Examining New York Jets' options at left tackle


The New York Jets notched double-digit wins last season with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center and D'Brickashaw Ferguson operating as a rock at left tackle.

As of Friday, neither are on the team.

Ferguson's stunning retirement has stripped Gang Green of one of the NFL's most consistent players.

There's no underselling Ferguson's superhero-like durability at left tackle, where he started 160 straight regular season games and played 10,707 of 10,708 snaps. The lone down he missed: A trick play against Miami on the final snap of the 2008 season.

Ferguson's decision to walk away from the NFL -- and he has his reasons -- leaves New York general manager Mike Maccagnan under the gun to find a solution.

Here's a few ideas for the Jets to explore:

1. Swing a deal for Ryan Clady: This might be the path of least resistance for New York. The Broncos have been trying to get Clady to take a pay cut, especially after signing his replacement in Russell Okung. On the trade block and set to make $9.5 million this season, Clady would need to agree to a restructured deal before landing elsewhere. The questions is what Maccagnan would give up for a 30-year-old bookend who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. That's for him and Denver's John Elway to figure out, but this trade would solve a problem for both franchises.

2. Go after Joe Thomas: The Browns said publicly that premier left tackle Joe Thomas isn't for sale, but they'd certainly listen if New York offered something special. Around The NFL colleague Kevin Patra suggested that New York could send defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and a draft pick to Cleveland in exchange for the 31-year-old Thomas. Wilkerson's $15.7 million franchise tender complicates matters, but any team trading for the defensive wonder will demand a long-term deal figured out first. If we're to believe the Browns, their new front office has placed a premium on draft picks, and would likely ask for a bundle in return for their best player -- one who, like Ferguson, has never missed an NFL start. From another angle, the rebuilding Browns would be giving Thomas a chance to finish his career with a team chasing after the playoffs sooner than later.

3. Draft for Ferguson's replacement: The two options above would cost the Jets money, draft picks or both. Set to save more than $9 million off Ferguson's retirement, New York could help their cap by finding an answer through the draft. NFL Media's Bucky Brooks mocked Ohio State's Taylor Decker to the Jets even before Ferguson's departure. Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil and Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley will be long gone by the time New York picks at No. 20, but Decker and Michigan State's Jack Conklin could fall to Gang Green. All of these players made draft svengali Mike Mayock's latest top-five rankings, as did Texas A&M's Germain Ifedi and Indiana's Jason Spriggs.

4. Sign a free agent: The Jets don't have an in-house replacement for Ferguson. Breno Giacomini has played exclusively on the right side and finished last season as the league's 49th-ranked tackle, per Pro Football Focus. Sean Hickey, Jesse Davis and Brent Qvale are undrafted projects with one combined start. The list of available free agents are thin, which makes sense: decent left tackles are never out of work for long. Former Giants tackle Will Beatty is looking for work after missing all of last season with a torn pectoral before undergoing rotator cuff surgery. The options from there are a mess.

Jets fans came out of last season with plenty to be excited about. The offseason stalemate with Fitzpatrick and Ferguson's retirement, though, leave the team with plenty of questions as we head toward the draft. As one of the league's brightest young general managers, Maccagnan has an opportunity to prove his worth by steering New York back onto higher ground.