Jets’ John Simpson addition helps shape offensive line, but work still remains


The interior offensive lineman market was booming to start NFL free agency, and the New York Jets finally joined the fray late Monday night when they agreed to sign Baltimore Ravens guard John Simpson to a two-year deal worth up to $18 million.

The Athletic’s Randy Mueller is high on Simpson in this free agency class, ranking him 18th overall and second among guards, behind Jon Runyan. Mueller wrote that Simpson “plays with the strength and physicality of an old-school guard” and that he “moves defenders” in the pass game and run game. Simpson isn’t coming off his best season, but the Jets desperately needed some offensive line help.

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How he fits: Simpson will slot in as the starting left guard, replacing Laken Tomlinson, whom the Jets cut for cap savings before free agency … and then used most of those savings to sign his replacement. Simpson signed onto the Ravens practice squad in 2022 and then worked his way into becoming a full-time starter by 2023, starting all 17 games for the team with the best regular-season record.

Simpson has only two seasons as a starter under his belt and is young (26), so clearly Jets general manager Joe Douglas saw an ascending talent who could be additive to an offensive line in desperate need of upgrades. On paper, though, Simpson isn’t coming off a great season. Pro Football Focus ranked him 46th of 65 guards to play at least 500 snaps last season and he was penalized the second-most (11) of any guard. He ranked 24th among guards in pass-block win rate, per ESPN, and 67th in run-block win rate. By comparison, Tomlinson was 35th in pass-block win rate.

Simpson allowed only one sack and three quarterback hits in 644 pass-blocking snaps while Tomlinson allowed seven sacks and 10 QB hits, per PFF.

2024 impact: The Jets’ offensive line starts to take shape with this move. Simpson has only played significant snaps at left guard in the NFL and with that spot opening up after Tomlinson’s departure, he’ll slot right in. Second-year pro Joe Tippmann should be locked in at center, so the next part of the equation is twofold:

1. What position will Alijah Vera-Tucker play?
2. What will the Jets do at tackle?

The two questions are connected since Vera-Tucker can also play tackle. Currently, the Jets arguably need two new starting tackles, though they are very high on second-year player Carter Warren, who is unproven after a brief run as a starter in 2023. But if the Jets keep Vera-Tucker at right guard, they can safely say their interior will be better in 2024 than it was last year. If Vera-Tucker is moved to tackle, the Jets will have a hole to fill at right guard and the other tackle spot.

Either way, Douglas still has a lot of work to do.

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History: Simpson played his first three years with the Raiders and was their full-time starter in 2021, when PFF ranked him 58th of 70 guards to play 500 snaps. But Simpson may be more highly regarded around the league than by PFF.

Last season, former NFL player Chris Long said this about Simpson on his podcast: “John Simpson is a guy that keeps popping up for me when I watch tape … this guy adds a physical element to that offensive line that fits who they want to be perfectly. I just want to shout him out in the run game. I really like this guy. Not a lot of people talk about him but he’s got that attitude.”

Cap update: The Jets essentially used the savings they got from cutting Tomlinson, which was around $8.1 million. It will be clearer once the structure of the contract becomes official what Simpson’s cap hit will look like in 2024, but it should be low.

Outlook: The Jets’ chances as a contender in 2024 aren’t necessarily impacted by this — but instead, by what comes next. If Simpson is the best offensive lineman Douglas adds this offseason, then the Jets are in trouble. They still need at least two new starters, and there are some high-quality linemen still on the market — including veteran left tackle Tyron Smith. The Jets are also expected to draft an offensive lineman in the first round.

If Douglas picks the right ones, then Simpson, Vera-Tucker, Tippmann and two other upgrades could be the five-man grouping of an improved offensive line, which was the most important thing the GM had to do this offseason. But there is still work ahead.

(Photo: Todd Olszewski / Getty Images)





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