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The latest on free agent OL Jack Conklin: Will he sign with the Jets?

As the NFL Scouting Combine wraps up, it’s time to start turning our focus to free agency. As is the case every year, this was a major topic in Indianapolis and there have been plenty of reports in regard to offensive tackle Jack Conklin and the fact that he may sign with the New York Jets. This further confirms Pauline’s reports regarding the interest between Conklin and the Jets, which he first reported on February 27.

Adding fuel to the fire, sources tell PFN Insider Tony Pauline that no other franchise interested in Conklin is willing to pay him the same money the Jets are ready to offer. As one source told him, “The Jets are the only team willing to give Conklin the money he wants.”

However, it should be noted that while the Jets will throw the bank at Conklin, it is not known if he will simply sign with the highest bidder or pick a team that is the best overall fit for him.

Pauline has been tracking Conklin’s free agency bid throughout the week. The timeline of these reports that were posted in our Combine News and Rumors Tracker (and below) illustrates not only the NY Jets desire to land Conklin but contingency players if the team does not sign their top choice


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Thursday, February 27

1:23 PM ET: Two free agent offensive linemen are in huge demand and have created a big market for themselves during discussions at the combine. The first would be soon to be former New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney, as almost two dozen teams (20 to be exact) are showing interest in his services.  The belief is Thuney will get a lot more money than initially expected as there will be a bidding war to sign him.

The other is Jack Conklin, who’s also expected to sign a huge contract.  I have confirmed that the offensive line needy New York Jets are in hot pursuit of Conklin. If the Jets don’t land Conklin, their back-up plan could include Halapoulivaati Vaitai of the Philadelphia Eagles, who general manager Joe Douglas is familiar with.

Vaitai is a versatile offensive lineman that’s played several positions for the Eagles and as someone from the organization told me he can be a “solid starting right or left tackle” in the NFL.

Friday, February 28

10:00 PM ET: Earlier this week I mentioned the huge market developing for veteran guard Joe Thuney, soon to be a free agent. That market, and any contract Thuney may sign, will explode further once the Washington Redskins sign Brandon Scherff to an extension or place the franchise tag on him, as is being reported.

I mentioned during the Senior Bowl that the New York Jets are one of the teams seeking Thuney’s services and someone today told me, “they want him,” in reference to the Jets’ ambitions of signing the offensive guard.

With Thuney being courted by so many teams, the question is this – does he want the Jets? A team official I spoke with said signing Thuney will be tough for the Jets, so they’ll have to be creative.

One way they may be able to bring Thuney to Gang Green is by offering a contract similar to the one Kirk Cousins signed; a shorter but guaranteed contract. The idea of a three-year deal with a high average annual salary may be appealing to Thuney, as he’ll be just 30 years old once the contract ends and could potentially be in line for another huge deal.

Saturday, February 29

7:45 PM ET: On Thursday, when I initially reported the New York Jets’ interest in Jack Conklin, I also mentioned Halapoulivaati Vaitai as an option if the Jets don’t land their top guy. I’ve confirmed both names with numerous sources over the past two days.

I can also say the Jets are looking at Seattle Seahawks tackle George Fant as another contingency if the Conklin plans don’t shake out. Fant, a former basketball player, is the best athlete of the three yet has started just 24 games the three years he’s been on the field. His athleticism would be a perfect fit for Adam Gase’s offense, which will include wide splits between offensive linemen this season.

Tony Pauline is Pro Football Network’s NFL Draft Analyst and Insider. Follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline. Follow PFN on Twitter @PFN365.

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