George Fant enjoyed his time with the Seahawks, but there is a part of him that is happy he won’t hear “No. 74 is an eligible receiver” anymore.
Fant, the first player with whom the Jets agreed to a contract during this free-agency period, often played that role with the Seahawks. He was used as a sixth offensive lineman/tight end to help open holes for the Seahawks’ running game and provide more protection for quarterback Russell Wilson. But Fant, who caught one pass, is coming to the Jets to play left tackle full-time.
“I made it very clear that I wanted to play that position at the end of the season,” Fant said during an interview with Seattle radio station KNJR. “That was a huge part of me making this decision to go there. I feel like that’s home for me. I feel like left tackle is the best position for me. Now it’s to the point where I’m ready to go out there and prove it and just go out there and do my job and try to help this team win games.”
Fant, 27, agreed to a three-year, $27.3 million contract with the Jets, with $13.7 million guaranteed. He said the Seahawks offered him a contract, but he chose the Jets and a bigger role.
“It was a weird situation for me this year, the last couple of years,” Fant said. “I’ve been playing the sixth offensive lineman position. I wasn’t really sure the way this free-agency situation would roll out for me. Obviously, I’m very happy what I did.
“My team came to me,” Fant added, “and told me this was probably the better deal for me and this was the better opportunity for me to go out there and do what I want to do.”
Fant was a four-year basketball player at Western Kentucky. He played football in his fifth year of eligibility, and that ultimately became his career.
“I’m just ready to go to New York and just show what I can do and learn from everybody over there, all the coaches there,” Fant said. “I’m looking forward to this new position. I’m looking forward to this new opportunity for myself.”
Seattle signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Now he’s a key member of a revamped offensive line that general manager Joe Douglas is assembling to make sure Sam Darnold is better protected.
The Jets were ranked 31 out of 32 teams, according to Football Outsiders, in overall offensive line rankings. They allowed 50 sacks.
Douglas’ first three agreements in free agency were with offensive linemen. He landed Fant, brought back left guard Alex Lewis, who impressed the Jets last season, and reached a deal with former Broncos center Connor McGovern. He has the versatility to play center and guard and remarkably didn’t commit a penalty in 1,013 snaps last season.
The Jets aren’t done with the offensive line.
They’ve shown interest in Carolina guard Greg Van Roten, who attended Chaminade High School. Van Roten remains unsigned.
They also have to make a decision on right guard Brian Winters. He’s signed for $7.28 million, but that contract is non-guaranteed and he’s coming off a season-ending shoulder injury. The Jets could bring him back, waive him altogether or try to bring him back at a lower salary.
Douglas also is expected to add a lineman in next month’s NFL Draft. There are a number of tackles who could be available when the Jets pick 11th.