Lost in the commotion of Santonio Holmes being guaranteed his contract for the next two years and the Linsanity in New York City, is the fact that the Jets didn’t release right tackle Wayne Hunter yesterday. As a matter of fact, they guaranteed his 2.45 million base salary for the 2012 season.
Yes, the same Wayne Hunter who was the human turnstile this season, nearly got Mark Sanchez killed on multiple occasions, and was ranked the fifth worst offensive tackle in football by Pro Football Focus. One of my main memories of this past season was watching the Jets/Eagles game with my good friend who was an All-American college football lineman and is currently an offensive line coach for a prep school in Philadelphia. After watching Jason Babin embarrass the Jets entire line, he commented he had never seen a NFL lineman both look so confused and have worse technique than what he saw from Hunter that day.
If your initial reaction is that Mike Tannenbaum is 0-1 to start this off-season, that is okay because he very well may be. Yet, let’s try to figure out the real motivation for keeping Hunter since I have to assume somebody in the Jets building watched some game tape this year.
Depth was a major problem for the Jets offensive line last year. Hunter was a very good depth player the few years leading up to him being a starter. He can handle being a backup tackle and playing in short yardage packages. With Robert Turner coming back, the Jets have the potential to have two quality backups on their offensive line. Nevermind if Caleb Schlauderaff and Austin Howard develop in any way or if that Ducasse guy ever becomes good enough to be a #7 or #8 lineman on a NFL roster…hey it isn’t like we spent a 2nd round pick on him, right?
More seriously, I think Tannenbaum realizes free agency isn’t going to be filled with quality right tackles and he probably isn’t spending a round one or round two pick on one. He needs to pay a backup quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and safety this year. Unless the Jets swing a trade, there aren’t getting a big money, top-tier tackle this off-season. Most likely, they will sign a middle tier player and spend a mid-round pick on one and have the two compete with Hunter, who will provide insurance. They are also likely hoping that Tony Sparano can have some type of positive impact on him. Hunter has been decent in spurts, he has just had no consistency and can’t handle elite pass rushers one on one. Sparano might…might be able to coach around his deficiencies by doing a better job giving him help.
You can’t have it all this off-season Jets fans. You aren’t getting a big time WR, a backup quarterback that pushes Sanchez, a premium right tackle, another running back, a ball-hawking safety and a pass rushing outside linebacker all in one off-season. Be prepared to be disappointed in some areas. Right tackle just might end up being one of them.