The Jets made a significant — and surprising — move on Thursday to solidify their offensive line, signing five-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil to a one-year deal that the NFL Network said is worth $8.4 million.
The biggest surprise was that Kalil was available at all, because he retired after last season, his 12th with the Panthers, his only previous NFL team.
It’s the first major acquisition by new general manager Joe Douglas, who was hired in May to replace the fired Mike Maccagnan.
It appeared Jonotthan Harrison was penciled in for the position, but on paper Kalil, 34, represents a major upgrade if he remains healthy and effective.
He will join a line charged with the Jets’ two highest offensive priorities: protecting quarterback Sam Darnold and opening holes for running back Le’Veon Bell.
Kalil started only six games in 2017 because of a neck injury but started every game in 2018.
Center was a problem spot for the Jets last season, with Spencer Long failing to anchor the position consistently. Under Maccagnan, the Jets explored upgrading the position during free agency in March — with players such as Matt Paradis and Mitch Morse mentioned as possibilities.
Paradis ended up signing a three-year, $27 million contract with Carolina to replace the then-retired Kalil.
Kalil, a USC alumnus, was selected for the Pro Bowl in 2009, ’10, 11, ’13 and ’15 and twice was named an Associated Press All-Pro.
Kalil must pass a physical on Friday before officially signing his contract.
Kalil tweeted a gif of Billy Crystal tipping a Yankees cap — a hello of sorts to Jets fans. Longtime Jets center Nick Mangold tweeted a greeting to Kalil, writing, “This is pretty cool. Welcome.”