The New York Jets are going all-in on the 2023 season after trading for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. With the spotlight getting brighter in the Big Apple this season, players will have the opportunity to rise to the occasion. No player has more to gain this season than offensive tackle Mekhi Becton.
We dive into why the Jets’ tackle must redefine his legacy this season and what it will mean for the franchise if he’s the star he once showed he could be.
Jets’ Mekhi Becton Must Redefine His Legacy in 2023
To say that Becton’s first three years in the NFL have been a bumpy ride might be an understatement. Coming out of Louisville as a 365-pounder, weight has always been an issue for the monstrous 6’8″ blocker. At one point, his weight ballooned over 400 pounds in 2021, bringing the Jets’ worst fears to reality.
Becton’s journey to that point and since then has been a difficult one. He was fantastic as a left tackle in his rookie season, playing up to the level that led to him being the 11th overall pick in 2020. His massive wingspan, impressive raw power, and ability to redirect oncoming defenders translated immediately.
However, turmoil followed starting in 2021. Becton played one game over the following seasons due to a knee injury in 2021 and then a fractured knee cap in that same knee during the 2022 preseason. The Jets had hoped Becton would become their franchise right tackle before his 2022 season ended prematurely.
The team understandably declined his fifth-year option this offseason after he’s played 15 games since being drafted. But that hasn’t meant the team has given up on Becton. They opted to add veteran Billy Turner as a backup option, and they’ve taken fourth-round tackles in back-to-back drafts, but Becton and veteran Duane Brown are clearly in line to start this fall if they’re healthy.
That’s a big if, of course. 2022 fourth-rounder Max Mitchell was below average as a starter and missed 11 games with blood clots in his rookie year. Rodgers and the Jets need Becton and Brown to be plus staters for this offense to survive.
The team’s lofty expectations are justified but also put pressure on Becton. He’s provided optimistic statements this offseason, including his “excitement” to be back and in a position to help the Jets. He’s reportedly down closer to 350 pounds, putting his money where his mouth is as he prepares for the most crucial season in his young career.
Becton’s physical transformation doesn’t guarantee his health but could be one that’s worth close to $100 million. If the 2023 season goes well for Becton, he’s set to hit unrestricted free agency next offseason. Though right tackles haven’t made as much as left tackles, top blockers on Becton’s side are now getting $20 million per year.
There’s a long way to go before reaching that time. With Brown solely a left tackle, Becton has to learn and master the right tackle position while staying healthy. If the Jets implode in 2023, Becton will still be better off, but the team may not be interested in keeping their current core beyond the season.
The 2023 season could also be much more fruitful for both parties. With his misfortune with injuries and bouts with weight fluctuation, Becton is vulnerable to becoming another disappointing bullet point for the franchise. But with some luck and hard work, Becton has the chance to overcome the adversity and rewrite the narrative of his career.