We could write reams on what D'Brickashaw Ferguson has meant to the New York Jets, but since I am playing Mr. Mom for five days while my wife parties it down in the Centennial State for a college roommate's wedding, let's start with what actions the Jets can take over the next month to fortify their offensive line for the 2016 NFL season...
To me, Ferguson's retirement only underscores the crucial miss that the Jets made in not landing former Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Kelvin Beachum. The Jets front office appears to have overestimated Ferguson's desire to return or any duty/loyalty he had to return for his 11th season. I get that this is only Mike Maccagnan's second year as general manager, but the bill is coming due for the Jets neglect at using the NFL Draft as a tool to properly address this crucial part of any team. The Jets have made it known their like their own Brent Qvale as a potential starter, but is he ready? We will find out soon enough what the team really thinks about him.
Beachum's contract with the Jaguars was not so rich that the Jets couldn't have matched it; Beachum's deal was a one-year prove it contract with some hefty option years tacked on. I get that the Jets were hesitant to pay a player like Mitchell Schwartz, but the Beachums and Russell Okungs would have had a much more palatable cap number and yet the Jets whistled past the graveyard when it came to their offensive line yet again.
Now, the Jets are left combing through players like Will Beatty, Jake Long, Don Barclay, Nate Chandler and even the man who backed up Ferguson for two-plus years, Ben Ijalana.
The Jets would also be wise to seriously consider bolstering their talent at guard to help the overall line as much as possible. The agents of players like Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs and Louis Vasquez might be getting calls from the Jets this weekend, but won't be more than stopgaps for this team.
To address deficiencies at the receiver position in 2015, Mike Maccagnan traded for Brandon Marshall and it turned out to be one of the best trades Jets fans have ever seen. Since D'Brickashaw Ferguson has now retired, the Jets appear to be in a similar situation concerning their offensive line. The Jets could enter the trade market before the draft, thereby allowing GM Mike Maccagnan to stick with his preferred "best player available" philosophy.
Jets will have LT options at 20, but don't assume they wait til the draft. Could look at trading for Ryan Clady, Joe Thomas or Luke Joeckel.- Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 8, 2016
Ryan Clady makes a lot of sense for the Jets, but certainly comes with risk. Coming off an ACL tear he suffered last May, Clady has a $10.1 million cap number and would clear $8.9 million off the books for the Broncos through trade. Clady has shown no willingness to restructure his deal and just like the Jets, Denver has slow-played the situation with the exception that they already signed his potential replacement in Russell Okung from the Seahawks.
Since Denver has almost the same cap space as the Jets (none) this would leave Denver enough money to sort out the quarterback situation with Colin Kaepernick, since John Elway has already backfilled the tackle spot with Russell Okung. For the Jets, they could restructure a deal with Clady as part of the trade with some of the money freed through Ferguson's retirement. Clady would become the penciled in starter at left tackle while the Jets hope his knee recovers fully by September. Regardless of Clady's presence, he's missed 30 regular season games in the last three years so if the Jets want to avoid tempting fate further on their offensive line, they'll still draft offensive linemen early.
Joe Thomas would be a killer acquisition if the Jets could make it but is another short-term answer. Thomas is a six time All-Pro and like Ferguson has played almost every snap for the Browns since being drafted by Cleveland in 2007. Browns EVP Sashi Brown said the team has no plans to trade Thomas, but could the Jets first rounder or the promise of Muhammad Wilkerson change Cleveland's mind? We shall see.
Luke Joeckel might be another player the Jets consider. Joeckel has disappointed the coaches in Jacksonville so much that the team outbid the Jets for Kelvin Beachum in what appears a bid to replace the young lineman. So far Joeckel hasn't lived up to his draft position, but he might be just the sort of solution that could help the Jets should they be unable to secure the right player on the first day of the draft or elsewhere through free agency or trades. Maccagnan traded during the 2015 NFL Draft and came away with DeVier Posey and Zac Stacy … I'd expect him to be active for someone like Joeckel on days two and three of the draft if the picks don't fall the Jets way at offensive line.
2016 NFL Draft
Trivia question. Since the Jets drafted Ferguson and Nick Mangold in 2006, who are the only two offensive linemen the Jets have drafted in the top three rounds?
If you guessed Vlad Ducasse and Brian Winters, then you are right. The Jets have thrown nine later round draft picks against the wall and have been as bad or worse as their early picks. Matt Slauson is probably the best of the late-round bunch while Robert Griffin was probably the worst.
Tony Pauline believes the Jets are one of four teams looking to swap with the Titans to move to the top of the draft. With the news of Ferguson's retirement it makes sense that Laremy Tunsil would be their target. The problem is the firepower it will take to get from the twentieth to first pick. Unless the Jets could work Muhammad Wilkerson into the deal, the Jets would have to trade their 2016 first and second along and a good slate of their early 2017 draft picks too. The Jets would have to be pretty damn sure that Tunsil is going to be a starter in their organization for the next ten years to give up so much. Watching how Brandon Scherff, Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan, Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel have fared as some of the top talents on offensive line makes me hesitant to consider giving up the "king's ransom" that Titans GM Jon Robinson said he expects to move off the top pick. It makes a lot more sense for the Jets to move up into the teens for a player they prize but are worried won't fall to them at 20.
We will get into this more over the weekend and early next week, but with the 20th and 51st and 83rd picks in the upcoming draft the Jets are in a decent place to find talent for their offensive line, but not in so good a spot that they were realistically saying two months ago "oh if D'Brickashaw Ferguson walks away or we need to cut him, we'll just reload with THIS guy" through the NFL Draft. The twentieth pick has potential but there's far too many variables to know how this plays.
Now having pointed out the Jets hubris considering their offensive linemen, the first three rounds of the draft have some talented players who have long-term starter potential. Draft circles seem to be overanalyzing Ronnie Stanley and as such his stock might be slipping. That would be great news for the Jets if they want to move up into the teens or stay put at 20. Taylor Decker might be a slight reach at 20, but picking him there seems justifiable considering the Jets need to address the spot. Should Jack Conklin be available at 20, I'd be more inclined to let him pass for a linebacker and take my chances in rounds two and three with players like Jason Spriggs although he might not last to 51. Joe Thuney is so intriguing a player to me that I would be prepared to move up from the 83rd spot to grab Thuney even if the Jets have already taken a guard or tackle in the first or second rounds.