New York Jets coach Robert Saleh says Mekhi Becton's season likely over because of knee injury

ByRich Cimini via ESPN logo
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
ESPN

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets right offensive tackle Mekhi Becton "more than likely" will miss the entire season because of a chip fracture in his right kneecap, coach Robert Saleh announced Tuesday.

Becton, 23, drafted 11th overall in 2020, still is seeking outside medical opinions, but the expectation is that he will need surgery -- his second in the past 11 months on his right knee.

"His ride is not over, his story is not over," Saleh said.

Becton is under contract for 2023, due to make a fully guaranteed $3.1 million in the final year of his rookie deal. By then, he is likely to have missed 35 of a possible 50 games because of injuries. He dislocated his right kneecap in the 2021 opener, resulting in season-ending surgery. There is virtually no chance the team will exercise his fifth-year option for 2024.

"Everything happens for a reason...I know God and my Grandma got me up there I JUST KNOW IT! TRUST!#IMSTILLHIM #4GK," Becton posted on Instagram.

For now, the Jets have a pressing need at right tackle. The current starter in camp is Chuma Edoga, a 2019 third-round pick who has 12 starts in his NFL career. He began training camp on the roster bubble, which explains why the organization is seeking an upgrade. The team also has career backupConor McDermott, who is out one to two weeks with a sprained ankle.

The Jets are in talks with former Seattle Seahawks free agent Duane Brown, a five-time Pro Bowl selection who turns 37 on Aug. 30. Brown, who visited with the Jets last weekend, is in "phenomenal shape," general manager Joe Douglas said Tuesday in an interview with WFAN radio. Asked about their interest in Brown, Douglas said "the wheels are in motion."

Other teams also are showing interest in Brown, a source said.

Douglas passed on the top tackles in the draft even though there were questions about Becton's durability and weight. Now the Jets are scrambling to find an experienced tackle to start opposite George Fant. They drafted Max Mitchell (Louisiana) in the fourth round, but he's regarded as a developmental prospect.

The Jets were in talks with Brown before Becton's injury, which occurred Monday in practice. He hurt his knee in a noncontact offensive line drill, but remained in practice even though he was limping badly. Minutes later, in an 11-on-11 period, he was knocked backward by defensive end John Franklin-Myers and his knee appeared to bend awkwardly as he fell.

Writhing in pain, Becton -- listed at 6-foot-7, 363 pounds -- removed his shoulder pads and limped to the locker room. After practice, Saleh said the preliminary tests were encouraging and there was no reason to think it was a significant injury.

With the help of video analysis of the play, doctors determined there was no damage to the main ligaments. Saleh said the knee was "stable." Later, an MRI revealed the damage to the kneecap.

Asked why the team didn't pull Becton out of practice after the initial injury, Saleh said, "Hindsight is 20/20. We can play that game, for sure." He said it was "going to take a little while for his knee to get going" because the team had a day off Sunday, which followed a scrimmage on artificial turf. Becton's reps in the scrimmage Saturday night were limited because it was his first time on turf since his knee surgery last September, Saleh said.

Becton has been a polarizing player. He flashed immense potential as a rookie, but has since battled injuries and a weight problem. He was up to 400 pounds last year during his rehab, and he frustrated the organization by being overweight at the June minicamp.

On Tuesday, Saleh defended Becton against his critics.

"These are young men and sometimes, with social media in this world, we dehumanize these athletes in the worst way imaginable," he said. "Mekhi has walked in this building and he has taken every single punch you can get from every which way, and he shows up, and he works his tail off and he grinds every single day.

"He shows up to camp and he's fighting to get himself back in shape. He's got videos of him vomiting, and people are throwing shade. And he's limping ... and he's fighting for his family and himself, for his teammates, for this organization, for this fan base. He's doing everything, and then everybody wants to drop him like a wet rag. That ain't the case. We love Mekhi."

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