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

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — New York Jets offensive right tackle Mekhi Becton “most likely” will miss the entire season with a splinter fracture in his right kneecap, coach Robert Saleh announced Tuesday.

Becton, 23, who was drafted 11th overall in 2020, is still seeking outside medical opinions but is expected to 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 signed for 2023 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 out of a possible 50 games due to injury. He dislocated his right kneecap in the 2021 opener, leading to season-ending surgery. There’s virtually no chance the team will exercise their fifth-year option for 2024.

“Everything happens for a reason…I know that God and my grandma took me there, I just know it!” TRUST! #IMSTILLHIM #4GK,” Becton posted on Instagram.

Right now, the Jets have an urgent need for the right tackle. The current starter at camp is Chuma Edoga, a 2019 third-round pick who had 12 starts in his NFL career. He started training camp in the squad bubble, which explains why the organization is looking to upgrade. The team also has career backup Conor McDermott, who is out for a week or two with a sprained ankle.

The Jets are in talks with former Seattle Seahawks free agent Duane Brown, a five-time Pro Bowl pick who turns 37 on Aug. 30. Brown, who was visiting with the Jets last weekend, is in “phenomenal form,” general manager Joe Douglas said in an interview with WFAN radio on Tuesday. When asked about her interest in Brown, Douglas said, “The wheels are turning.”

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

Douglas passed the top tackles in the draft despite questions about Becton’s durability and weight. Now the Jets are scrambling to find a skilled tackle to start against George Fant. They drafted Max Mitchell (Louisiana) in the fourth round, but he’s considered a development prospect.

The Jets were in talks with Brown ahead of Becton’s injury, which happened in practice Monday. He injured his knee during a non-contact scrimmage drill but stayed in practice despite having a bad limp. Minutes later, in an 11-on-11 period, he was pushed backwards by defensive end John Franklin-Myers and his knee seemed to bend awkwardly in the fall.

Becton – listed at 6-foot-7, 363 pounds – writhed in pain, removed his shoulder pads and hobbled to the locker room. After training, Saleh said preliminary tests had been encouraging and there was no reason to believe the injury was serious.

Using video analysis of the game, doctors determined that the main ligaments were undamaged. Saleh said the knee is “stable.” An MRI later showed the damage to the kneecap.

When asked why the team didn’t pull Becton out of practice after the initial injury, Saleh said, “Hindsight is 20/20. We can play this game for sure.” He said it will “take a while for his knee to get going” because the team had a day off on Sunday following a training session on artificial turf. Becton’s replays in Saturday night’s scrimmage were limited because it was his first time on grass since his knee surgery last September, Saleh said.

Becton was a polarizing player. He showed tremendous potential as a rookie but has since struggled with injuries and a weight problem. Last year he weighed up to 400 pounds during his rehab and frustrated the organization by being overweight at the June minicamp.

Saleh defended Becton against his critics on Tuesday.

“These are young men and sometimes we dehumanize these athletes with the world’s social media in the worst possible way,” he said. “Mekhi went into this building and took every single hit you can get and he shows up, working his tail off and grinding every single day.

“He shows up at camp and is struggling to get back into shape. He has videos of him throwing up and people throwing shadows. And he’s limping… and he’s fighting for his family and himself, for his teammates, for organization, for this fanbase. He does everything and then everyone wants to drop him like a wet rag. That’s not the case. We love Mekhi.” New York Jets coach Robert Saleh says Mekhi Becton’s season likely over because of knee injury

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