Jets new tackle Tyron Smith says team 'has all the pieces'

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Sunday, March 24, 2024

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- After 13 seasons and eight Pro Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, left tackle Tyron Smith described his first foray into free agency as "stressful." But he's happy with the outcome, saying the New York Jets can take him where he has never been -- a Super Bowl.

"I just feel like they have all the pieces together right now, and they're getting the final pieces this offseason to produce a team that can go all the way," Smith told reporters Thursday on a videoconference.

Smith, one of the biggest names in free agency, signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the Jets, who revamped their offensive line and signed wide receiver Mike Williams in an effort to upgrade Aaron Rodgers' supporting cast.

The quarterback, 40, is returning from an Achilles tear that cost him nearly the entire 2023 season, ruining the Jets' Super Bowl aspirations.

"I've played against Aaron throughout my career a couple of times, and I know what kind of quarterback he is," Smith said. "I know what he can do if you just give him a little bit of time, and we're going to do our best to give him that time."

The Jets' offensive line, a mess last season, has three new starters -- Smith, left guardJohn Simpson and right tackle Morgan Moses, who was acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. The key, though, is Smith, responsible for protecting Rodgers' blind side.

Despite a glittering résumé, Smith, 33, didn't attract much interest because of his age and injury history -- 37 missed games in the past four seasons. He hasn't played a full season since 2015. He did play 13 games last season and was a second-team All-Pro, but there was still hesitancy among some teams.

He was on the market for five days before agreeing to the Jets' deal, which has playing-time, Pro Bowl and postseason-win incentives that can bring the total to $20 million.

"I'm not going to lie, it was slightly stressful a little bit," Smith said of the process. "I've never been in that spot before. I didn't know how to handle it, and it went by for a week, but I just felt like it was forever."

Smith said the Cowboys and Jets were his "main options," adding, "The way things were looking in Dallas, I knew it was most likely going to be the Jets. Honestly, I got excited for a new chapter in my life."

Physically, Smith said he feels "great," adding that he finished the season with no injuries. The Cowboys limited his practice time over the second half of the season, trying to keep him healthy. The Jets likely will employ a similar plan.

The Jets haven't had a premier pass-protector at left tackle since D'Brickashaw Ferguson in 2015. Since then, they've cycled through several starters, most recently Duane Brown and former first-round pick Mekhi Becton, both free agents.

"It gives you comfort," new backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor said of Smith. "I've got a lot of respect for Tyron. ... Obviously, you have a safety blanket over there to the left. He's been an outstanding player for a lot of years, so we look forward to being protected on the left side with him."