The Jets were the team that drafted Brian Winters, and in the end, that made all the difference.
“I really like what the Jets have going here and I wanted to be a part of that and continue it. They’re the team that gave me my shot in the beginning and I wanted to continue from that,” Winters said Tuesday on a conference call, a day after he signed a four-year extension with the Jets.
Rather than risk seeing the right guard hit the open market in free agency, the Jets instead agreed to a $29-million deal that includes $15 million guaranteed — the 10th-largest guarantee for a guard, according to ESPN.
With his future now settled, Winters can focus all of his energy on his rehab. The 25-year-old started 13 games in 2016 before being placed on injured reserve with a torn rotator cuff.
Winters, who underwent shoulder surgery on Dec. 23, said his recovery timetable should be about “five, five-and-a-half months. That’s when I should be able to go. I can’t really pinpoint a day or a specific date, but that’s the normal recovery time on something like this.”
He could have opted to take his chances in free agency, but Winters believes the Jets have a solid foundation to build on.
“I know how the locker room is, I know what kind of talent we have in the locker room, especially in the offensive line room,” said Winters, a third-round pick in 2013. “We have a great group of guys and I just want to build upon that and I feel like I was a part of something and I want to continue that. I’ve been here my whole career and I didn’t really think it was needed to go anywhere else, and I just want to build on what I had.”
But his offensive line room may look a lot different in 2017. Center Nick Mangold could be one of the Jets’ high-profile roster casualties because of his age and salary.
“I really can’t control that. Whatever happens, happens,” Winters, who grew up in Hudson, Ohio, said of Mangold’s uncertain future. “He’s been a mentor of mine coming into the NFL. I grew up watching him play. He’s from Ohio, so I obviously kept an eye on him. I was an Ohio State fan growing up. I really can’t control what happens, but I hope he’s back.”
Asked if the 33-year-old Mangold, who was placed on IR in December with a foot and ankle injury, has lost a step, Winters said: “No, not at all. It’s crazy. He’s like a fine wine — he keeps getting better with age.”