Only three weeks ago, George Fant was named the starting left tackle for the New York Jets. However, Fant is now the right tackle after the Jets signed veteran Duane Brown to replace the injured Mekhi Becton on their offensive line.
Fant transitioned to the right side at practice Sunday, with Brown’s arrival imminent. Brown, whose signing was reported several days ago and made official Monday, has started 202 NFL games, each at left tackle.
“For George, his curse is also a blessing in that he’s extremely versatile, very athletic,” coach Robert Saleh said Sunday. “He’s a team guy, tremendously talented. So, the opportunity to move to right tackle, obviously he’s a competitor, he just wants a home. But at the same time, he’s the ultimate team guy.”
Fant played left tackle as a rookie with the Seattle Seahawks in 2016. He was hurt the following season and the Seahawks traded for Brown to replace Fant at that position. Fant played right tackle, with Brown at left, with Seattle in 2018 and 2019.
— Jets Nation (@JetsNationCP) August 15, 2022
After signing with the Jets as a free agent, Fant played on the right side in 2020 before transitioning to the left in 2021 when Becton sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 1. Saleh said Fant was more comfortable on the left side and played his best football there last season in explaining why Fant, not Becton, would be the left tackle this season.
It’s unknown how Fant feels about the switch back to the right side with Brown’s arrival, especially when he’s looking for a contract extension. Saleh said he spoke with Fant about the move and that the 30-year-old is OK with it.
“It is [a tough decision] because you still want to put your best five [linemen] forward,” Saleh said. “The No. 1 responsibility for all of us is to protect the quarterback, and you can argue George’s left-tackle production was better than when he played right tackle, but that was a different scheme (under coach Adam Gase in 2020). We think he’ll be fine playing right tackle in our scheme.”
Fant allowed only one sack last season in 15 games. Brown, though, is a five-time Pro Bowler exclusively at left tackle. While a difficult decision, it seemed to be the logical one for the Jets after Becton sustained a likely season-ending knee injury a week ago.
Welcome to the Jets, Duane Brown! pic.twitter.com/aT7xa36wXs
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Brown was on the field Monday after he signed a reported two-year, $22 million contract. Saleh says the veteran is in excellent shape, but it’s not known how much he’ll play in upcoming scrimmages against the Atlanta Falcons this week before a preseason game against Atlanta next Monday.
“We need to get those five [linemen] playing together a lot faster, we haven’t had continuity with that group in a while,” Saleh said. “We just want five guys playing together and building continuity.”
That process began Monday. How quickly Brown fits in and Fant accepts his new role will go a long way in deciding the success for the Jets’ offensive line this season.