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Should the New York Jets retain George Fant at his lofty 2022 cap number?

George Fant, PFF Grade, NY Jets, Contract, Injury, Return
George Fant, New York Jets, Getty Images

George Fant is creating a 2022 cap conundrum for Joe Douglas and the New York Jets

Going into the 2021 season – his second with the New York Jets – it did not feel like offensive tackle George Fant had much of a chance to last beyond the second year of the three-year, $27.3 million contract he signed with New York in 2020.

The third year of Fant’s deal has him poised for a hefty $10.65 million cap hit in the 2022 season, but the Jets can escape the deal after 2021 while taking on only $1 million in dead money and saving $9.65 million in cap space.

Considering that Fant was an average starter at best in 2020 (and had never been better than that in his career), it seemed like a no-brainer that Joe Douglas and the Jets would cut Fant after 2021.

Things have changed drastically.

As we enter Week 14, Fant is now one of the best players on the Jets’ entire roster. He has been a brick wall in pass protection since taking over at left tackle for Mekhi Becton during the Jets’ season opener in Carolina.

On the year, Fant has allowed a total of 17 pressures over 502 snaps in protection. That’s a pressure rate of 3.4%, which ranks 10th-best out of 71 qualified tackles (87th percentile).

Among left tackles, Fant has allowed the sixth-lowest pressure rate:

  1. Tyron Smith (DAL): 1.9%
  2. Andrew Whitworth (LAR): 2.2%
  3. Donovan Smith (TB): 3.1%
  4. Jake Matthews (ATL): 3.3%
  5. Andrew Thomas (NYG): 3.4%
  6. George Fant (NYJ): 3.4%

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That’s some elite company. Tyron Smith and Andrew Whitworth are likely Hall-of-Famers. Donovan Smith and Jake Matthews are veterans who consistently rank among the best left tackles. Andrew Thomas was a top-five pick in 2020 and has blossomed in his second season.

Fant’s $10.65 million cap number in 2022 is not as large as it seems when compared to other players at the position. It is currently poised to rank 24th among offensive tackles next season, one spot behind San Francisco’s Mike McGlinchey and one spot ahead of New England’s Isaiah Wynn.

Looking at his pass protection numbers relative to where his cap hit ranks at the position, Fant isn’t just a no-brainer to retain at slightly under $11 million – he might even be a bargain.

There are three question marks for Fant: his run-game ability, whether he can transfer his production to right tackle, and the possibility that this season is an outlier.

As for the run game, Fant has been decent this season, but nowhere near as dominant as he has been in the passing game. He has a run-blocking grade of 62.0 at Pro Football Focus, ranking 21st out of 29 qualified left tackles. The Jets are averaging 3.9 yards per carry when running into either the left-side C-gap and left-side B-gap, which is unspectacular and dead-even with their average into all other gaps.

We also need to ponder whether Fant can maintain his great pass protection when Becton returns and pushes him back to the right tackle spot that he was chosen to handle at the start of the year. Becton is going to be New York’s left tackle for the foreseeable future when healthy, so it’s at right tackle where Fant’s future lies.

Regardless of position, it is fair to wonder whether this performance is an outlier for Fant. This is quite an enormous leap. Is it for real?

There are strong reasons to believe Fant’s jump is, in fact, for real.

For starters, Fant is exceedingly young in football years. Fant has only been playing the game for six years. He did not begin playing football until his redshirt senior year at Western Kentucky, when he was already 23 years old.

Plus, even though he was 28 years old when he came to the Jets, Fant only had 18 true career starts prior to the 2020 season (games in which he started and finished the game at tackle with no rotating-sixth-lineman gimmicks) – essentially one season of offensive line experience. In terms of cumulative NFL starting experience, he is in the midst of his third season right now.

Fant’s consistency this year is another reason to believe he is for real. Fant has allowed no more than two pressures in 11 of his 12 games. He’s showing up every single week. That is the sign of a truly improved player.

Not to mention, next year will be a contract year for Fant, keeping his motivation up.

Ultimately, while the aforementioned three question marks are worthy concerns in this equation, Fant’s consistently outstanding pass protection outweighs them. To cut bait with a starting tackle who protects the quarterback at this high of a level would be foolish.

As things currently stand, Fant deserves to stay in Gotham Green at his $10.65 million cap number next year.

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2 years ago

You are asking the wrong questions. They should be:
1. Should Becton be a right tackle? Becton has underperformed from an injury perspective and availability perspective.
2. If Fant is performing in a top 10 manner, does it make sense to remove him, only to install a player with inferior productivity?
3. Will Fant hold out, rather than will the Jets retain him. Many players in the last year of their deal hold out. Add to that top performers who are underpaid.

Personally if I’m the Jets I’d pay Fant another short deal and keep him at left tackle. I’d give Becton 2 years to play injury free football on the right side before seeing about moving him to the left because Fant/Vera-Tucker seem like a good pairing.

2 years ago

Ok, sure, but if we’re keeping Becton at LT what exactly is the market for Fant? I feel like some team would offer a 1st, and definitely a 2nd. Guy is showing top tier LT ability. Isn’t that worth something? Perhaps something more than a decent RT?

2 years ago
Reply to  Bluntzzzzz

If Fant is that good, that someone would trade a 1st or 2nd round pick for him why would the Jets get rid of him? The draft is a craps shoot and the team needs proven good players. Becton isn’t even a a sure thing, and as you said Fant is showing top tier LT ability, so why not keep him?

2 years ago
Reply to  Jets71

Because the premise is that Becton is the LT and will be so when he returns. I’m not debating the merits of Becton over Fant etc. Simply put, in a vacuum, where the Jets are not going to play Fant at LT, is it better to try him at RT where you want more of a push in the run game presumably and the position has lesser value, or do you trade him for another asset, and if so how high can that asset realistically be? Also, is Adams that good that he’s worth 2 1’s? Is Darnold that good that he’s worth a 2, 4 & 6? I’m not talking about a top 5 pick, but late 1st? No?

2 years ago
Reply to  Bluntzzzzz

Yes, based on that premise, I can see a trade. I hope that doesn’t happen. I just don’t think it makes sense to disrupt the cohesion the OL has created. The Adams and Darnold situations were very different. Adams wasn’t staying here, and was in major team wrecking mode, and they were moving Darnold because they wanted Wilson. There is nothing pushing Fant out the door right now. I would keep the known player, who by all accounts is a great teammate, and seems to have hit his stride. Nobody is giving up a 1st for Fant and I’d rather have the player than an additional second round pick. The worst that can happen is Becton really is an Elite LT and you have two good players for your OL.

2 years ago
Reply to  Bluntzzzzz

First is steep, but a second is reasonable. Jets could have a deal in place before the draft on the precondition that the Jets obtain Alabama OT Evan Neal. Sign Moses at 6 , as mentor and depth.Trade partner receives George at 8 million below market value, and a potential long term fix at Left Tackle

2 years ago

Michael, we have discussed this many many times. Extend Fant, keep him at LT and put Becton on the right side. It’s pretty clear now this is a lost season for Becton and quite honestly he can’t be trusted. The Jets would be making a big mistake to bank the future of this OL on Becton being an elite LT. Fant has been a very good, reliable LT, don’t mess with that, just thank your lucky stars, give credit to Joe for finding a player on the rise and don’t mess it up!!!!! It makes zero sense, especially with a rookie QB who’s future is murky to move one of the best LT’s in football and one of the best players on the team to RT “just because”…. Why does Becton automatically get to go back to LT? What has he done to earn that spot? Answer: nothing but be picked high in the draft. His play has been up and down and he’s always hurt. I’m not a talent evaluator but Becton is a perfect RT. Big, powerful, mobile, solid in pass pro but not elite, just get him ready to play RT now. Don’t even let him back in the lineup until he’s ready to play RT, in fact don’t even put him back on the field at all. This OL took a long time to find some cohesion, and now that they have it, I would leave it alone! As for Fant, extend his contract, defer some of his cap hit and draft a versatile OL who can develop or beat someone out. My way too early choice is Zion Johnson from BC.

2 years ago
Reply to  Jets71

Easiest solution. Fant a former TE, has the perfect skill set for Left Tackle, it’s where he belongs. George is also a very tradable asset. Starting Left Tackles in Free Agency this year will command North of 18 million. Ten million is a bargain. If the Jets won’t extend him other teams will.

2 years ago

The Jets should def keep him. I would even be in favor of extending him.