Center Ryan Kalil comes out of retirement to join Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Ryan Kalil wasn’t done playing football, after all.
The five-time Pro Bowl center snapped out of retirement Thursday and agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the New York Jets.
The 34-year-old Kalil, who started every game last season for Carolina after playing just six in 2017 because of a neck injury, will need to pass a physical Friday before signing his contract with New York.
Financial terms weren’t immediately available. NFL Network reported the deal is worth $8.4 million.
Kalil spoke all last season about it being his final one as a player. He walked away from the game when his contract expired after 12 NFL seasons — all with the Panthers.
He apparently had a change of heart in recent weeks and is expected to anchor an offensive line that had a question mark at the center position. Jonotthan Harrison had been slated to start, but he has been mostly a backup during his six-year career.
Coach Adam Gase had recently raved about Harrison and his work with quarterback Sam Darnold, but the Jets decided to upgrade.
It’s the first major acquisition by new general manager Joe Douglas, who was hired in May to replace the fired Mike Maccagnan.
New York struggled last season at center with Spencer Long starting the season. He was replaced by Harrison because of injuries and inconsistency. Under Maccagnan, the Jets explored upgrading the position during free agency in March — with players such as Matt Paradis and Mitch Morse mentioned as possibilities.
Paradis ended up signing a three-year, $27 million contract with Carolina to replace the then-retired Kalil.
Kalil will join the Jets one week into training camp practices. He’ll have more than a month to work with Darnold and the rest of New York’s offense.
Kalil tweeted a gif of Billy Crystal tipping a New York Yankees cap — a hello of sorts to Jets fans.
The former USC star was a second-round pick of Carolina in 2007 and quickly became one of the NFL’s top centers. He was selected to the Pro Bowl from 2009-11 and in 2013 and 2015.
Kalil was a two-time AP All-Pro pick, starting 145 of 148 regular-season games during his time with the Panthers.