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Film Review: 2 O-linemen the NY Jets must target in free agency

Tyron Smith
Tyron Smith

Mike Onwenu and Tyron Smith are among the New York Jets’ best free agent options at offensive tackle

Joe Douglas knows this is a make-or-break year for him to right the ship. There will be no more excuses for the GM who brings a 27-56 record into his sixth year with the New York Jets.

The offensive line has to be at the forefront of Douglas’ mind when building the team this offseason. One of the primary ways that Douglas can address the unit is through free agency.

Besides Joe Tippman at center and Alijah Vera-Tucker at either right guard or right tackle (hopefully RT), the line is completely up in the air. I decided to look into the available offensive tackles hitting free agency – and there happen to be two extremely viable options for the Jets.

First up is New England RG/RT Mike Onwenu.

Mike Onwenu, Patriots

  • 26 years old
  • Good versatility: experienced at RG/RT. Primarily played RT in 2023.
  • In 4 years, Onwenu has 1,425 snaps at RG, 1,548 at RT, and 402 at LG.
  • Has appeared in 64 out of 66 possible games since he entered the league back in 2020.
  • Ranked 11th out of 57 qualifying tackles in Pass Blocking Efficiency (min 380 pass-blocking snaps).
  • Ranked 16th out of 57 qualifying tackles in run-blocking grade (PFF) and graded better in zone runs, which is a better fit for the Jets scheme.

The film was up and down. One problem when watching Onwenu’s film is that the Patriots’ scheme makes it hard to evaluate offensive linemen in the passing game. This is because Mac Jones had the second-quickest TTT (Time to Throw) in the NFL at 2.42 seconds.

Onwenu (#71) is at right tackle in each of the clips below.

Toss play to the opposite side here. I would love for Onwenu to cross the face of the DT (DeForest Buckner in this clip). He doesn’t completely cross his face and wall him off but gets to him, and stays latched on for long enough to give Rhamondre Stevenson a decent cutback lane. Solid run-blocking rep.

Simple rep here but Onwenu does a great job sealing the EDGE on inside zone. He plays with good pad level, but I would love his hands to be inside and not outside. Regardless, Stevenson has a huge lane and takes the run for a touchdown thanks to a massive hole created by Onwenu and the RG.

Two good reps from Onwenu in pass protection here. Both reps are against a very solid pass rusher in Jonathon Cooper, who had 55 pressures and nine sacks on the year. Onwenu let up just one pressure this entire game.

In the first clip, Onwenu gets a good jump on Cooper. Throughout the game, Cooper was trying to beat him outside, but as he does on this play, Onwenu was able to consistently beat him to the spot and get good hands on him.

In the second clip, Onwenu shows great hands, anchor, and base. He stonewalls Cooper’s attempt at the bull rush and locks Cooper up (legally with his hands inside), which allows Bailey Zappe to climb the pocket safely and find a receiver.

Overall, I would not overpay for Onwenu, but he is a good option for the Jets. He is durable and versatile, which are two important traits for O-linemen. I just happen to think the next option will be cheaper and is a better player than Onwenu.

That next option is veteran Dallas OT Tyron Smith.

Tyron Smith, Cowboys

  • 33 years old
  • Majority of career snaps at LT
  • Ranked 2nd out of 57 qualifying tackles in Pass Blocking Efficiency (PFF).
  • Ranked 20th out of 57 qualifying tackles in run-blocking grade (PFF).
  • Started 13 games in 2023 and has missed at least three games in eight consecutive seasons.

Tyron Smith is on the older side and will likely be seeking a one or two-year deal. Since 2016, he has faced constant injury troubles, preventing him from playing a single full season over that span. With that being said, the injury problems are the only negative I see. Smith is a star when on the field.

In the first clip, Smith (LT #77) does an elite job at quickly crossing the face and cutting off the backside DT. It looks subtle but as we saw from the earlier clips, it is not an easy task for linemen.

In the second clip, he shows he still has high-end athletic ability, pulling on the crack toss play and easily kicking out the DB.

I watched every snap he took in the Week 17 matchup against the Lions. He was so dominant in this game that by the second quarter the Lions moved Aidan Hutchinson away from him.

These are six flawless pass protection reps from Smith. His hand placement, length, and balance make these reps look smooth and easy.  Smith has become a master of taking away leverage of pass-rushers when they use a long-arm, as shown in the last two clips. He uses a snatch move whenever pass-rushers use a long-arm, which allows him to throw them to the ground in most circumstances.

There are minimal ways to win against him. He has such quick hands and punches to get defensive linemen off balance. He also regularly changes up his pass sets to keep pass-rushers off their game. Tyron is the whole package as a blindside protector.

After watching all the tape, I would give Tyron Smith something in the range of two years for $20-24 million without thinking. He is a lot more steady of an OT overall than Onwenu, in my opinion.

With Tyron at LT and AVT at RT, the Jets would quickly have an elite tackle tandem. Giving a guy like Aaron Rodgers two elite tackles is what gets me even more excited. The Jets would then be able to shore up the interior of the line through free agency or later picks in the draft, giving them the freedom to choose between an offensive lineman or a wide receiver at 10th overall.

If the Jets do not land an OT in free agency then it would be hard to see them not taking one at No. 10. Signing Smith would put the Jets in a really good spot going forward, and I hope to see Douglas pounce when free agency opens in early March.

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Peter Buell
Peter Buell
5 months ago

If I’m Joe D I start at the bottom and work my way up. This way he’s not dealing from total desperation.
Bringing back Fant on a sub $3m deal isn’t a terrible idea. That’s most likely a high-end salary.
LG Ezra Cleveland who was stolen at the deadline line last year had me very annoyed at Joe since he went for a 6th rounder.
I believe he can step in right away for Tomlinson whose only serious positive attribute is he plays every game…on body anyway.
So now we have Tippman at C, Vera-Tucker RG, Cleveland LG and at worst Fant at RT.
Hopefully Joe can get a 2nd rounder in a tag n traden for Huff.
If they need to use future resources to get this fixed…Do it!
A tackle and wr/te are needed in the draft…If Joe gets a 2nd rounder for Huff and combines with a 2025 2nd and 6th he might be able to get back a 1st in the teens.
Considering where we stand (some timing to finally beat the Pats costing 4 spots) Ideally wr Nabers or te Bowers then.JC Latham at LT would be a huge win if Joe can pull off a 2nd 1st rounders.
If they sign Onwenu he moves Fant to the bench and decide where Onwenu and Latham play
Let’s say;
Onwenu Cleveland Tippman AVT and Latham
Bring back McGovern for depth along with Fant and hopefully another 2 good backups.
Ik what I’m asking is unlikely but I’ve always lived by “don’t ask..don’t get”

5 months ago

Smith’s age and injury history are scary, especially since at this point there is zero on the roster to back him up. I have no idea what Carter Warren will develop into but I don’t think I’m ready for that risk.

Onwenu seems to be better suited at OG. I listen to a lot of Patoilet football talk from NE, and they don’t seem happy with his OT breakdown. I think he’d be a good signing especially since they do need a guard, and if they are deciding AVT is the RT then Onwenu at RG and Tippmann at C would solidify those spots.