As the Jets get close to training camp, I am examining the roster and giving you my top 25 players. Each weekday, we will reveal another person on the list, leading right into camp. I am not including rookies on this list because I do not feel it is possible to fully evaluate them before they play a game.
No. 18: George Fant
Last year’s ranking: Unranked (not on team)
Age on Opening Day: 28
How acquired: Signed a three-year, $27.5 million contract as an unrestricted free agent on April 23
Years left on contract: 3
2020 Salary Cap figure: $7.2 million
Looking back at 2019
Fant played in all 16 games for the Seahawks, starting seven. He was used mainly as an extra offensive lineman/tight end but started three games at left tackle during the regular season and another in the Wild Card round of the playoffs when starter Duane Brown was injured.
Fant played 43 percent of Seattle’s offensive snaps. He allowed two sacks and 23 pressures, according to PFF. The site graded him as the 56th best tackle out of 81 and 65th in pass blocking out of 79.
Outlook for 2020
The first day of the free agency negotiating period was a quiet one for Jets fans, who were waiting to see who GM Joe Douglas would sign. Then came the news that the team had agreed to a deal with Fant. The reaction was largely, “Who?”
Fant is not a household name. He has not been a regular starter for the Seahawks since 2016, and was not at the top of many of the media’s free agent lists.
But the Jets are hoping they are catching the 6-foot-6, 322-pounder as he is entering his peak. Fant did not have a traditional path to the NFL. He was a college basketball player at Western Kentucky and then played football in his final season there, playing tight end. Seattle signed him as an undrafted free agent and moved him to tackle. Injuries led to him starting 10 games as a rookie, but a torn ACL in the 2017 preseason cost him a chance to start that year. The Seahawks then acquired Brown, and Fant has been fighting for playing time ever since.
Fant is an athletic player who moves well in space, something the Jets feel will translate well to Adam Gase’s system. The Jets believe he is ready to become a starter and will thrive if given the chance.
Fant was originally penciled in to start at left tackle when the Jets signed him, but the selection of Mekhi Becton in the first round of the draft changes that plan. Fant likely will compete with Chuma Edoga in training camp for the right tackle spot, with Becton getting the left tackle spot. The Jets may have Fant work at left tackle in training camp if they want to make Becton “earn” the spot or if they don’t feel he’s ready to start. Eventually, though, Becton will be there.
While Fant’s contract sounds large, it has no guaranteed money after this season. If he does not pan out, the Jets can move on with little financial impact next year.
The Jets have had some recent success signing offensive linemen from the Seahawks. Both Breno Giacomini and James Carpenter played pretty well for the Jets after leaving Seattle. Maybe Fant can be the next one.