The New York Jets are ending one training camp battle before it even started. Head coach Robert Saleh told reporters today that George Fant will play left tackle and Mekhi Becton will move to right tackle. Gang Green doesn’t seem to be viewing this as a permanent alignment, as Saleh indicated Becton’s “left tackle days aren’t over.”
Mekhi Becton to play right tackle for Jets
Becton, the 11th overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, spent the first few days of camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, but he’s since been cleared to practice. He missed all but one game a season ago after suffering a knee injury in Week 1, and New York has at times been unhappy with his conditioning.
However, Saleh praised Becton for losing weight and getting into better shape in advance of the 2022 campaign, and this positional switch doesn’t appear to be punitive. Instead, the Jets simply want to get their best OL combination on the field.
George Fant, who started 15 games as Gang Green’s primary left tackle in 2021, is more comfortable on the left side of the line, per Saleh. As PFN’s Tony Pauline reported earlier this year, Fant could be in line for a contract extension, and playing on Zach Wilson’s blindside should only help drive his price up.
From an on-field value standpoint, the lines between left and right tackle are becoming blurred. But from a financial perspective, there’s no question that playing LT will help Fant in the long run. He’s scheduled to hit free agency next offseason, and left tackles consistently earn more than right tackles, both at the top and in the middle of the market.
If the Jets can’t work out a new deal with Fant, it sounds as if they’re open to Becton eventually moving back to left tackle. Fant is already 30 years old, while Becton is just 23 — the latter is clearly the preferable long-term solution.
Gang Green’s new-look offensive line
In 2022, Fant and center Connor McGovern will line up in the same spots they did last season, but the rest of the front five will have a different feel. The Jets signed ex-49er Laken Tomlinson to a three-year, $40 million deal and will insert him at left guard. That means 2021 first-round pick Alijah Vera-Tucker will slide from left to right guard.
Continuity is vital along the offensive line. While New York will have most of the same players starting up front, the right side of their line will be figuring out new positions. Vera-Tucker and Becton could have a learning curve as they work out the kinks together, but Saleh thinks the Jets have two potential All-Pros lining up next to each other.
The Jets finished 22nd in adjusted line yards and 28th in adjusted sack rate in 2021, per Football Outsiders. Those ranks will need to improve if New York’s offense is going to take a step forward. After an offseason in which the Jets added Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, C.J. Uzomah, and Tyler Conklin at the skill positions, Saleh, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, and Zach Wilson are on all notice, and the OL’s progress will be essential to the offense’s development.