A year ago, GM Mike Tannenbaum stubbornly refused to sign any experienced backup offensive linemen -- and it came back to bite him. He must be determined to avoid the same situation because the Jets signed two veteran right tackles Tuesday, Stephon Heyer and Ray Willis, a source confirmed.
Embattled RT Wayne Hunter, who has received mixed support from the organization, remains the starter. The additions of Heyer and Willis are more a reflection on third-year RT Vladimir Ducasse than Hunter. Ducasse, a former second-round pick, is supposed to challenge Hunter, but the organization apparently wants to hedge its bet.
Ducasse saw some time in last week's organized team activities at left guard, replacing the rehabbing Matt Slauson (shoulder surgery), so it's possible a position change could be in the offing for Ducasse. He actually began his career at left guard, where he lost a competition to Slauson and was moved to right tackle.
Willis, who turns 30 in August, spent the second half of last season with the Saints, but he never played in a game. He was cut in training camp by the Dolphins, whose coach, Tony Sparano, is now the Jets' offensive coordinator. Willis (6-foot-6, 304 pounds) has 26 career starts. He was a fourth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2005, starting every game at right tackle in 2009. He was out of the league in 2010.
Heyer (6-foot-6, 320 pounds) has 35 career starts. He began his career with the Redskins as an undrafted free agent in 2007. He played last season with the Raiders, starting two games.
The Jets now have six experienced tackles under contract -- Hunter and LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, plus Ducasse, Heyer, Willis and Austin Howard.
Sports Business Journal earlier reported the signings.