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NY Jets have a big Alijah Vera-Tucker decision looming

Alijah Vera-Tucker
Alijah Vera-Tucker, Getty Images

The New York Jets have to make a decision on Alijah Vera-Tucker soon

While all eyes are on the 2024 NFL Draft, the New York Jets have another decision to make in the next few weeks.

May 2 is the deadline for NFL teams to decide on fifth-year options for first-round picks from the 2021 draft. On Tuesday, the Miami Dolphins picked up the fifth-year options for wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and edge rusher Jaelan Philips, making them the first team to do so. Waddle and Philips have developed into two of the best young players at their positions, making this an easy decision.

The Jets have a similarly easy decision regarding quarterback Zach Wilson, although for very different reasons. The choice of whether to pick up the option for Alijah Vera-Tucker is a bit more difficult.

When on the field, Vera-Tucker is a great player and would be worth every penny. The issue is his ability to stay on it.

After playing 16 of 17 games as a rookie – with the only missed game due to COVID-19 – Vera-Tucker has only played in 12 games over the past two years combined. First, he suffered a season-ending torn triceps in Week 7 of the 2022 season. Then, his 2023 season ended in Week 5 due to a torn Achilles.

After missing 22 of the last 34 games due to two serious injuries, the concerns are valid. However, the Jets still shouldn’t hesitate to pick up his option.

It’s simple: The Jets need good offensive linemen

Simply put, the Jets need good offensive linemen, and Alijah Vera-Tucker is that. He has a strong claim to be the Jets’ best offensive lineman since Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson retired.

No player has been more important to the Jets’ offensive success the last two seasons – even running back Breece Hall and wide receiver Garrett Wilson. In the 12 games Vera-Tucker played, the Jets have gone 7-5 while averaging 21.2 points per game, with Hall averaging 6.1 yards per rush. In 22 games without Vera-Tucker, the Jets are 7-15 with a measly 14.1 points per game, while Hall averaged under four yards per carry. Few offensive linemen impact their team more.

Vera-Tucker has an All-Pro ceiling at guard and was above average playing at tackle. Despite his injuries in the last two seasons, he hadn’t missed a game due to injury across four years in the NFL and college.

The option is $15.3 million guaranteed, which would rank 14th among guards. While a hefty price, it’s a good value for his on-field production.

An ideal scenario would be a Jordan Love-esque extension as Rivka Boord proposed here. This would protect the Jets while allowing Vera-Tucker to earn more in 2024 and 2025.

Unless the Jets can make that happen, their best choice is to pick up his option. Hopefully, Vera-Tucker can stay healthy in 2024 and the discussion can move to a long-term extension.

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