New York Jets Five Difficult Decisions: D’Brickashaw Ferguson Edition

David Aitken on how the New York Jets should handle D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s contract this off-season…

The second part of the Five Difficult Decisions series looks at one of the most reliable Jets of the past decade. Struggling the most he has since his rookie season, what should the Jets do with D’Brickashaw Ferguson and his enormous cap number?

Should D’Brickashaw Ferguson return?

This isn’t too different a situation to how the Jets should be approaching Ryan Fitzpatrick. It is less of an outright yes or no and more a question of cost. The ideal scenario here is for the Jets to come to a restructured agreement that allows Brick to return for his tenth season and keep his ironman streak alive as a one-team player. It is no secret that Brick played poorly this season, but he does play a position where availability in itself is practically a skill. The same could also be said for line consistency, leaving a scenario where the Jets would be bringing back at least four of five starters from last season. As for keeping him outright on his cap number of over 14 million, that is hard to justify by any stretch. Luckily, a restructure is a fair thing to predict. Should Brick bait the Jets into releasing him, nobody else is paying him the kind of money on the free agent market the Jets are currently. Brick at this point is basically a Calvin Pace – the Jets can take it from year to year but should clearly be looking to upgrade as soon as they can.

With that said, bringing back Brick in any scenario has to be contingent on available alternatives. It may be somewhat callous to kick a good Jet to the curb after nine years of service, but it’s important to stress just how badly Brick’s play was this year. Three of the five worst tackles in terms of pressure allowed this season (per Pro Football Focus) all resided in New York: Breno Giacomini, Giants rookie Ereck Flowers, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Flowers was at the very bottom, but it might surprise some people that Ferguson was right behind him. Compared to Giacomini, Brick gave up 2 more sacks (5) and allowed twice as many QB hits (14).

The free agent market offers some intriguing names the Jets should do their homework on. The must-sign if he becomes available is Buffalo’s Cordy Glenn, though he should be Buffalo’s number one priority. Russell Okung is another big name that could be available, but he has yet to play a full season in his five year career and due to draft status could see a deal bigger than he’s worth. Pittsburgh’s Kelvin Beachum is a talented young player but a risk due to an ACL tear in October. These names are just the pure left tackles. Given Giacomini has not performed either, the Jets surely will be looking into better players at right tackle as well. Maybe a little risky, the Jets could also explore signing such a player and moving him to the left side. Cincinnati’s Andre Smith, Cleveland’s Mitchell Schwartz and Arizona’s Bobby Massie are all free agents and should command the Jets’ attention. Smith and Massie are good bets to hit free agency given their teams both drafted replacements highly in the 2015 draft.

Ultimately the Jets have to weigh how realistic it is to get a bounce-back season from a 32-year-old left tackle, and at what value it’s a worthwhile risk to take. There’s also the question of getting rid of a long-tenured veteran who has been the only player to man the Jets’ blindside for the past decade. Consistency, especially on offense, counts for something and wholesale changes to a 10-6 team could do more harm than good in the short term.

Prediction: The Jets will get D’Brickashaw Ferguson back on a significant pay cut, even if he must be cut first and explores the market for it to happen. Giacomini won’t be so lucky, and the Jets will take a shot on either Smith or Massie as his replacement, as well as drafting a tackle within the first three rounds.

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