Scraping the Barrel: Three Veteran Tackles Still on the Market
The Jets brass probably feared that they’d be here months ago. A team that entered the market for a right tackle in March wasn’t going to have much luck in the first place, even more so a team that was operating on a strict budget such as the Jets were. Rex and Tannenbaum may have felt they were able to successfully bargain shop for safeties this offseason but no such bargains looked available in the tackle market(though, I would’ve argued Anthony Collins). The market had one free agent prize at the position, Eric Winston, and his four year, 22 million dollar contract he ultimately signed with Kansas City was not going to be matched by a Jets brass taking a more frugal approach to the offseason.
Since they didn’t like what they saw, Tannenbaum and Rex decided to hold onto Wayne Hunter and thereby guarantee his salary, ignore the position in the draft and justify the decision with positive spins about line consistency and on the inside telling themselves “well, at least he can’t get any worse”. Unfortunately, it took all but one half of a preseason game where the Giants had Wayne Hunter doing his best Winston Justice impression to know that such rationalization isn’t always true. Hunter seems to have somehow even further regressed to diabolical levels of poor performance and the Jets find themselves once more scouring a barren market for somebody that can stop the bleeding.
Following the jump, I’ll briefly review three veteran tackles with starting experience that are still on the market and could answer the need the Jets have, if only marginally and for the short term.
Name: Kareem McKenzie
Weight: 330 pounds
The Breakdown: McKenzie is the name that I’ve seen linked most with the Jets recently, and on the surface there’s a lot of logic behind it. He was in fact drafted by Gang Green and gave the Jets several years of quality play before joining the blue side of New York and becoming a fixture in the Giants’ line for many seasons. Throughout his career, McKenzie has earned the right to be called one of the best right tackles in the league and he’s always been a durable player. Last season though there was a decline in his play. It’s difficult to say whether McKenzie deserves all of the blame as the Giants’ line as a whole struggled, but runs in his direction according to Football Outsiders were amongst the league’s least successful and he struggled to keep Eli Manning upright as well. At age 33, a decline is only naturally going to be attributed to McKenzie coming to the twilight of his career but one could also argue that he was victimized by playing on an offensive line that struggled from left to right for much of the regular season. McKenzie stated in May that he feels he has some football left to play and hasn’t thought about retiring quite yet.
Name: Chad Clifton
Weight: 320 pounds
The Breakdown: Clifton’s name has been in headlines lately as he recently had a visit with the Patriots. He’s had his fair share of injuries as of late, most notably his back surgery in February, and he played in only six games for the Packers last season with various ailments. His reputation throughout his career is that of one of the league’s premier pass protectors, and that is something that could appeal to the Jets. To no one’s surprise however as age and injuries have caught up with him he hasn’t been at the level he once used to be. The fact that Clifton has only played left tackle his entire career may also prevent the Jets from having any serious interest and vice versa if Clifton does not wish to play right tackle. Nonetheless Clifton’s reputation as a pass protector could make him worth a look if the situation becomes even more desperate.
Name: Stacy Andrews
Weight: 318 pounds
The Breakdown: Some Jets fans may actually remember Stacy Andrews as a name that had been linked with the Jets a few years ago. When the Jets entered the 2008 offseason with holes to fill at both guard and tackle (eventually filled by Faneca and Woody), Andrews was a highly touted and versatile prospect around the league and the Jets had shown some interest in him to fill one of those positions. He never hit the market though as the Bengals decided to place the franchise tag on him. Andrews was supposed to see his break when he signed with the Eagles on a long term deal in 2009 where he joined his brother Shawn Andrews as a starter, but it never worked out. Rather than blossom Andrews has been a journeyman, in and out of the starting lineup with three different teams in the past three seasons. It’s possible Tannenbaum could look to rekindle the interest he once had in Andrews years later, but given the way Andrews’ career has since gone that may not be likely.
Additionally, Mike Tannenbaum will surely be keeping a watchful eye in the coming weeks as final rosters begin to be shaped. Needless to say if there’s any player released that even resembles in the slightest a starting right tackle the Jets will be interested.