By now, the news has well made its rounds around the world that Jets left tackle D'Brickishaw Ferguson is planning on retiring. There are various effects with this news, like the 9 million dollars in free cap space, the lack of negotiation necessary to try to bring down Brick's cap number, whether or not Brick still had it, etc., but the fact of the matter is that when the 2016 season kicks off, the Jets are going to have a starting left tackle not named D'Brickishaw Ferguson for the first time in a decade. There are varying opinions as to the value of a left tackle, generally considered the most important spot on an offensive line, but having a player to protect the blind side is kind of a big deal, and the Jets are currently in limbo there. Where do we go from here to replace Brick? Let's look at some of the various options.
The first place the Jets can look towards to replace Ferguson is the current roster. The tackles currently on the roster include Breno Giacomini, Sean Hickey, Brent Qvale, Jesse Davis, and Lawrence Okoye. Breno is currently the starting right tackle and has played right tackle pretty much his entire NFL career, and will likely stay at RT. Hickey and Davis were both rookies signed to futures deals. Neither have had a look in the NFL. Lawrence Okoye, who has an insane story as a former discus thrower for the United Kingdom turned NFL prospect, was recently converted to the offensive line when the Jets picked him up. Despite some impressive physical skills, he's a major long shot to stick. Brent Qvale seems like the in house candidate that MAY be in line for an expanded role after being on the active roster and playing some in the jumbo package. Still, it's a major jump for the former UDFA to go from sometimes jumbo TE to starting left tackle, particularly when Qvale has flashed little in the way of NFL talent. It appears that the Jets going with an in house candidate would be a last resort, as the Jets lack even quality backups much less a potential starter.
The Jets could also look towards free agency for a quick plug. The Jets did show some interest in a tackle as they brought in Kelvin Beachum in for a visit, though he left and eventually signed in Jacksonville. Right now, some of the top names floating around in free agency include former Giant Will Beatty, former Falcon Jake Long, former Raider Khalif Barnes, and former Packer Don Barclay. Barnes and Barclay did not start for their team last year and don't look like options at all. Jake Long has plenty of name recognition as a former #1 overall pick in 2008 for the Dolphins, but Long has only played 11 games over the past 2 seasons and hasn't been very good when he was on the field. Beatty presents a somewhat interesting scenario. Beatty was the Giants starting left tackle and was a pretty solid player who started 47 of 48 games, appearing in all 48, from 2012-2014. However, an offseason injury and subsequent setback kept Beatty out for all of last season, and the Giants cut him in preparation of moving 2015 #10 overall pick Ereck Flowers to left tackle. Still, if Beatty is healthy, he presents a potential low cost option who has had success as a starting left tackle in the NFL.
The Jets could try to swing a deal with another team for a starting left tackle. It's impossible to know who is on the market, but two possible options could be Eugene Monroe with Baltimore and Ryan Clady with Denver. Monroe, when healthy, has been an above average left tackle and has a reasonable contract structure, but health has been a big issue as he has only played in 17 of 32 possible games over the last two seasons. It's also possible that the Ravens will want to hold on to Monroe after losing Kelechi Osemele to the Raiders this offseason. Ryan Clady is another matter. Denver went out and signed two tackles this offseason, including Russell Okung to presumably be the left tackle. This probably leaves Clady on the outside looking in, and a prime candidate to get moved. Clady currently has two years left on his deal, for 9.5 million this season and 10 million next year. The Jets may not want to absorb that contract for a player who, though he's been a Pro Bowl tackle throughout his career, has missed 2 of the last 3 seasons to injury and is a giant question mark. One option is to wait and hope that the Broncos simply release Clady and the Jets can sign him for no compensation, but that will allow the other 30 teams equal opportunity to negotiate. Another option is to come to terms for compensation for Denver, maybe a mid to late round pick, and make the trade contingent upon restructuring Clady's contract to something more team friendly. However, it does appear that despite Denver's statements that they want Clady back, he should be obtainable.
The other, shoot for the moon option, is Browns left tackle Joe Thomas. The future Hall of Famer likely comes at a hefty price, but it appears the Browns aren't totally against moving him as they nearly traded him to the Broncos last year, though ultimately did not pull the trigger. It may not behoove the Jets to give up the farm for Thomas at this point in time, but perhaps he's an option.
Of course, the Jets could always go and draft a new left tackle. We've had quite a bit of discussion about the prospects. It's impossible to know who will move where but by most mocks, it appears that the Jets are almost certainly not going to get Ole Miss LT Laremy Tunsil, and perhaps not Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley or Michigan State OT Jack Conklin, who appear to have separated themselves as the top 3 offensive tackles in the draft. If the consensus holds up, as far as the first round goes, the Jets may be picking from a litter that includes Ohio State OT Taylor Decker, Texas A&M T/G Germain Ifedi, and Indiana OT Jason Spriggs. In the second round you could be looking at prospects like Shon Coleman from Auburn, Le'Raven Clark from Texas Tech, and Jerald Hawkins from LSU. Decker and Ifedi are both very big men, but their ability to play left tackle right away may be in question. Jason Spriggs has tremendous athleticism, but is coming from a funky system in Indiana with wide OL splits. I don't know, barring someone else falling, if the Jets will be better off with a drafted tackle than they were with Brick but it may be the best option the Jets have. However, this may also conflict with Maccagnan's philosophy of taking the best talent on the board in the draft, and I think it would burn a GM with a scouting background like Maccagnan to his very core to have to bypass a better talent to force a pick at left tackle simply because of a dire need.
If you were Mikey Macc, what would you do about the left tackle situation? How do you want to see this handled?