revealing is the fact that no legit offensive line is formed based on free agency, alone.


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