The New York Jets made a fairly easy decision Wednesday afternoon, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the team will not pick up left tackle Ryan Clady’s 2017 option.
Clady was one of the more obvious salary cap casualty candidates on New York’s roster, as he was set to accrue a $10 million cap hit next season. But Clady’s departure essentially brings the Jets back to the drawing board at the position after years of reliability at the position.
The Jets haven’t had to worry about left tackle for essentially a decade, as longtime anchor D’Brickashaw Ferguson manned the position admirably from 2006-15. But Ferguson’s sudden retirement put the Jets in a tough bind with no clear successor in sight.
Ferguson’s decision prompted a trade between the Jets and the Broncos which sent Clady to New York in exchange for a seventh-round pick. The move made some sense at the time for the Jets: It was a low-risk venture on a four-time Pro Bowler who could properly fill Ferguson’s void so long as he could stay healthy.
Well, the operative phrase was “stay healthy.” The injury-prone tackle played nine games before being placed on injured reserve with a torn rotator cuff. That injury essentially spelled Clady’s fate, as the cap-strapped Jets would be crazy to commit $10 million to a talented player whose durability simply can’t be trusted.
Now the question is, what do the Jets do from here? Ben Ijalana replaced Clady after his injury, but he’s also a pending unrestricted free agent. The free agency class bears only a couple of strong options at the position, but the Jets don’t have the funds to win a bidding war for the likes of Andrew Whitworth or Ricky Wagner.
Other prominent free agents include Riley Reiff, a fifth-year pro who has played on the right side the past two seasons, and Sebastian Vollmer, an injury-prone tackle who has primarily played right tackle.
The 2017 draft class isn’t loaded with top talent either. Alabama’s Cam Robinson, Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk and Utah’s Garett Bolles are among the top prospects, but none are worth taking where the Jets stand at No. 6 overall in the first round. Florida State product Roderick Johnson might be the next best talent at left tackle if the Jets try to land him in the second round.
Either way, the failed Clady experiment sets the Jets back at the position. They could simply use Ijalana as a stop-gap for a season or two, but they’ll need to figure out this position if they have any shot of developing a franchise quarterback anytime soon.