The New York Jets will have a much different look when it comes to their offensive line this upcoming season as it has a history of nagging injuries.
It’s safe to say that the New York Jets replaced long time left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson as best as they could by trading for Ryan Clady. Coughing up just a fifth-round pick is an absolute win for Gang Green, but the Pro Bowler has quite a bit of baggage that comes along with him. A big reason why the Denver Broncos dealt him is because of his injury history that dates back to his first few seasons in the NFL.
He had a patella tendon issue in 2010, shoulder surgery in the 2013 offseason, a Lisfranc injury which ended his 2013 campaign, and a torn ACL in OTAs last May. Along with the health concerns, Clady did have a big cap hit in 2016 ($10.M) that general manager Mike Maccagnan went the extra mile to restructure. The veteran is slated to make $6M this year with the Jets and he has a team option in 2017 where he’d make $10 million.
Incentives have a chance to play a factor in his new deal as well. In 2016, he can make up to $7.5M if he stays injury-free and durable like Ferguson did for 10 seasons. The same goes for 2017 in which he could make up to $13M. If he were to spend a majority of this upcoming year on the sideline, New York would owe him just $3M. With all that said, the contract is harmless from a cap space standpoint. Guaranteed money is low and it only escalates if he remains on the field.
The question that lingers is who replaces him if he gets hurt? Clady is a four time Pro Bowler and left tackle is easily the most important position on the offensive line. The last thing an offense needs is their quarterback getting blindsided and the defense having a strip-sack parade. The Jets have been very lucky at left tackle ever since 2006, so it’d be interesting to see how they’d handle adversity at the position if something were to happen.
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If Clady goes down, the top option would most likely be Brent Qvale.
He may not seem like the most attractive candidate, although New York is satisfied with what he brings to the table and that’s all that matters.
The Jets came out and said they’d be comfortable with the Nebraska product starting at either left or right tackle.
Due to Breno Giacomini‘s performance at right tackle in the past two seasons, you could even say that Qvale has an opportunity to take his job.
Nonetheless, he’s most likely the next man up on either side.
Ben Ijalana is another guy who can step in if need be. He’s been Ferguson’s backup at left tackle since he joined the team in 2013 and keeping things the same wouldn’t hurt by any means. The Villanova graduate has played a small amount of snaps over the course of his Jet career, but none at left tackle surprisingly. Even when games were out of hand, Ferguson stayed in. If the injury bug keeps biting Clady, Ijalana may finally get his shot.
The last realistic option would have to be rookie Brandon Shell. At 6’6, 325 pounds, the fifth-round selection out of South Carolina has NFL size without a doubt. Maccagnan made the decision to send the Washington Redskins the team’s 2017 fourth-rounder in order to grab him. The Jets expect a compensatory pick to replace the one they gave up, so there was some logic behind the move. Shell could end up being a solid long-term offensive lineman if New York grooms him properly, although don’t expect him to start at left tackle if something happens to Clady. Not yet at least.
Overall, the Jets have plenty of insurance at tackle, but no sure thing who can step in and produce like a starter. This can perhaps be concerning given Clady’s injury history, however if he does his best Ferguson impression, a backup won’t even be needed.