Considering the possibility of the New York Jets trading George Fant
New York Jets left tackle George Fant has been an outstanding signing for general manager Joe Douglas over his two years in green. In his first year as a starter with the Jets, Fant graded out at a mediocre level overall but was solid in pass protection. This season, Fant has taken his pass protection to the next level.
Fant is one of only three tackles in the NFL who have allowed fewer than 20 pressures and no more than one sack while protecting on over 500 snaps. He is joined by only Trent Williams and Brian O’Neill.
— Jets X-Factor (@jetsxfactor) January 4, 2022
Not bad company for one of Douglas’ biggest gambles.
Unfortunately, Fant suffered a knee injury against the Buccaneers in Week 17 which will likely hold him out from the team’s season finale in Buffalo. Now, we enter an offseason that will be filled with questions about his future in New York.
With Mekhi Becton expected to return at left tackle, the Jets need to decide what to do with Fant. Can we expect the same level of play with Fant on the right side? If not, should the Jets try to trade him while his value is at its peak? And if they did, who would replace him?
Elite production against poor competition
Fant has played 15 games at left tackle for the Jets this season. Only once did he line up against an elite pass rusher: Cincinnati’s Trey Hendrickson. Fant still had a great game against Hendrickson, only allowing two pressures and posting his second-best run-blocking grade of the season.
Outside of that, however, the next best rusher on Fant’s schedule is… Dante Fowler? Fowler only has 25 pressures on the season, so even he is not exactly a legitimate challenge.
This begs the question: Is this year an outlier?
Can Fant keep it up?
Fant has only been an opening-week starter in the NFL for two years, both after signing with the Jets. Before that, he was the sixth man for the Seattle Seahawks, used almost exclusively in heavy packages.
Forced to operate within an abysmal Seahawks offensive line, Fant was still learning a new position, too.
Fant had played basketball in college until his senior year and even then, Fant was the backup tight end. Fant went undrafted in 2016 but impressed NFL scouts with his elite athleticism.
In his first year with the Jets, Fant played almost exclusively at right tackle where he struggled. On the year, he ranked 68th out of 86 qualified tackles with a 61.6 overall grade at PFF.
In Fant’s only game at right tackle in 2021, the season opener against the Panthers, he struggled mightily. He posted what amounted to his fourth-lowest overall grade of the season (60.1), but most concerningly, he earned what would be his lowest pass-blocking grade of the year (48.9). The one-game sample size is small but it’s not encouraging.
Fant himself has stated he’s more comfortable on the left side and the numbers seem to back that up.
From the information available, it seems likely that Fant will perform at least slightly worse on the right side. But who would the Jets replace him with if he were dealt?
On The Roster
On the roster, the Jets have two potential replacements for George Fant: Morgan Moses, the current right tackle, and Chuma Edoga. While both have some upside, this season was a mixed bag. Moses is also going to be an unrestricted free agent after the year.
Moses took over at right tackle in Week 1 and has done a respectable job. He currently ranks 37th out of 88 tackles with a 71.5 PFF grade, carried by his strong run-blocking grade (75.1) which ranks 21st among tackles. However, he struggles in pass protection with the fourth-most pressures allowed among right tackles (45). Soon to be 31, it is also a concern that his best days might be behind him.
I was high on Edoga coming out of the draft but it’s been a mostly disappointing career so far. Edoga was one of the highest-graded pass blockers in his draft class but has struggled with consistency in the NFL.
In 2021, Edoga has only played significant snaps in two games and they’re polar opposites. In Week 8 against the Bengals, Edoga graded out well at 66.5 and had a career day as a pass blocker ranking sixth-best among tackles that week.
However, against the Buccaneers, Edoga received the lowest pass-blocking grade of the week among all tackles at 26.4. In relief of the injured Fant, Edoga allowed a sack, a hit, and two hurries while being called for a holding penalty. Not very encouraging.
Free Agency and Draft
In free agency there are several good tackles available, unfortunately, most play on the left side. Headliners are Terron Armstead, Duane Brown, and Orlando Brown.
The best right tackle available is Trent Brown from the New England Patriots. As one of the largest human beings to ever play football he would immediately anchor the right side. However, Brown has struggled to stay on the field missing at least five games over the last three years.
The last option is the draft where the top name is Evan Neal, another giant. The Alabama product measures in at a whopping 6-foot-7 and 350 pounds. Neal is a lock to be picked in the top 10 but it’s unlikely he’d make it to the Jets’ second pick in the first round courtesy of Seattle (currently the No. 7 pick). Neal and Becton would give the Jets one of the most physically imposing tackle duos in NFL history.
So, there are some intriguing alternatives that can replace Fant. Now, the final question is, what could the Jets get for him?
What did other trades for a left tackle look like?
Over the last five years, there have been four blockbuster trades for a left tackle including Duane Brown, Orlando Brown., Laremy Tunsil, and Trent Williams.
In total, they netted three first-round picks, two second-round picks, three third-round picks, and a handful of day-three picks, while sending over some day-three picks alongside the tackles as well.
Let’s analyze each trade and see which compares best to Fant.
Duane Brown was dealt after a lengthy holdout in 2017 which saw him traded from the Texans to the Seahawks. This hurt his value as the Texans only received a 2018 third-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick in exchange for Brown and a 2018 fifth-round pick. The 32-year-old tackle had been outstanding for most of his career but was at the tail end of his career.
The Laremy Tunsil trade was a true blockbuster deal between the Dolphins and Texans. In the end, the Dolphins traded Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, a 2020 fourth-round pick, and a 2021 sixth-round pick to the Texans in exchange for Julie’n Davenport, Johnson Bademosi, first-round picks in 2020 and 2021, and a second-round pick in 2021. Tunsil was traded at 25 years old while coming off of a career year in terms of grading.
Orlando Brown was traded from the Ravens to the Chiefs after a career year following a switch from right tackle to left tackle. Brown requested a trade aiming to move to the left side permanently, a similar situation the Jets may face with Fant. The Ravens sent Brown, a 2021 second-round pick, and a 2022 sixth-round pick to the Chiefs for a 2021 first-round pick, a 2021 third-round pick, a 2021 fourth-round pick, and a 2022 sixth-round pick.
Trent Williams is the last trade and by far the most scandalous after lawsuits regarding a brain tumor. Williams was traded from the Washington Football Team to the 49ers for a measly 2020 fifth-round pick and 2021 third-round pick. His value was hurt by several factors – age, health, missing a year, holding out. It worked wonders for the 49ers however, as he’s been dominant since the trade.
Which of these is the most similar to a potential George Fant trade?
The Laremy Tunsil trade is the closest to a potential George Fant trade in terms of historical play. Tunsil was below average his first two seasons but was good in pass protection. Comparing Fant’s 2022 season to Tunsil’s last in Miami, Tunsil grades slightly better with PFF but Fant allowed fewer sacks and total pressures.
The biggest difference here is age. Fant will turn 29 next season while Tunsil was only 25 when he was traded.
Trent Williams is the closest in age to Fant at 31 years old but his and Duane Brown’s holdouts hurt their value significantly (which makes the Jets’ Jamal Adams trade even crazier considering the drama leading up to it).
In the end, I think it’s very possible that the Jets could get a first-round pick for Fant or at least multiple day-two picks. He has shown significant improvement in two years as a starter, has outstanding character, and is on the right side of 30. On the team that has allowed the sixth-most pressures in the NFL, Fant’s steady play is even more impressive.
Given Douglas’ history with trades, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Jets get a significant haul for Fant.
So what should the Jets do?
I’m a big fan of Fant but I believe it’s in the Jets’ best interest to trade him. Mekhi Becton is the future at left tackle, that’s the simple truth. He dominated elite players like Joey and Nick Bosa and has a seemingly limitless ceiling.
Fant is early in his career and can continue to improve or play for a long time. However, his ceiling and earnings are limited playing on the right side. Meanwhile, the Jets can clear cap space and draft his replacement using the picks they get in a trade for him. The Jets can also solve the issue earlier by resigning Moses and/or signing Trent Brown.
I will trust Joe Douglas’ decision just like I did when he gave a career backup a three-year $27.3 million contract.