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Should The New York Jets Consider Ron Leary?

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The disgruntled Cowboy has requested a trade

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Every year during OTAs, there's at least one player unhappy about his position on his team. This year, Cowboy's guard Ron Leary is one of those players. After starting in 2013 and 2014, Leary was forced to the sidelines by minor injuries and the emergence of one of the most coveted UDFAs of all time, La'el Collins. The last couple of years were actually very unfortunate for Leary, who could only watch while the Cowboys drafted 1st round guard Zack Martin in 2014 and win the UDFA lottery with La'el Collins in 2015. Zack Martin has become one of the best guards in football and Collins was regarded as a likely top 10 pick in 2015 before he slid in the draft due to non-football reasons (being questioned by the police.) After Leary injured his groin in the first game of the season, his fate was more or less sealed. He has since skipped OTAs and reportedly requested a trade out of Dallas.

You have to feel for Leary, who was a solid starter for the Cowboys for 2 years. He entered the league as an UDFA who fought to earn a spot on the Cowboy's practice squad before finally getting promoted to the active roster towards the end of his rookie season. In the final year of his UDFA contract, Leary has 35 starts under his belt and is just 27 years old. His restricted free agent tender was set at a second round pick, meaning that he has a 1 year contract value of $2.553M. He is at least league average at guard, though I would say he is certainly above average (disclaimer: I'm not an offensive line coach.) Other teams have taken notice and the Cowboys reported that there was some interest in a trade during the draft.

The Jets roster was massively upgraded last offseason, but arguably the biggest hole on the team was at right guard. Brian Winters has been a disaster in both run blocking and pass protection and despite carrying about 50 thousand guards last season, there aren't any obvious options to replace him. Jarvis Harrison is a big question mark (literally, the guy is huge) and no one else has managed to supplant Colon/Winters/Aboushi over the course of two years. Leary would present an absolutely massive upgrade over that motley crew at an extremely affordable $2.553M in 2016.  An extension could also be part of the trade agreement, allowing Leary to lock down the guard position opposite Carpenter for a few seasons. His value is currently about as low as it can get, as he did not play for the majority of 2015 due to La'el Collins' emergence.

The downside is that Leary suffers from a degenerative knee condition known as Osteochondritis Dissecans (to the handful of people who actually know of it.) While it caused his precipitous fall in the 2012 draft, it is hard to know how much this condition can effect his longevity in the NFL. Former Jet Jonathan Vilma also suffered from this knee condition and he went on to have a relatively long and successful career. With the equivalent of about 3 seasons' worth of starts under his belt at 27, it's likely that he has at least 3-5 solid seasons left even if his knee eventually becomes an issue. Offensive linemen typically have decent shelf lives and there isn't much tread on his tires just yet. There is also a risk with these kinds of medical conditions, but thus far it hasn't impacted his play and he has shown no signs of slowing down.

The question with Leary is what kind of compensation would he demand in a trade. His value to the Cowboys is pretty minimal in comparison to his value to guard-needy teams (such as the Jets.) He was a healthy scratch for a large number of games for the Cowboys due to their stellar starting guards and need for a backup with center experience (which Leary lacks.) I've seen some Cowboy fans expecting a second or third round pick in exchange for Leary, but frankly, it's not very realistic. I'd expect his trade value to be anywhere between a late 4th rounder to a late day 3 pick, with my intuition pointing at the later rounds. If the Cowboys hold onto Leary, they're out $2.553M this year and will likely get very little in terms of compensatory pick value (if they even get anything after signings.) He would probably wouldn't even suit up on game days unless there were an injury to one of their guards.

I'm not usually in favor of trading draft picks for veteran players, but there are some exceptions. The trade for Brandon Marshall was easy to like because Marshall is an exceptional player and the draft compensation was minimal. Leary is easy to like because his contract is very cheap, he's young, he's got starting experience, and he's a solid player at a position of extreme need for the Jets. Even though the Jets are already behind the 2017 eight ball after a trade back into the 5th round for Brandon Shell, I'd be happy to hear that the Jets are pursuing a trade for Leary as long as only day 3 picks are on the table.