Mekhi Becton can’t seem to catch a break. On the second play of Monday’s training camp session, the New York Jets offensive tackle injured his right knee and left the field with a trainer, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.
With Becton forced to miss time, how will the Jets reshuffle their front five? Free agent Duane Brown, who met with New York over the weekend, could factor into their plans.
Jets OT Mekhi Becton suffers knee injury
At the time this article was published shortly after 12:30 p.m. ET on Monday, details regarding the severity of Becton’s injury were not yet known. However, we did know it was the same right knee that caused him to miss nearly the entire 2021 season.
As the day went on, updates began to trickle in. At 7:50 p.m. ET, NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo tweeted that “Becton’s knee injury is more concerning than the team originally believed following practice today. It’s a new injury and unrelated to his previous knee injury. Becton has additional medical appointments tomorrow to get more clarity.”
And several hours later, at 10:03 p.m. ET, a league source told PFN’s Aaron Wilson that Becton has a knee cap injury and patella damage with a small chip-sized fracture inside his previously surgically repaired right knee. There will be second opinion testing pending to confirm the initial diagnosis.
On Tuesday, just after 12:30 p.m. ET, head coach Robert Saleh announced that it’s “more likely” that Becton’s 2022 season is over.
Sources told Wilson that Becton had been experiencing some pain and discomfort in recent days, but was determined to fight through the issue. It is believed that the strain of the previous injury led to this latest medical setback.
The Jets have been wanting Becton to get down to a lighter weight since he came into the league, but it has been an ongoing struggle for him as his large frame makes it harder for him to get down to his ideal playing weight.
That said, Jets coaches have been pleased with Becton’s efforts at keeping himself in shape this summer. Still, Becton wasn’t given the chance to compete with George Fant for New York’s left tackle job. Saleh ended any competition before it began by declaring on the first day of training camp that Fant would start at left tackle.
Fant is a free agent at season’s end, and Saleh was adamant that Becton’s “left tackle days aren’t over.” Becton was removed from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list a few days into camp, and there was plenty of optimism about his status with the team.
That will make it all the more unfortunate if Becton has indeed suffered a serious injury. If Becton is forced to miss more time, he’ll be entering his contract season in 2023 as a player with a ton of health question marks on his ledger.
Duane Brown could be the next man up
Brown, who will turn 37 years old at the end of the month, met with the Jets and attended the team’s scrimmage over the weekend. If Becton is seriously hurt, Brown would make for an excellent replacement if New York can get him under contract.
“Anytime you have a chance to add a Pro Bowler, like him, and add to the depth of our roster, we’re always going to search, far and wide,” Saleh said. “There’s interest on both sides, obviously, and [GM Joe Douglas] has been working on that for a little bit. We’ll see where everyone is at in regards to that conversation … everything else, in regards to that, will come from Joe.”
Brown has never played a single snap at right tackle over 14 NFL seasons, so the Jets would have to decide how to deploy him. He’s clearly a better fit on the left side, and given that Fant has ample experience at right tackle, he’d likely make the shift.
NFL teams never want to mess with their offensive line’s continuity, but Becton’s injury could necessitate changes. In this scenario, New York would have two new starters on the left side (Brown and free agent addition Laken Tomlinson), while Fant would be relearning an old position. It’s not an ideal situation, but at least the Jets have the rest of camp and the preseason to sort things out.