According to Rich Cimini writing for ESPN New York, the New York Jets intend to let free agent offensive lineman and former Pittsburgh Steeler Willie Colon hit the open market after playing out his one-year contract.
Colon, drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 draft by Pittsburgh, played there for the first seven seasons of his career before being released by them last offseason, despite continuing to play well when healthy.
After starting 48 straight games between 2007 and 2009, however, the “when healthy” qualifier became a very significant piece of the puzzle. Over the next two seasons, he played in exactly one game.
In 2012, the Steelers moved Colon from tackle, where he’d played since high school, to guard, a position he’d never played before. After an adjustment period, he began to take to the position well, but by the end of the season, the injuries began to mount, and he missed five games, ending his third straight season on injured reserve.
Because he couldn’t stay healthy, and thanks to the drafting of David DeCastro and the emergence of Ramon Foster, Colon was shown the door last offseason. As a post-June cut, he’s still accounting for over $4 million in dead money this year.
The Jets gave Colon a one-year $2.5 million ‘prove it’ contract last year, and he did prove it, playing all 16 games at right guard and becoming one of the better guards in the league in pass protection.
Despite continued issues in drawing penalties, he is listed as one of the top free agent guards by Pro Football Focus. But he’s set to be a free agent for the same reasons he found himself a free agent last offseason: age and injury.
Colon tore his biceps in the season finale for the Jets last year, and his recovery timetable from biceps surgery is around four months. He will also be 31-years-old in early September.
That’s why the Jets are looking elsewhere along the offensive line headed into next season. Reportedly, they are interested in Kansas City Chiefs guard Jon Asamoah, graded as the second-best free agent guard by PFF.
It will be interesting to see what kind of market there is for Colon this offseason. Chances are he’ll have to wait a while to show teams that he’s healthy, even though he is reportedly on schedule in his rehabilitation.
The fact of the matter is that if his injury didn’t occur in the season finale, he would have ended up on injured reserve for the fourth straight season. Though he can now play both guard and tackle, his increasing age and laundry list of serious injuries is a concern. He may eventually find a suitor, perhaps back in New York eventually, but it certainly won’t be in Pittsburgh, where the guard position is one of the most solid on the team.