NFL free agency is off and running, and we’re keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2020 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from Bill Barnwell. The new league year begins March 18 at 4 p.m. ET, which means free-agent signings can be made official after that. The first round of the 2020 NFL draft begins April 23.
New York reached agreement with the former Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle on a three-year, $30 million deal that includes $13.7 million guaranteed, according to reporting by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Adam Schefter.
What it means: The Jets are entrusting Sam Darnold‘s blind-side protection to a former college basketball player who never has started a full season in the NFL. GM Joe Douglas, who’s supposed to be an O-line guru, sees a lot of upside in Fant, a part-time starter in Seattle. Hence, the $30 million contract, which includes a $13.7 million guarantee. That’s not backup money, to be sure. Fant will replace longtime starter Kelvin Beachum (free agent), who won’t be back. This also reduces the urge to reach for a left tackle with the 11th pick in the draft, although they still could draft a right tackle. Fant also has the ability to play the right side, which gives them flexibility.
What’s the risk: Ideally, you want a sure thing to protect your franchise quarterback — and Fant isn’t a sure thing. The former undrafted free agent (2016) played only one season of college football and was forced into the Seahawks’ lineup as a rookie. He was projected as the starter in 2017, but he blew out an ACL and missed the season. He started three games last season, plus the wild-card game. Overall, he’s never played more than 63 percent of the offensive snaps in a season. He’s an elite athlete, which should serve him well in pass protection — an important trait in Adam Gase’s pass-first offense. But can he anchor in the run game and open a hole for Le’Veon Bell?