The New York Jets made the decision to release seven-time Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold on Saturday, saving themselves $9.5 million in the process. The 33-year-old simply hasn’t been performing at a level worthy of that cap hit the past couple years and any sense that he might re-sign with the Jets at a lesser number seemed to vanish with a Twitter statement that read like a permanent goodbye.
However, if Mangold wants to continue playing, he’s going to have some options. But if he wants to play for a chance to tie off his career with a championship, the options thin considerably.
Most of the teams with even a slight chance of competing for a title currently are set at center. However, there are a few options that might make sense, but one in particular could give him a real chance at a championship, though there are obstacles.
The Green Bay Packers certainly like what they have in Corey Linsley, but he’s had trouble staying healthy in recent memory (he’s missed 10 games the past two years) and his backup, J.C. Tretter, will become an unrestricted free agent on March 9 if they can’t sign him to a new deal before then.
Traditionally the Packers don’t invest heavily in free agency, but it’s not totally unprecedented for them to spend on a proven veteran (see: Julius Peppers). Luckily, Mangold isn’t going to command the attention he might have five years ago and may be willing to give a discount to a contender.
At the same time, he hasn’t entirely wasted away. He’s not in All-Pro form, but he’s still proven to be a capable starter at the position even as he’s aged and his health has become a problem the past couple years, which you can see from his Pro Football Focus ratings over time.
Nick Mangold's Position Ranks Since 2006: 4th, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 6th, 21st, 1st, 18th, 25th. Most dominant center of PFF era. #Jets
— John Gatta (@PFF_JohnGatta) February 25, 2017
There’s no telling what exactly Mangold is looking for at this stage of his career, but if he wants at least an opportunity to see meaningful time and he wants a crack at a title, this is his spot. He can come in, compete with Linsley for a job, provide depth if he happens to lose that position battle, still have a chance to play given Linsley’s history and possibly win a Super Bowl.
Potential playoff teams like the Houston Texans and the Cincinnati Bengals might be able to offer more playing time, but neither are ready-made contenders like the Packers.