With the sudden news that New York Jets left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson is retiring after 10 years and 160 consecutive starts, the Jets now have a hole at left tackle. The Jets offensive line is due for an extensive makeover. With that in mind, we return this week’s Pick Six with six players that the Jets could target to replace their iron man. #ThankYouBrick
1. Cleveland Browns Left Tackle Joe Thomas, via trade
Who? The 31 year old former first round pick and arguably one of the better players to ever play the game and not reach the playoffs, Thomas is a nine time Pro Bowler and six time All Pro Since entering the league in 2007, he’s started 144 consecutive games and was recently voted the 18th best player in the league by his peers on the NFL Network.
Why? Aside from being arguably the best left tackle in the year over the last nine years, Thomas’ cap hits over the next 3 seasons ($9.5M in 2016 and $10M in 2017 and 2018) make him actually cheaper than Ferguson was. He is slated to become a free agent when he is 34 years old, but his game has not declined. In fact, he is still as good as he ever was. Trading for Thomas lets you upgrade your offensive line while saving you approximately $5.25 million this year than you were going to pay Ferguson.
What Would It Cost?: I would float the idea to Cleveland of trading Muhammad Wilkerson for Joe Thomas in a straight up player for player swap. The Jets currently have $10M in cap space. Trading Wilkerson and his $15.7M franchise tag for Thomas’s $9.5M cap hit nets you an additional $6.2M. You remove your log jam on the defensive line, upgrade your offensive line, and create additional cap space.
Who? If Ferguson was the model of consistency and availability, then consider Ryan Clady to be the opposite of that over the last couple of seasons. The former four time Pro Bowler has battled injuries over the last couple of seasons and is coming off a torn ACL. When healthy, he has been one of the better left tackles in the league but it’s been a long time since he’s actually been healthy.
Why?: If your goal is to get younger in the wake of Ferguson’s retirement, then Clady would be your guy. He’s a good fit in the Jets scheme, and is younger than Ferguson.
What Would It Cost?: The Broncos have been trying to trade him for weeks, so he is available. However, his contract ($19.5M over two years left) has made it difficult to find any takers. He has a cap hit of $10.1M this year and $10.9M next year before he becomes a free agent. Again, less than what the Jets were going to pay Ferguson but they’d need to complete some sort of cap maneuvering to fit Clady and still presumably sign Ryan Fitzpatrick. I’d offer Muhammad Wilkerson to Denver for Ryan Clady, a 3rd rounder, and a conditional 2017 6th rounder that could become a 5th depending on Clady’s playing time. This would net the Jets $5.6M in cap space added to their $10M, and would get them a third and an extra draft pick next season.
3. Left tackle Will Beatty, via free agency
Who? The 31 year old York, PA native was released by the Giants with a year left on his contract in February. Beatty started 11 games for the Giants during their 2011 Super Bowl season, but missed the playoffs due to a detached retina. Beatty graded out as the second best left tackle in the NFC in 2012 and the 11th best left tackle in the NFL in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus. He missed all of last season after injuring himself during a lifting session.
Why? Before his injury, Beatty was considered a good left tackle who had gradually gotten better every year. If he is fully healed from his torn pectoral muscle, the Jets would be wise to take a flyer on him. Like Clady, he fits the Jets scheme but doesn’t come with as many injury concerns as Clady. He was also viewed as one of the leaders on the Giants offensive line and him coming cheap doesn’t prevent the Jets from drafting a tackle (like Ifedi) and grooming him behind Beatty.
What It Would Cost A one year, $5M deal similar to what Kelvin Beachum got (without the insane options built in) will probably get it done. Beatty is looking to prove he’s healthy and this is the equivalent of a prove it deal, with the Jets being able to resign him should be prove to be healthy.
4. Left Tackle Don Barclay, via free agency
Who?: An underrated free agent out of West Virginia who can play both tackle spots and both guard spots and who started for the injured Bryan Beluga last year. He is 26 years old, versatile, and entering the prime of his career. He is a decent run blocker and good pass blocker, and it’s kind of surprising that the Packers didn’t make more of a push to resign him.
Why?: Similar to James Carpenter last year, you wonder if Barclay can reach his true potential in a different system. Coming out of West Virginia, he was better suited for a spread offense. He was serviceable in Green Bay and earned the trust of head coach Mike McCarthy.
What It Would Cost: A one year deal worth $2M with a team option worth an additional $3M would seal the deal for a guy that’s probably looking for an opportunity and who wouldn’t preclude you from drafting a left tackle and playing Barclay inside to start the five best guys available. His versatility would, also, help improve your roster flexibility on game days.
5. Left Tackle Taylor Decker, via draft
Who? The 6’7″ former Ohio State Buckeye is ranked in the top 40 in our draft board. Decker is a physical blocker and plays with a real mean streak. He is incredibly mobile for a prospect his size and he displays a good bend, which is something taller OL prospects usually struggle with. He has had lapses in concentration, but he is the third best OL in this draft and would be a plug and play starter for the next decade, similar to the guy he’d be replacing.
Why? The Jets need to get younger on the offensive line, and Taylor Decker is the next step in doing that. With adding Carpenter last year in free agency and the ascension of Brian Winters, adding Decker would give the Jets 3 starters on the OL under 27 years old. Decker could also, slide to guard if the Jets did not feel comfortable starting Brian Winters again and if they trade for Joe Thomas or sign Will Beatty. Either way, adding Decker to this OL would improve it tremendously. Decker is ready right now.
What It Would Cost: Decker will most likely be available at 20, so the Jets would just have to stand pat and take the OL. It isn’t a sexy pick, especially if QB Paxton Lynch is available, but would improve an overrated unit.
Who? A 2015 All Big Ten Second Teamer and a semi-finalist for the 2015 Outland Trophy, Jason Spriggs is in the top 5 in tackles for this draft. He is extremely athletic and is actually similar in size and measurable to Ferguson. He’s quick and agile, and was a rock for the Hoosiers.
Why? A lot of mock drafts have pegged Spriggs outside the first round. if so, it’s a mistake but wackier things have happened in the draft. If Spriggs falls out of the first, the Jets could target him in round two and then focus on their much needed edge rusher (Noah Spence) or quarterback (Paxton Lynch). Spriggs, like Decker, would be a plug and play starter. Whereas Spriggs isn’t better than Decker right now, he has a higher ceiling and could be the better player long term.
What Would It Cost?: The Jets second round pick, unless Seattle pulls the trigger and takes him in the late first round.
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