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An inside look at how the Jets negotiated an early Winters

Still seven weeks away from free agency, the New York Jets made a pre-emptive strike by locking up their No. 1 priority, guard Brian Winters, who signed a four-year contract extension on Monday.

The knee-jerk reaction: Wow, the Jets mean business. They're ticked off by the 5-11 season, and they can't wait to start fixing things.

There might be some of that sentiment at One Jets Drive, but there were other factors in play. For one, the two sides actually began negotiating late last season -- before Winters suffered a rotator cuff tear in Week 15.

Secondly, this was a business opportunity for the Jets. And for Winters.

If healthy, Winters would have been one of the most coveted guards on the free-agent market, but he underwent rotator cuff surgery at the end of the season. Even though he should be fine for the 2017 season, he evidently felt that the injury would have affected his value on the open market.

That factored into his decision to sign in January. The Jets pounced on the early-bird special, probably saving some money.

The averages $7.25 million per year, according to sources. The guarantee ($15 million) is the 10th largest for a guard, per ESPN data. The two sides worked off two contracts from last offseason -- Jeff Allen (four years, $28 million, $12 million guaranteed) and J.R. Sweezy (five years, $32.5 million, $14 million guaranteed). Winters gets a lot of money for a solid, if not Pro Bowl-level player, but it falls in line with the market when factoring in the projected salary-cap increase.

From the Jets' perspective, the deal carries risk. They've committed a boatload of money to a player only one month removed from a significant shoulder operation -- a player who had major knee surgery in 2014 and never has started for a full season. But they felt it was a worthwhile gamble because he's still young (he'll be 26 in July), he played well last season before the injury and he still hasn't reached his ceiling. They know the player and they know the injury, and they felt comfortable with the situation. If they had lost him in free agency, it would've cost at least $8 million per year to replace him with a top guard, i.e., Kevin Zeitler (Bengals) or T.J. Lang (Packers).

Winters, too, took a chance because he surrendered the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent. Evidently, he didn't think he'd have much bargaining power because of the injury, so he took what he could get while the getting was good. The best deals usually involve risk from both sides.

From a personnel standpoint, this means two-fifths of the offensive line is secure -- right and left guard (James Carpenter). Now all the Jets have to do is figure out what to do with center Nick Mangold and both tackle spots. They have a lot of work left, but they cleared a big item off the to-do list by securing Winters.