Despite starting 17 games in the previous two seasons and doing a solid job, Nate Herbig was surprisingly released by the Eagles back in May. The Jets swooped in and claimed him off waivers to give them some valuable depth but he ended up playing a much bigger role than expected as Alijah Vera-Tucker missed most of the season due to injury. Herbig ended up starting 11 games on a unit which held up surprisingly well in the face of multiple injuries for most of the year, but floundered badly down the stretch. He’s now due to be an unrestricted free agent.
So, should the Jets bring Herbig back?
Why Herbig should be back
Herbig was initially thrust into a starting role when Vera-Tucker was forced to move to tackle due to other injuries and they won his first four starts as analysts were marveling at how the Jets had managed to cope. When Vera-Tucker was lost for the year, Herbig became a full-time starter for the rest of the year, although he was placed on injured reserve ahead of the season finale.
In pass protection, Herbig was very reliable as he only gave up one quarterback hit and no sacks in his first nine starts. While he was up and down in the running game, the line held up well in the win over the Bills which featured a game-winning drive where the Jets ran the ball effectively, and he was dominant in the win over the Bears.
Herbig is still only 24 years old with plenty of starting experience and the versatility to fill in at the center position in a pinch, so he could be a valuable player to bring back if his contract demands are reasonable. He’s also a popular player among his teammates.
Why Herbig shouldn’t be back
While the Jets would probably like to bring Herbig back at the right price, they can’t really offer him a starting role with Vera-Tucker and Laken Tomlinson basically locked into the two starting guard spots. Herbig may therefore seek a move to a place where he has a more realistic chance to earn a starting role. He might even be able to command a starter-level deal.
Although Herbig did well in 2022, he did struggle in the last couple of games. In pass protection, he gave up more pressure in each of those games as he had all season, including a sack and a couple of quarterback hits. In addition, the running game was a unit-wide problem as they couldn’t get anything going in either game.
Herbig’s late-season struggles might have been due to a calf injury, which ended up sidelining him for the final game of the season. If this is an injury that will disrupt his offseason or has a chance of reoccurring, then that will damage his chances of a return because the Jets are specifically on the lookout for durable players after all the injury issues this year.
Once again, this isn’t a clear-cut decision for the Jets. Many Eagles fans were shocked that the team let Herbig go even though they have one of the best offensive lines in the league, which underlines how his value is perceived. If there are other teams around the league who view Herbig as a potential starter, then the Jets could find themselves priced out of the market for him.
However, if he likes it in New York and is prepared to return in a primary back-up role on the interior, then perhaps Herbig will accept a short-term or low-cost deal. It seems unlikely they will bring both Herbig and Dan Feeney back, so they may have to decide on who they feel is the better value between the two.